By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express
Come the 2019-2020 academic year, basketball will be among the varsity options available to students at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology.
On May 24, the university formally announced men’s and women’s basketball teams will be hitting the court next fall.
“It’s something that I’ve always wanted to have,” Scott Barker, UOIT athletic director says. “[Basketball] is very prominent in Ontario, and one of the major sports in the OUA [Ontario University Athletics Association].”
With that said, Barker says the decision to add basketball required a strategic approach.
“Even though we wanted to be part of another major sport, the enrolment growth and ability to sustain the program is something you want to ensure you have,” Barker says.
The next step will be to hire coaches for both teams, a process that hasn’t officially started but will soon, Barker says.
“We’ll then start recruiting for sure. We are fortunate because Durham/GTA East, it’s pretty strong in terms of basketball talent,” he adds. “There should be a lot of interest, and the coaches’ job will be to help get that word out.”
UOIT will forgo an exhibition-style season and jump right into competition against its OUA rivals, but Barker has no expectations of being a Vegas Golden Knights-type ‘Cinderella story’ of university basketball.
“I think you always want to be competitive, and there are going to be bumps in the road for sure.”
The development of a basketball program ties into enhancing the student experience and the Oshawa campus overall.
“We are always looking to provide opportunities for student-athletes. We want to make sure we are putting a product on the floor that we are proud of and allow those athletes to become ambassadors for future students,” Barker notes. “One of the main drivers of this is we want to provide a new experience, and we are hoping the engagement of our campus around basketball and the Ridgeback brand will continue to grow.”
Jessica Nguyen, UOIT Student Union President, share’s Barker’s optimism.
“The students are excited that varsity basketball is coming to our campus. It is one of the marquee sports across the OUA and our student body is ready to show off our Ridgeback pride in 2019.”
This will mark the first new sport at the university since adding men’s and women’s badminton in 2016.