Earlier today, the ongoing saga that has seen varsity programs across the country come under threat enjoyed the writing of a new chapter.

In a statement announced today, the Department of Athletics and Recreation at Wilfrid Laurier University has indicated its intention to discontinue both the men's and women's varsity volleyball programs at its school, effective as of the upcoming 2011-2012 season.

The decision comes on the heels of a departmental review process which found the programs to be particularly uncompetitive with their Ontario rivals. According to the department's internal review, both volleyball squads would require a virtual doubling in funding to approach levels necessary to place them on par with provincial counterparts.

The Golden Hawks volleyball outfits have also struggled for results in recent years, a fact which no doubt aided the department in their decision to discontinue them. Laurier's men's team has enjoyed only one winning season since 2005, and finished their 2010-11 campaign by placing seventh among eleven teams with a record of 8-12. That mark earned the Waterloo outfit a rare playoff berth, but they were swiftly beaten by the McMaster Marauders in the OUA quarterfinals.

The Golden Hawks women's team was similarly unsuccessful in recent years, and posted a record of 8-11 this past season to finish fifth in the OUA West rankings and eight points adrift of the playoffs.

Laurier officials explain that cuts to varsity expenditures were necessary if they were to accommodate an explosion in demand for intramural and recreational activities. The funding freed up by the discontinuation of the volleyball program will be reallocated in part to the school's basketball, hockey, football, and soccer squads in an effort to boost Laurier's profile in the remainder of what the internal report deems the "Market Driven Sports". Facility time vacated by the volleyballers will henceforth be used for intramural purposes.
A few days late, but from Friday's Cape Breton Post:

Former Cape Breton University Capers men’s basketball star Phil Nkrumah is scheduled to appear in provincial court May 19 to enter pleas on three charges stemming from an incident with police.

The 26-year-old is charged with assaulting a police officer, resisting arrest and causing a disturbance in a public place.

Nkrumah was charged after an incident Feb. 27 at the Capri Club in downtown Sydney. He has been released on conditions that include staying away from the Capri Club and abstaining from alcohol.

The Capers played once after Feb. 27: the AUS semifinal, an upset 83-81 overtime loss to Acadia, in which Nkrumah played 42 minutes. This was a week after the incident. It's not clear when he was charged. It's worth pointing out, if only for purposes of comparison, that in 2009, charges were laid in early March against former X players Tyler Richards, Eamon Morrissy, and William Donkoh--none of whom, if memory serves and regardless of how their cases turned out, participated in the AUS Final 6 (which was held a few days later).

CBU athletic director John Ryan, according to the above-linked story, "said he wasn’t informed by head coach Jim Charters or Nkrumah of the Feb. 27 incident until after the tournament ended." It's a fair question to ask when the head coach actually knew about this, but neither Charters nor Nkrumah were reached by the Post for comment.

(Thanks to the person who e-mailed us the news. I see Mark Wacyk has linked it as well.)
UBC isn't going to be heading to the NCAA any time soon. After years of debate once the NCAA's Division II voted in 2008 begin a pilot program that would allow international schools to join, the Thunderbirds have finally made it clear that they're going to remain in CIS. That wasn't necessarily a foregone conclusion; as recently as February, the school was still seriously considering the move, The Province put up a piece saying the press conference could be the school's official announcement of a move, and our Justin McElroy wrote at Macleans.ca that the result "was somewhat of a surprise" Still, there are a lot of factors that could make this an excellent decision for both UBC and the CIS as a whole.

First, from the UBC standpoint, while there were potential advantages to joining the NCAA, there were also significant issues that hadn't necessarily been addressed. They could have potentially linked up with the Division II Great Northwest Athletic Conference, which has become a home for fellow Vancouver-area school Simon Fraser University (located out in Burnaby), but GNAC (and all of Division II) notably doesn't offer hockey. UBC could have tried to play up in Division I in hockey, but that wouldn't have been all that easy; gaining admission to a Division I hockey conference isn't the simplest thing in the world, especially for a school that doesn't have an NCAA track record. If the school had been able to guarantee that they'd be able to play Division I in a few sports (particularly hockey, but perhaps also volleyball), that could have been a factor in favour of moving, but from what's come out so far, Division I always seemed like more of a possibility down the road than a lock.
I posted over on South Campus Sports yesterday that Golden Bears hockey head coach Eric Thurston won't be at the helm of the program moving forward, with Stan Marple now taking over the team on an interim basis. Since yesterday nothing has changed, with the university yet to have sent out an official release detailing the situation. No one is talking in any great detail about things, but we do know this - Thurston won't be behind the bench come September. Here's a look at my post, as well as some links...


After six seasons at the helm of the Alberta Golden Bears and 18 years in total with the program, Eric Thurston is now officially on leave from the University of Alberta, stepping away from the program - at least for the time being - for the first time since the early '90s.

Thurston announced his resignation last Thursday to the team at their year end banquet. Contrary to that announcement, however, he will remain an employee of the university, starting a leave of absence which is presumably effective immediately. CTV Edmonton reported the leave of absence is officially one year.

The move comes as a shock after the Bears won their 49th conference title nearly a month ago, with Thurston guiding the team to a 19-6-3 mark during the regular season.

Stan Marple - who served as an assistant under Thurston this past season - will take over interim head coaching duties, and will now be tasked with preparing for next season. Most importantly, Marple will need to solidify the Bears recruiting class, locking in the players Thurston had hoped to bring to the U of A.

Dustin Nielson, my partner on Golden Bears webcasts, first broke the news on Twitter reporting that Thurston is on leave.

The university has yet to send out an official release, but when they do, Thurston's absence will be termed officially as a leave as opposed to a resignation, as he had first told the team a week ago today.

There was pressure from certain corners within the program to pursue a full coaching search instead of giving an interim tag to anyone, but the athletics department - as they did after the resignation of football coach Jerry Friesen - have opted for an interim position, with a full coaching search coming down the road.

In all likelihood the U of A won't wait until the end of next season to fill the head coaching position on a permanent basis as some have reported, but rather during the season to make sure a full and thorough search is executed. I wouldn't be surprised if a search firm is hired by the university to actively pursue candidates to fill the position. That's what happened with the hiring of new Athletic Director Ian Reade, and while this is certainly up for debate, I would argue that after the AD, head coach of the Bears hockey program is the second most visible position within U of A athletics, and therefore all tools possible will be used to find the right person for the job. The athletics department will be going out to find the best person for the job - they're not going to wait for that person to fall into their laps 10 or 11 months from now.

Bears hockey coach Thurston not returning in fall - Chris O'Leary, Edmonton Journal
Thurston out as Bears coach - Dave Campbell, iNews 880
We won't catch everything, but here are some of the things that have gone down lately in the CIS coaching world ...

  • Brian Cheng, recently the CIS coach of the year, has left UVic after 15 years (10 as head coach) for "personal reasons." Stunning and shocking, according to Howard Tsumura. (Victoria Times-Colonist, via Little Man on Campus)

  • The open men's basketball coaching position at Queen's is apparently down to interim Duncan Cowan and three other candidates. According to Mark Wacyk's sources, they are "a CIS assistant with just 2 seasons of experience, a CIS women's coach and a Western Canada-based CIS assistant with a solid background." Our Neate Sager has a source who says the second name in that list is current UWO coach Steph Barrie. (CISHoops.ca)

  • Chris Cochrane gives the AHL Mooseheads directions to their next coach, current SMU coach Trevor Stienburg, who he says is "a renowned motivator who makes players want to win" and someone who "understands the Halifax hockey market in a way imported coaches wouldn’t until they’ve been here for several years." (The Chronicle-Herald)

  • Some further AUS/QMHJL speculation. It seems to fall under the "nothing to see here" category. (Cape Breton Post)

  • Lisa Jordan went from coaching SMU to Ryerson, and now Lesley Jordan is going from Dalhousie (which was a surprise to her and to others) to ... Saint Mary's? To Ryerson to join her sister? (The Chronicle-Herald)
Here's the men's version of the best goalies in CIS this year. (For explanation, see the women's post from March.) Stats include the regular season, conference playoffs, and University Cup.

The complete rankings are here.

  1. Ryan Daniels, Laurier (+4.2 wins vs. average): It really wasn't close. Daniels had a fantastic year, worth one win better than the next 'tender on this list. He was named the OUA West MVP (not MVG, MVP). Which of course means that he wasn't an All-Canadian. I gave up trying to understand CIS hockey awards a while ago, but really?

  2. Joseph Perricone, StFX (+3.1 wins vs. average): As much as Daniels finished ahead of everybody, Perricone finished ahead of everybody but Daniels. And like Daniels, he wasn't named the first-team conference goaltender. Notably, Perricone was 1.2 wins ahead of the next AUS goaltender (who wasn't named to either team), and three wins ahead of Neil Conway, who was the first-team goalie. The awards don't consider playoff results (which is a bug, not a feature), but these rankings do.

  3. Jim Watt, Windsor (+2.2): One-half of one of the Southwestern Ontario Goalie Duos (...it'll make sense soon enough), Watt has garnered plenty of respect around these parts. "No team is out of a game when Jim Watt is in net," said our Daniel Da Silva in January before the Windsor goalie went off to Turkey for the Universiade, where (based on this game alone) he got a lot of reading done while in the crease. Less than a month after Windsor's season ended, Watt was in Bakersfield with the ECHL Condors.

  4. Josh Unice, Western (+2.0): Despite playing less often than his teammate (and follower on this list), Unice's numbers were good enough to put him on top among non-Watt OUA goalies. And far be it from me to question Canada's obvious and far-reaching dominance of the ice hockey competitions, but of the top four on this list, two (Unice, Perricone) are American and the other two played junior in the U.S. (Daniels with Saginaw, Watt with Spokane).

  5. Anthony Grieco, Western (+1.9): The second-team all-star (and apparent dominator of the Universiade), Grieco finished third last year in these rankings with a +1.9, so "dropping" to 5th isn't really dropping at all. His "unbelievable" playoff performance helps him stay among the leaders. Yet another American connection to a CIS goaltender: Grieco previously played for the University of North Dakota.

  6. Travis Fullerton, UNB (+1.9): We kind of had a Showron Glover situation (in a weak sense) here, with Fullerton missing out on conference awards completely but then winning the CIS championship. (Oh well. There are probably just as many people who are outraged at the anti-UNB bias in the awards voting as there are people who are thankful that UNB didn't get any awards or first-team AUS all-stars other than Hunter Tremblay.) Also, Fullerton started playing junior in Lewiston! More American connections!

  7. Dustin Butler, Calgary (+1.6): A Portland Winter Hawks graduate, Butler was the top Canada West goaltender by these rankings and effectively in the awards as well. CIS goalie of the year might be a stretch, but that's not a knock on Butler--more an appreciation of just how many players could have been named to such an honour.

  8. Frank Dayus, Windsor (+1.2): "We can just assume that any game Dayus starts in, he will be the player of the game." Yep, another example of how part-time players can show up near the top of these rankings. Dayus (who was 19th overall last year, hardly a nobody) played the equivalent of just eight games this year, but whenever you put up a .930 you'll get noticed. He's also one of seven OUA goaltenders in the top 10; if you think that's fishy, and want to restrict it to more full-time players, then remove Unice and Dayus and the next two on the list are Saskatchewan's David Reekie and Acadia's Kristofer Westblom.

  9. Matt Hache, Nipissing (+1.1): A goalie who doesn't wear number 1 or a number in the 30s? I'm not sure how to deal with this. Thankfully Canadian hockey is known for being open to new ideas. Our top OUA East goalie, Hache did not make either all-star team, though he wasn't far ahead of Carleton's Matthew Dopud in these rankings. And, again, these rankings include the playoffs, when the awards generally don't. (Having said that, I can only assume Hubert Morin's second-team status is a group award given to the Redmen as a whole.)

  10. Jean-Christophe Blanchard, UQTR (+1.1): The third of three goalies to appear in the top 10 both years (Daniels and Grieco surprising nobody by being the others), Blanchard gets a lot of credit for playing for a Patriotes team that had the worst penalty-kill in the OUA (non-Queen's division). Given our methodology, he's "excused" for nearly five of the 95 goals he gave up, and is then further credited (to the tune of a 5% adjustment) for the strength of schedule UQTR played. Without those adjustments he would have appeared to be worth just three goals above average (around 21st or so); with them, he's at 8 goals and in the top 10.
The Saint Mary's Huskies women's hockey team may have got a reprieve for a year, thanks to the $60k from Canadian Tire, but they're going to have to find a new coach. Lisa Jordan fought valiantly and brought the team back from the brink, but now she is the new coach at Ryerson.
"I am really thrilled about the opportunity to coach at Ryerson University. I feel very fortunate that the opportunity was available," said Jordan. "There's a lot of work to be done to prepare this team for next year and we'll know more about where we stand after training camp. But for now, I can promise it's going to be a very exciting season for everyone involved in women's hockey at Ryerson."
Think maybe having your contract not renewed might encourage a good coach to look to greener pastures? Can't blame Jordan, but she's the most visible casualty of SMU's ham-fisted handling of this admittedly difficult budget situation. I wonder how many of Jordan's recruits will follow her to Toronto?

Looks like the current/old Ryerson coach is keeping her job.
The current coach of the Ryerson women's hockey team, Stephanie White, will continue with the team as an associate coach, allowing her more time to focus on her full-time marketing management responsibilities in Ryerson's Athletics department, including playing a key role in the on-going development of the Ryerson University Athletics and Recreation Centre at Maple Leaf Gardens.
With all these changes I'm guessing Ryerson's RPI may go up next season.

Lisa Jordan named new women's hockey coach (Ryerson Sports Information)
Jordan takes Ryerson job (Willy Palov, Chronicle-Herald)
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