Gallagher: Funding help may just spread around UBC


The football program was buoyed by a solid group of alumni, who are now turning their attention to other needy sports around campus

When you look at what’s going on with the University of B.C. football program you finally get the feeling something good may come about as a result of the absurd sports targeting review.

A sport that was originally slated for the slag heap has come to life and hopefully begun a new era in

sports on the campus, if what’s happening here can be spread to the other programs and not just lavished on the one sport.

A huge, enthusiastic crowd of very near 7,000 watched Michael O’Connor zip the ball around Thunderbird stadium with considerable precision, entertaining just about everyone who came out to Homecoming.

When football was endangered, Vancouver businessman and successful entrepreneur Dave Sidoo and many of his former CIS champion teammates came to the aid of the team, brought in a first-rate coach in Blake Nill, who set about trying to change the culture. Nill had the players commit to being in the weight room by 6:15 a.m., which sent many of the former Birds scurrying. He recruited like a man possessed and came up with some tremendous athletes, most of which put their talents to good use in the win over Regina Saturday night.

When he first got involved, Sidoo said he and his crew would try to help out the rest of the sports on campus, and that was greeted with considerable skepticism at the time. But it’s looking as though that cynicism may have been misplaced.

Peter Bull has stepped in to help rugby. Sidoo has turned his attention to hockey, and with some help from some high-profile business friends which included Kyle Washington and Canucks president Trevor Linden, they set about setting a budget that will see that program begin to flourish like it once did in the ‘60s.

Linden agreed to an exhibition game on campus aimed at raising $100,000, and Washington kicked in the same amount to help get puck up on its feet in a big way after Matt Reid and his long-standing crew of supporters started the plan to save the puck Birds.

They are working on ways to help baseball, and it’s expected the rest will follow, although the high-profile basketball programs haven’t yet been slated for such attention as yet despite the fact the team is hosting the 2016 CIS finals at Doug Mitchell Arena and the administration strangely turned down their option on the 2017 final.

Indeed, the progress may be uneven as this point, but it is a massive undertaking and it’s bound to happen in stages leaving some hoping for upgrades quicker than they might arrive. But these guys appear to be true to their word, and if what’s happening in football is any indication, campus sports are in for a facelift. And to her credit, Dr. Louise Cowin, who was on hand for Saturday night’s game, is at least standing out of the way and letting it happen, which is something of a shift from the original thrust of her review.

Much, of course, will depend upon the new VP who will be in charge of athletics, the search for whom is ongoing unless the uncertainty at the presidential level puts it on hold. If they find an enthusiastic and intelligent backer of sports who is willing to channel the many charitable people who want to help, UBC Athletics could well emerge much stronger through what has been an agonizing time.

END OF AN ERA

Given my first-ever piece for this publication was on UBC back in 1968 as a freelance student writing on the men’s basketball team for $10 per story, I thought it should end much the same way, albeit on football and athletics in general.

In between it’s been great fun meeting so many wonderful people, especially those in the hockey world, to say nothing of working with colleagues and management people who had my back when the knives were out, former managing editor Brian Butters warranting special commendation here.

I beg the indulgence of all those I have wrongfully maligned over the years, having greatly appreciated their patience, and of course I thank the readers who faithfully gave me audience every morning no matter how much I may have amused or annoyed them.

I shall continue with my Canucks pregame work at TSN 1040, but for the purposes of this paper of long-standing tradition in this community, it is time to step away. To say it has been an honour to be in these pages for such a long run is an understatement of sizable proportion. Thank you all so much.

(Photo: Rich Lam, PNG)

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The 13th Man Foundation is not affiliated with UBC and is a separate and independent legal entity that sets its own fundraising priorities.