With anticipated reductions in the operating budget across the University of Alberta, Dean Allen Berger has asked the heads of budget units at Augustana to consider ways to reduce spending. One such unit is Athletics. “Much of the current structure and program mix in Athletics and across the entire Student Life program were determined years ago; now with fewer resources available we’ve needed to undertake a comprehensive review,” says Randal Nickel, Executive Director of Student Life.
“Athletics has been operating on a lean budget for several years and due to new budget realities, it has become apparent that the department is no longer in a position to sustain the breadth of its current programming,” admits Greg Ryan, Director of Athletics and Recreation. “We’ve been in a difficult financial situation for a while now, hoping that operational support would improve.”
The main programming change is that Augustana will no longer offer operationally funded Nordic sports (Biathlon and Cross Country Skiing) as part of the varsity athletics program. The Campus will try to sustain these opportunities as club sports and/or broader recreational programming. According to Ryan, “As difficult as it was to come to these conclusions, disbanding operational funding for Nordic sports proved to be the least disruptive with regard to student participation in athletics, spectator involvement and contributions to campus life.” Nickel adds: “One of the positive results from this difficult decision is that Campus Recreation, which is intended to serve all Augustana students, will see some modest investments through a reallocation of a portion of the anticipated savings.”
Much seems to have changed in the world of Nordic sports since the time Augustana first fielded competitive teams in these areas. There are not a lot of Cross Country Intercollegiate programs, and Augustana has had the only University-level varsity biathlon program in Canada. “Our history at Augustana and our natural terrain within Camrose make Nordic sports important to us, yet we’ve struggled for years to find a rationale to maintain competition at a varsity level. It’s difficult to justify when we compete in a league conference (ACAC) that does not include these sports,” says Ryan.
“Though a troubling and difficult decision,” Dean Berger notes, “Augustana is hopeful that with creative planning we can still provide opportunities to meet our students’ athletic and academic aspirations.”
For more information, please contact Randal Nickel, Executive Director of Student Life at firstname.lastname@example.org or 780-679-1630.