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Sports Services launches new initiative

Photo Illustration by Mathias MacPhee

THE UNIVERSITY OF Ottawa has come out with a new program in the hope of securing some national sports titles in the near future. Similar to Canada’s Own the Podium program, this initiative allocates extra funding to a few U of O teams in an effort to become nationally recognized and to attract more students to our campus. But is this the right way to go in terms of seeking athletic success? Did the U of O choose the right teams? Should the whole program be scrapped?

Point: National Recognition Program

My initial intention was to write about the University of Ottawa Sports Services’ National Recognition Program, spend some time trashing it, and then expose it for what it really is. But I realized I couldn’t simply pin the program’s shortcomings on the university, nor could I accuse the program of being unfair or discriminatory. In the end, don’t we all want our school to succeed and our varsity teams to win? Don’t we all want people to stop asking, “What the hell’s a Gee-Gee?”

Sports Services has decided to grant additional funding to the four varsity teams that have shown the most potential for future national recognition. The teams chosen were women’s soccer, men’s football, men’s basketball, and women’s basketball. These teams will benefit from the program from now through to the 2016–17 season.

I suspect many will criticize Sports Services for this decision, since it will inevitably leave many athletes wanting more, but it’s hard to argue the cold, hard facts. Funds are limited and the university is set on attaining athletic excellence.

It may seem unfair to the teams who will need to “keep calm and carry on,” but the only way to gain national recognition is by putting all our eggs in the same basket. The decision is simply one of quality over quantity.

Sport Services is right in assuming that 15 mediocre teams won’t gain us an iota of recognition, whereas four powerhouse teams probably will. Not only will their success show in the standings, but these teams will mostly likely help attract the nation’s top student-athletes and coaches.

So it’s clear that it might be good, just this once, to turn a blind eye to the “unfairness” and allow Sports Services to grant certain teams more resources than others. But many still question how the teams were selected. Why should our soccer team benefit, while our beer pong team gets left out in the cold?

In the decision-making process, teams were weighed against 21 criteria, which fell into five distinct categories: performance at the provincial level, performance at the national level, academic performance, national recognition potential, and revenue generation potential. It was then determined by a series of mathematical equations which teams would participate in the program, and in the end, there were four clear winners. If that’s not fair, I’m not sure what is.

If we’re to heckle Sports Services about something, it should be having stolen the idea for the National Recognition Program from Canada’s Own the Podium program. Then again, Own the Podium has helped Canadian athletes gain international recognition since it was launched in 2005. So why can’t it work for us too?

—Justin Dallaire

Counterpoint: Not the best move

When I first heard of the National Recognition Program, I thought it was a third-party group that recognized academic or athletic greatness on a Canada-wide level. I was wrong. In fact, this is the latest initiative launched by the University of Ottawa’s Sports Services in an effort to “increase the national recognition of the University through the success of selected programs and the performance of student-athletes.” But the decision-making process behind this newly created program has done more than just gotten people’s attention. It has deliberately played favourites, and that’s just not fair to the other teams.

Firstly, the teams that Sports Services chose hardly seem like the right ones. The women’s basketball and soccer teams, as well as the men’s basketball and football teams, will get much more support from the university than will other teams until the 2016–17 season. The choices are pretty surprising. It’s no secret that the men’s football team had one of their worst seasons this year, and men’s basketball didn’t qualify for the Canadian Interuniversity Sport finals last year. In fact, the only justifiable choice was the women’s soccer team, thanks to their near-perfect performance so far this season. We do start to wonder whether these decisions were made based on team merit or popularity of the sport with spectators.

Apart from its blatant biases, another reason why this announcement may not sit well with students across campus is the reasoning behind such an initiative. Sports Services created the program so that our athletes could have recognition on a national level and bring home the all-important medals. In turn, this would create a sense of pride here at the U of O and attract more students to apply to our school in hopes of becoming a Gee-Gee. But who knows if this program will even work?

There are way better places that this money could be going to. We could be furthering our name as a leading university in academics and research. The money could go toward creating more study spaces on campus—has anyone been to Morisset during finals and midterms season? We could even put the money into campus clubs to reach out to more students. There are so many other avenues that this money could’ve gone toward that desperately need the boost.

I get just as excited as the next student when our Gee-Gees do an awesome job. I also get crushed when I hear we didn’t do too well in a tournament. But do I think that our school shouldn’t be throwing money at teams in an effort to be recognized nationally. It’s not like we’re all going to stop attending games and cheering for Gees if they don’t win.

—Sofia Hashi