The University of King’s College has cut its men’s volleyball program.
The team was in the midst of a coaching transition, and this air of uncertainty led to a lack of commitment on the part of returning and incoming volleyball players, according to King’s athletic director Neil Hooper.
“We felt that for competitive reasons and for reasons of really not having any volleyball players that we weren’t prepared to make the commitment to the ACAA for 2013-2014”, says Hooper. “It was only when these circumstances hit us that we were faced with this alternative.”
This announcement comes a few months after King’s was crowned champion of the Atlantic Collegiate Athletic Association (ACAA). The team, which normally hosts open tryouts now, decided to withdraw from competition because of a lack of turnout for this year’s squad.
“My immediate reaction is disappointment,” says Justin Brooks, a former King’s volleyball player who transferred to the University of Guelph. “Although I am not surprised by this, it still saddens me to think that a team I once played for is no longer.”
According to Hooper, it became clear early last season that head coach Justin Lynch would be resigning to pursue his engineering degree. “It’s probably the worst time to look for a coach because all of the volleyball coaches are with their current teams,” adds Hooper.
The university continued to search for a coach this summer, but a lack of returning players compounded the situation. The team lost two players, including Brooks, to transfers to the CIS, with other veterans either graduating or on the fence about committing with the coaching situation unresolved.
“I was aware that the team would be in trouble for next year, but that didn’t influence my decision as I had already planned on leaving due to academics and wanting to play volleyball at the next level,” says Brooks.
After having a potential coach decline due to work commitments, Hooper did find someone to help the team for this year. However, a dearth of veterans and willing players became an insurmountable obstacle.
“When we contacted the remaining players on the team, none of the players were prepared to commit for next season,” says Hooper.
Despite the possibility of a last resort push to fill the team with walk-on players, Hooper decided to not field a team to maintain the integrity of the program.
“We have an obligation as members of a competitive league to produce a competitive team,” says Hooper. “We didn’t see the possibility of being competitive at all, so out of respect to the ACAA and our students, we didn’t want to put out a team that goes out and gets embarrassed every night.”
King’s will be out of the ACAA for a minimum of two years because of league policy, with the earliest possible return date being the 2015-16 season. The ACAA men’s volleyball division now shrinks to four teams, with King’s no longer represented in both men’s and women’s volleyball. The university has not fielded a women’s volleyball team since 2008 due to budgetary reasons.
It is a sombre time for an athletics program that has fought to carve a niche at a university better known for its academics. King’s will still field men’s and women’s soccer, basketball, badminton and women’s rugby in the ACAA, and men’s rugby at the club level.
Hooper revealed that the women’s program would return at the club level this year and will apply to the ACAA for the 2014-15 season. “It’s not at the expense of men’s volleyball, in this situation it’s just very ironic timing,” says Hooper.
“Women’s volleyball is a great fit and it’s a great opportunity to get it back.”
A lifelong sports fan, Benjamin Blum entered the world of journalism after suffering a concussion playing rugby for the University of King’s College. From that moment, his twin passions for writing and sports motivated the Thornhill, Ont. native to give this journalism thing a try. Having been an athlete, coach and fan for many years, Ben brings his diverse knowledge of sports along with a witty sense of humour to the sports section. Ben was Sports Editor of the Gazette for Volume 146.