On May 1, 2011, Laurier Brantford became the 31st school to join the Ontario College Athletic Association. By doing so, Wilfrid Laurier University has become just the fourth university in Ontario to compete in both the OCAA and Ontario University Athletics.
When asked what this does for the Brantford campus, Kevin Klein, External Relations Coordinator for Laurier Brantford, emphasized the word expansion.
“It’s really important for recruitment to provide sports and competition for athletes,” said Klein.
Although Laurier Brantford is now a part of the OCAA, they won’t begin participating in sports competition until 2014-2015 when men’s and women’s soccer begins. Men’s and women’s basketball will be added to the program the following year in 2015-2016.
Greg Stewart, Manager of Athletics and Recreation at Laurier Brantford explains that this delay was always part of the plan.
“It was 100% intentional,” says Stewart. “We have a massive learning curve to overcome. By waiting until 2014, we provide ourselves with more leverage to address our field and facility concerns.”
Included in these obstacles are concerns such as medical positions to be filled, such as a medical therapist, and field availability. Both Klein and Stewart hope Laurier Brantford will be playing on their own fields by 2014, but as Klein states, there are many aspects to address.
“Let’s do step one before we do step four,” said Klein.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle to overcome is the issue of funding.
“Funding will always be a concern,” said Stewart, attributing the issue to the campus size and the early stages of the athletic program.
Although extremely confident it will never become a problem, Stewart explains that they need to develop this recent expansion of the Athletics Department slowly and give it an opportunity to grow.
This reinforces why Laurier Brantford has given itself four years to prepare for such a large addition to the campus. However, even so early into the involvement with the OCAA, Stewart already has a few other sports in mind for the future. Sports such as lacrosse, rugby and baseball were all discussed additions, but none for the immediate future.
“Long term, there is nothing stopping us,” said Stewart confidently.
And upon discussing the many sports he hopes to one day have compete in the OCAA, Stewart explained that neither gender would be favoured over the other.
“My mandate is whatever we offer one gender, will be offered to the other [gender].”
An example of this idea is if a baseball program were to be introduced, both a hardball team for the men, and a fastball team for the women would be included.
Finally when questioned about a Brantford and Waterloo rivalry developing, Stewart decisively agreed he is on board.
“Absolutely we are interested in a rivalry, it’s a 100% no-brainer for us.”
To which Klein added, “It will be beneficial for both campuses.”
It seems that great things are on the horizon for Laurier Brantford, and although the Athletic Department has much more to do now being a part of the OCAA, the dividends will soon enough pay off.