Athletes fear future at University of Lethbridge
A report into University of Lethbridge athletics has been completed and some teams are now fearing the worst for their programs. That includes players on the women’s Pronghorns hockey team who believe they could be hanging up their skates for good.
On Wednesday, the team held a meeting with U of L athletic department executive director, Sandy Slavin, where it was explained that drastic changes to funding were on the table and cuts could be on the way.
“Coming out of the meeting it was more like, ‘this is serious’,” said 3rd year forward, Sarah Spence. “This is a possibility that we could get cut.”
In late August, the athletics department began a so-called sport review in an effort to improve the quality of sports and recreation programs while eliminating budget problems the school had faced last year.
“To make our budget work, we needed to look at varsity athletics and changes we could do to the scope of our programming,” said Slavin.
According to the Department of Athletics, a number of proposals are being considered. They include changes to the classification of certain teams so that they become clubs, reducing funding, and in some areas completely cutting programs.
“Those are all on the table, though none of it has been confirmed at this point,” said Slavin. “I know there is a lot of speculation in the community.”
The women’s hockey team believes it is on the chopping block. Recruits are even being told to look at other options.
“I myself guaranteed them five years to play hockey,” said interim head coach, Hailey Wood. “Right now I’m being told to pass along a message to them that it’s not 100% sure that they’ll have a team to play on next year.”
For the players who have already started their five year university careers, it would mean an end to hockey for good.
“This is the highest point I’ll ever be at and the last time I’ll ever play hockey,” said Spence. “Especially for females, this is the end basically.”
“I love the city and the school and the people that I’ve met here but I can’t imagine not playing hockey,” said rookie defenceman, Jodie Gentile. “It’s like it’s just started and now it’s being taken away.”
The team has said they will do anything to eliminate financial burdens by offering to pay for their own equipment and going door to door for sponsorships, though many believe it may be too late to change any decisions.
“I feel sick about it,” said Wood. “I feel like they’re not being fully supported or no one is standing up for them at this time.”
The finalized budget proposal is expected to be revealed next week.