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Danielle Dube is seen here ahead of the CIS Women's hockey tournament in 2013 for the University of British Columbia (Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)
Danielle Dube is seen here ahead of the CIS Women's hockey tournament in 2013 for the University of British Columbia (Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)

UBC axes five varsity teams as men’s hockey told to find outside funding Add to ...

The University of British Columbia has unveiled the results of its controversial athletic-program review, with five teams losing their varsity designation and four more – including men’s ice hockey – told to find external funding to maintain their status.

That prompted the coach of the men’s ice-hockey team to express concern for its future.

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The results were announced Friday by Stephen Toope, the university’s president, and Louise Cowin, vice-president of students and the person who led the review. The university had said 29 varsity teams were too many and it would prefer to focus its support on fewer, elite teams.

The review proved controversial when some alumni and media suggested the fix was in for traditional sports, such as men’s ice hockey or football. Mr. Toope repeatedly said nothing had been decided and decried the personal attacks that were launched.

Ms. Cowin said the four teams that will have to find external funding – men’s ice hockey, men’s field hockey, women’s rugby, and baseball – have a year-long window in which to work. She said the goal is for those programs to eventually become self-sustaining.

Milan Dragicevic, head coach of UBC men’s ice hockey, said in an interview that he’s pleased the team did not lose its varsity status. He said alumni have donated more than $600,000 in the past month alone, and the team has been talking to the Vancouver Canucks about some sort of partnership. He added, however, that it will be a massive challenge to make the program – with its $450,000 budget – entirely self-sustaining.

“The department has kind of tied our hands,” he said.

Mr. Toope, when asked if it was realistic to think men’s ice hockey could be self-sustaining, said he was hopeful that over a period of time it would get to that position.

The five teams that will lose their varsity status are softball, men’s and women’s alpine skiing, and men’s and women’s Nordic skiing.

Thirteen teams – including women’s ice hockey, men’s and women’s soccer, and men’s and women’s golf – will continue to receive the same support. (The women’s ice-hockey team scored better than the men’s under the evaluation criteria, given its recent success and potential to develop national team members.)

Seven teams – football, and men’s and women’s in three sports, basketball, swimming and volleyball – have been deemed “most able to excel” and will receive additional support.

Mr. Toope told reporters the review has created a pathway to excellence, and teams, for the first time, know what criteria they have to meet to earn more support. He said he did not expect the review to hurt the athletic program’s recruitment efforts.

Kerri Farion, a former member of the UBC women’s ice-hockey team who was at Friday’s announcement, said the review process was flawed, that alumni concerns were rebuffed. She said she disagreed with the end result.

“I think that all the teams could have survived.”

Gord Collings, head coach of the softball team, did not respond to a message seeking comment. The teams that lost varsity status will become part of a competitive club model.

Some of the softball players took to Twitter to express their disappointment. Cassandra Dypchey wrote: “Bye bye UBC Softball. It was fun while it lasted and showed so much potential. I guess #UBC couldn’t see it :(”

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