Athletes and coaches from the University of Regina Cougars wrestling and volleyball teams are fighting back, asking the school to re-evaluate and justify its reasons for cutting the programs.
Last week the university cut the men’s and women’s wrestling programs along with the men’s volleyball team.
At the time, dean of kinesiology and health studies Harold Reimer cited several reasons. He said faculty reviewed things like community support and investment before making the decision.
Reimer also pointed to financial savings of $350,000 across all three programs.
The decision has sparked a lot of backlash, particularly within the wrestling community.
Canada-West women’s wrestling champion and third-year Cougar Amber Weibe, along with men’s wrestler Jordan Tholl and men’s volleyball player Michael Corrigan, addressed the public at a rally held Monday.
She called on school administration to look back to its own public review of the athletics program released last year.
Wiebe noted the review recommended funding of athletics programs be spread over all faculties, rather than putting the burden primarily on the Faculty of Kinesiology and Health Studies.
Weibe pointed out the athletes affected by the cuts are part of many other faculties at the school, not just kinesiology.
“If this was a clear recommendation, why was this not enforced over cutting varsity programs?” she asked.
Weibe said this was one of several direct questions athletes asked last week in a meeting with administrators. She said they were only met with broad answers, rather than specifics.
Weibe also pointed to the review’s recommendations around striving for academic excellence, ability to recruit by coaches, performance and community involvement. She said these were followed, but not considered when making the cuts. She said she wanted a full review of all the reasons given for the decision to cut the teams.
“We want answers, we want facts, we want sheets, we want history. And after that, if they still decide (to cut the teams), we can accept that. But until that happens, we’re going to fight. We want it reinstated, we want time to think.”
When it comes to the budgetary reasons cited by the school, Weibe questioned whether alternative options were fully considered.
“If the final cut was about budgetary reasons, I’m not saying that I want any other sport program at the university to be in jeopardy, but lots of programs are two, three, four times the budgetary income and they did not have the success of the wrestling team,” Weibe said.
She also suggested the teams facing cuts be given a chance to raise money to reinstate their own programs.
“So if it was about budgetary (reasons) and we went: ‘Hey, we’ve raised $150,000, reinstate our programs,’ I don’t think they could turn that away.”
Weibe said the Canadian women’s wrestling program is internationally renowned. She also pointed to the opportunities wrestling offers to people in poverty because all they need to succeed are shoes and determination, saying the university has now taken that away.
Weibe said she was also disappointed with how the cuts were announced to the athletes.
“If cutting the university programs was the last resort, I think what could have been done is if this bomb was going to drop April 30, 2018, give us a full year, give us until April 2019 to raise money, raise awareness or get our life together.”