Here’s why Lords, Ridgebacks can’t add more sports

Ontario Tech Ridgebacks' basketball guard, Jolesha Allen-Brown (far right) takes a three-point shot against Lireesa Gokhool-Jefferson of Queen's Gaels (right centre). Photo credit: Ryan Vieira

Have you ever wondered why Durham College doesn’t have a hockey team, yet Ontario Tech University does? Or why the university doesn’t have a baseball team, but the college does?

There are a variety of answers to those questions but the biggest one is in finances.

The Ontario Colleges Athletic Association and the Ontario University Athletics leagues allow different sports from the other.

But lack of facilities and budgets has kept the varsity sports at both DC and Ontario Tech from expanding in recent years.

“We have to have facility space, there’s not a lot of capacity space for our indoor varsity sports,” said Ken Babcock, athletic sports director of Durham College.

Student fees pay for part of the varsity budgets at each school. At Durham College, students pay $32.43 per year, while students pay $39.45 a year at Ontario Tech.

The money goes towards the equipment and facilities for each sport, which is allocated among the teams.

“All our varsity programs are treated equally in terms of how they’re resourced to run,” said Ontario Tech athletic director Scott Barker. “Whether you’re a golf team or a hockey team, you’re treated equally in the sense of the support that you get.”

Support includes getting the right equipment, transportation to games, hotels for road games or medical or health therapy.

The same thing applies at Durham College. Its varsity program can afford the necessary equipment but the majority of the facilities its athletes need to play in are owned by Ontario Tech, according to Babcock.

He said the Lords have been in this situation for a long time.

“The college has had a long history of programs, but some programs that we used to have years ago fell to some economic challenges back in the mid-90s,” he said.

Those programs included sports such as badminton, cross-country, curling and golf.

Since then, he said Durham’s varsity sports program hasn’t been able to build its own facilities to host some sports and has to share some spaces with Ontario Tech, such as the new gym and Vaso’s Field.

However a new softball field was built for the Lords’ women’s softball team.

The $2.2 million facility was built with all artificial turf and completed in October 2020, though it wasn’t officially open to games until this past season due to COVID restrictions.

Ontario Tech also has limited facilities to expand sports in its program.

“We don’t have volleyball, as an example,” Barker said. “As much as we’d like to have volleyball at Ontario Tech, we don’t have the facilities necessary to have both basketball and volleyball competing at the same time.”

Aside from playing spaces, Babcock said Durham College also can’t afford to sign full-time coaches and must either renew or find new coaches for each sport every year. He said they’re still able to find good coaches, but they can’t stay signed indefinitely since they’re only part-time.

“We don’t have full-time coaches in the college system in Ontario because it’s something that the college system isn’t able to bear financially,” Babcock said. “There isn’t an ability for colleges to pay coaches full-time on the funding model.”

Barker and Babcock also said certain restrictions by the OCAA and the OUA also play a role in preventing sports from being expanded.

That doesn’t mean that both schools aren’t interested in adding new sports.

“We do get interest in baseball, for sure,” said Barker, “but the problem is that we don’t have our own facility on campus that we can use.”

Durham College brought back rugby in 2018 but is still considering other sports from students as well.

“I really want to get back into curling and cross-country running, because those sports are the ones, we get a lot of interest in,” said Babcock.

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