Leadership in UPEI athletics begins at the very top

By Mike Redmond (guest opinion)

Letters to the Editor (The Guardian) comment@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on August 20, 2014

UPEI Women's Soccer

It has been intriguing to observe the ongoing political miscues and drama play out within the UPEI athletic department and throughout the president’s office. However, for those of us who have had the privilege to wear the green and white of UPEI Panther sport, it has been nothing short of an embarrassing circus.

Only worse is the continued contradictory statements and blatant misinformation by the first vice president and president of UPEI. To expect the Island sport community, alumni or anyone else to believe that a review of athletics and the departure of athletics director Bill Schurman were just coincidental is simply ludicrous — if not insulting — to Island taxpayers that fund UPEI almost $40 million annually. Step back in time and reflect on VP Podger’s statement upon the hiring of Bill Schurman on January 14, 2013: “UPEI athletics is well poised to move to the next level, and reach new heights.”

 This is where the rubber hits the road. In the 17 months that preceded the hiring of Mr. Schurman, UPEI attempted to join the ACAA and failed, thousands of dollars in program cuts to room bursaries and assistant coaches’ salaries, the erosion of the $1.4- million turf facility, no scoreclock as well, the loss of the much celebrated high school basketball championships, the internal loss of three staff positions, as well as the departure of countless volunteers within the hockey booster club and many other Panther sport programs. Fast forward to the departure of basketball coach Greg Gould, other basketball coaches, and back court club boosters, an epiphany by UPEI for a review of athletics and the sudden and swift departure of Bill Schurman.

Now hold the phone, it is not the easy.  Firstly, who hired this athletic director? Why was their no competition or HR piece? Is UPEI paying out a contract as well??

In my opinion the review is too vague, short on measurables and absolves UPEI and its Board of Governors with the ultimate responsibility of making the hard decisions to support athletics or not. Many coaches would remember the review of athletics by Al Scott not more than five years ago and that one line: “A completely unsustainable model” to describe UPEI athletics.

Finally, a sound piece of advice for President Alaa Abd-El-Aziz and VP Jackie Podger when you are putting together your review committees with personnel who are newly hired. Perhaps it would be somewhat beneficial to rely on the historical lens of Mr. Lewis Page.

He has coached at UPEI for over 15 years, won a World Championship silver medal, coach of the year numerous times, was a national team player and works in sport for the government. He could probably be of great benefit to the process and oh yeah, he would be the coach of the men’s soccer team.

Islanders love Panther sport, but we do not suffer fools lightly, nor do we tolerate being kept from the truth. This is something that silence cannot be bought with a set of uniforms and professional development monies. Fess up, fix up, and take responsibility for your sport offerings. The athletes, coaches and Island community deserve nothing less.

Mike Redmond,

former UPEI women’s soccer coach, and former UPEI varsity athlete