Student fees fund Ontario Tech basketball

The Ontario Tech men’s basketball team practices in the gym before their first pre-season game.

More than a year after it was announced Ontario Tech University is adding men’s and women’s varsity basketball to its athletic roster, the teams are hitting the hardcourt for real.

The women have wrapped up their pre-season, finishing with an 0-3 record, while the men travelled to Alberta over the Thanksgiving weekend losing all three games against Alberta, Lethbridge and MacEwan.

Both teams make their regular season debuts in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) league Oct. 25 in Sudbury against Laurentian.

Sports information and marketing officer Scott Dennis is pleased with the addition of these teams to campus.

“Being able to create history is what I like,” he says.

Ontario Tech has invested in the program, hiring full-time coaches with strong resumes. Former Olympian Greg Francis heads up the men’s team and former Team Ontario under-17 coach Christa Eniojukan leads the women.

The coaches have spent the past year travelling across Canada successfully recruiting players from Alberta and Quebec.

A new dressing room is being built for the teams adjacent to the Campus Recreation and Wellness Centre.

The new dressing room is part of an improvement plan agreed upon by both Ontario Tech and Durham College (DC), according to DC’s director of athletics, Ken Babcock. It’s part of a master plan to improve facilities on campus, he says.

Babcock says a new dressing room is needed to accommodate the new teams. Each team needs its own room, he says, adding this one is first-class.

The new rooms will be completed by the end of October, ready for the Nov. 3 home openers against Queen’s, says Babcock.

Who funds the new teams and their accommodations?

The answer is students.

“It is funded just like all of our other varsity teams,” says Dennis.

Varsity sports are funded through mandatory student (ancillary) fees, he says. Ancillary fees are worked into tuition but broken down into specific sections.

Full-time Ontario Tech students have other ancillary fees that support athletics.

There is a Campus Recreation and Wellness Centre fee of $174.12 a year going towards “the financing for the construction, expansion and improvement of sports facilities” on campus, along with their maintenance and operation. There is also a varsity sports fee of $77.20 a year.

The sport and recreation fee of $79.18 is for “programs and facilities that support students’ engagement in sports and fitness activities.”

These fees have stayed the same over the last several years, according to Ontario Tech’s director of athletics and recreation, Scott Barker.

The total cost and budget of bringing these new varsity basketball teams to campus is “difficult to put a cost to,” says Barker.

But the budget is similar to other OUA basketball teams’ budgets, according to Dennis.

Coaching takes up 50 per cent of the budget, according to Barker. Recruiting and travel are next two highest costs.

The head coach of the Carleton university’s men’s basketball team, Dave Smart, earned more $150,000 in 2012, according to the University Affairs website. (Carleton has won the Canadian championship eight of the past nine years.)

Barker did not reveal how much the Ontario Tech coaches make, but he did say they are paid on a salary grid which is updated every year.