Fundraising drive nets $38,000 to save UFV sports teams

Four UFV athletic programs on the chopping block have been granted a reprieve, thanks to a grassroots fundraising effort.

The Cascades women’s volleyball team was one of four UFV teams on the chopping block

The Cascades women’s volleyball team was one of four UFV teams on the chopping block

Four University of the Fraser Valley athletic programs on the chopping block have been granted a reprieve, thanks to a successful grassroots fundraising effort.

The four programs – men’s and women’s volleyball, men’s golf, and rowing – had been on the verge of elimination due to university budget limitations. Last-minute funding was secured to cover the 2011-12 season, but the teams’ future beyond that had been up in the air.

On Thursday afternoon, interim athletic director Chris Bertram told The News that the athletic department had secured a renewed commitment from the university to maintain the programs through 2012-13.

Pivotal to that commitment was the fact the sports teams in limbo went out into the community and raised approximately $38,000 to bridge the financial gap.

“The cost to run these programs is in the range of $100,000 a year,” said Bertram, who doubles as the men’s golf coach. “Essentially, community support is picking up almost half of that.

“We’re in the process of putting together a more permanent strategy for funding the athletics program. But we needed a temporary solution to make sure we had time to get our permanent solution in place.”

The athletic department’s fiscal issues are an extension of the challenge facing the university at large – decreasing funding, increasing demand. UFV enrolled more than 16,000 students last year, accepting 104 per cent of the admissions it received provincial funding for. The number of wait-listed students soared to 5,800 this fall, 21 per cent higher than last year.

In previous years, the athletic department budget only covered UFV’s four flagship Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) programs – men’s and women’s basketball and soccer. Money for the non-CIS teams has been scraped together from unallocated funds after the university’s budgeting process was complete.

When the funding crunch became public, the teams received an outpouring of financial support from the community.

“It was really the whole community, from families up to corporations – everybody coming together and saying, ‘We care about this,’” Bertram said.

“I don’t think anybody, for one second, wanted to see any programs disappear. But we’re in some tough budget times, and there are some realities that we had to face up to.

“To realize that the school was committed and the community was willing and able to jump in and get behind some of these teams that were in jeopardy, I think says a lot about how relevant and important both the university and the community feel athletics are in the larger picture. We’re really happy that the programs will continue, and really optimistic about the future of athletics – the strength, stability and potential for growth of all of our programs.”

The next order of business for UFV is hiring a permanent athletic director. On Oct. 5, the university parted ways with former AD Rick Nickelchok, who “left to pursue other opportunities,” according to a brief press release.

UFV has not advertised for a replacement yet, but Bertram expects the job posting to be released within a couple weeks. It’s a complex position, in that the institution has teams in both the CIS university league and the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association. UFV is seeking someone with a proven track record of community relations and fundraising.

Bertram denied that the lag between Nickelchok’s departure and releasing the job posting was a cost-saving measure.

“The goal is to have someone in place as soon as possible,” he said. “We had to have some meetings and take a good, long look at putting out a posting where we’d find the right person. I think we’ve got that now pretty much nailed down.”