Less than a year after creating a club soccer program, the Brandon University Bobcats have joined a league, and it could create a cross-town rivalry in the Wheat City.
The Bobcats soccer teams have been accepted into the Manitoba Colleges Athletic Conference, the same league the Assiniboine Community College Cougars play in. The Bobcat club teams were formed with the goal of playing in the MCAC, and BU athletic director Russ Paddock is glad it happened so quickly.
“We tried to get the soccer program last year with getting our club teams that played some exhibition games,” he said. “Our goal from the beginning was to join the MCAC and that’s our focus right now to provide opportunity for local youth to stay at home and go to university and continue to be involved in high-level soccer.
“The exhibition schedule is the first step and student-athletes were happy to represent the university, but it certainly gives us that much more importance to be part of an official league and playing a schedule and working towards a championship.”
Entering the MCAC has BU following in the footsteps of other universities, especially those in B.C., that have some programs competing in the CIS’s Canada West conference and others in the college ranks. There aren’t any immediate plans for BU to play Canada West soccer.
Paddock said Rainer Schira will remain as head coach of the women’s soccer team and Terry McGonigle will stay on as the bench boss of the men’s squad.
The MCAC soccer leagues will also feature Providence University College, Canadian Mennonite University, Université de Saint-Boniface, Red River College, and ACC, which joined last year.
The Bobcats season will start on the weekend of Sept. 13-14. Tryouts will be announced later.
With soccer gaining in popularity in Westman, Paddock doesn’t think it will be hard for ACC and BU to both field teams and he’s looking forward to working with the other school as well.
“I think students are looking to go to university or take the courses that ACC offers,” he said. “I don’t think there will really be a competition for us for players.
“We’re looking forward to work with ACC to not only form a friendly rivalry, but work with them in terms of hosting games and events and other things we can do to promote soccer development in southwestern Manitoba.”
NOTE: Alexander native Bert Gilling has been hired as the head coach of the Mount Royal Cougars men’s hockey team, which went 11-14-3 in Canada West last season. Gilling spent the previous 11 seasons as an assistant coach with the Bemidji State Beavers, an NCAA Division 1 team.