Varsity teams may go to Brantford

The Wilfrid Laurier University athletic department is currently in the preliminary stage of a plan to re-locate Golden Hawks varsity teams to Laurier’s Brantford campus.

According to director of athletics Peter Baxter, there are a number of teams that could potentially move; however, the program that appears to be the most likely is rugby.

“The issue of [moving teams to] Brantford has always been on the table, but we have to go through an evaluation process,” said Baxter. “I had a meeting with all of our varsity teams where we went over that process, but the one that’s started to snowball in terms of the rumour mill is the rugby teams.”

This proposal has sparked a heated backlash from people surrounding the team who feel that the rugby program is being singled out. However, the athletics department maintains that they are far from making any kind of final decision.

“There’s been a rash of e-mails that have come to myself, [president of Laurier] Max Blouw and [dean of students] David McMurray about the inevitability of the team moving,” said Baxter. “But that’s not the case at all…. At this point that is really premature. Obviously we’ll look at it as an option when we deal with our interuniversity advisory committees, but there’s been no decision at this time.”

The main reasons cited by Baxter for the proposed re-location is increasing availability at Laurier Waterloo’s athletic facilities and giving Laurier Brantford another attraction to recruit students, as the students of the Brantford campus pay athletic fees yet have no varsity teams.

Men’s rugby head coach Josh Windsor acknowledges the positives that could come out of the team‘s potential move to Brantford.

“I know there is a desire in Brantford to have varsity teams,” he said.

“They’re trying to establish themselves and attract more students and we know that athletics will be able to do that.”

Despite any benefits that the Brantford campus may receive, there is no denying the negative impact a move will have on the Hawks’ rugby program.

“It will essentially limit almost all of my players from participating,” said Windsor. “I doubt many of the students will be able to have access to their own transportation from Waterloo or have the financial ability to fund that drive every day. In addition, they would have to have the time to do so.”

According to Windsor, the drive from Waterloo to Brantford would take at least an hour; adding that travel time to the other aspects of the players’ athletic commitments such as practices, work-outs and games would put a massive strain on the student-athletes.

The players themselves, meanwhile, are taking the news in stride and not over-reacting when so little has been decided.

“We had a meeting with [interuniversity sport co-ordinator] Wally [Gabler] yesterday where we discussed where things were and my understanding is that this is really a preliminary review,” said Kevin Little, a third-year player on the men’s rugby team.

“It’s nothing to get too worried about right now. I don’t know the details, but I know there’s a lot of bureaucratic things that they have to go through before anything really happens.”

Although the likelihood of a team moving to Brantford is unlikely in the near term, it seems to be a definite possibility in the future, as this is not the first time the issue – specifically regarding the rugby program – has come up.

During last year’s budget reduction – which saw eight teams, including the men’s and women’s rugby teams, lose university funding – the athletic department explored moving teams to Brantford as an option to reduce costs.

“We did have some discussions last year, prior to the budget process about the possibility of moving some teams to Brantford, and rugby was definitely one of them,” said Baxter.

“I certainly talked to them [this year] about the possibility of [moving to] Brantford and what their feedback would be and they gave that to me, but that’s really all that’s happened.”

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