The ‘single greatest’ sports year in Durham College’s history

The Durham Lords lift the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association championship trophy after beating the Vancouver Island University Mariners 3-2 in the gold medal game at Vaso's Field in November. Photo credit: Shaun McLeod

The Durham Lords are no stranger to winning championships and gold medals. The school boasts a long history in varsity athletics, but the 2019-20 season was special for the school and its athletes.

“It’s been a tremendous year,” said Ken Babcock, Durham College athletic director. “We’ve identified this as the single greatest success year in the history of the school in varsity athletics.”

The success included Canadian championships in men’s soccer and men’s baseball and a men’s rugby team that went back-to-back as provincial champions.

The Durham Lords are currently third in the history of the Ontario Colleges Athletic Association (OCAA) in terms of winning medals, behind Fanshawe and Humber, two schools that have nearly double the number of students as Durham College. In the OCAA, where everything is funded by student fees, that means those schools have much larger athletic budgets as well.

“We’ll never be as big as those schools,” said Babcock, “but that doesn’t mean we can’t compete on their level.”

He said Durham has worked hard to carve an advantage wherever it can. That has meant investments in multiple areas such as change rooms, athletic therapy staff and facilities, and adding a FIFA-certified artificial turf upgrade to Vaso’s Field in 2018, with more improvements on the horizon.

He said Durham’s support for student-athletes starts the moment they walk in the door to commit to the Lords.

“We want student-athletes to not only be successful in their sport, but we want them to achieve success academically,” said Babcock.

The Lords’ plan to support athletes academically appears to be paying off, as they awarded a program high 46 all-academic awards, beating their previous record of 44, set in 2019 (which beat their previous record of 39, set in 2018).

“We think Durham College’s diploma means something and we utilize that in our recruiting and our plans,” said Babcock. “We think the campus is beautiful and we think there’s a lot of advantages to coming to Durham College.”

Durham’s support also extends to all its coaches.

“We try to attract the best coaches available, support them while they’re here,” said Babcock.

Men’s baseball head coach Sam Dempster says what stood out to him in his 28 years at Durham College was the support from the school president down.

“You can’t ask for any better support than that,” said Dempster, who’s retiring after winning his second national championship for the Durham Lords men’s baseball team.

The 50th annual Durham athletic banquet was supposed to be the big celebration of this season’s accomplishments but with the campus being closed due to COVID-19, the celebration has been moved online.

Fans can follow the nominations for the athletic awards throughout the month on social media and winners will be announced starting in mid-April until May 6.

The Lords will be graduating a number of important players, including rugby star Ty Jacob and 12 other members of their men’s rugby team that won back-to-back championships.

However, the Lords will look to continue their success on the backs of returning stars such as women’s basketball forward Kendra Oliver and men’s soccer standout Joshua Lee.