Bobcats student-athletes have struck out with the striking Brandon University Faculty Association.
BUFA’s executive has turned down a plea from the 54 Bobcat players on the four BU teams to allow their coaches to return to run practices and games, but not teach classes and still remain on the picket lines.
BU adminstration approved the proposal last week, with vice-president Scott Lamont sending an official memorandum of understanding to BUFA in support of the student-athletes, who met personally with the faculty last week. But on Tuesday, the Bobcat coaches were informed that BUFA’s executive had rejected the players’ request.
"There was no rationale that the executive could accept," said BUFA vice-president Dennis Olson.
BUFA’s decision did not sit well with the Bobcats student-athletes, who had cited a clause in the contract BU has signed with Canadian Interuniversity Sport that guarantees that each team has "responsible leadership" and a high level of professional competence.
During the strike, the Bobcats players have been left to represent the university on the national stage each weekend guided by assistant coaches, some of whom are actually fellow students without advanced coaching certification or teaching degrees.
"I am extremely disappointed," said Meaghan Robertson, a second-year standout on coach Lee Carter’s BU women’s volleyball team. "Considering that we all got together and made an effort and tried to support something we all really believed in and we thought we had good points and we were all standing behind something, it’s disappointing that they couldn’t see any of that."
While Robertson was a heavily recruited homegrown player who chose to remain in Brandon to attend university, many of the Bobcat players are out-of-town students who face the added cost of room and board, with some of those players international students who are also paying double tuition for classes they currently aren’t receiving as the strike stretches into its 36th day today.
"It’s really tough and it’s more tough personally for me because I was a recruited player and I wasn’t from Brandon," said Emerick Ravier, who came from Ottawa this year to play for Gil Cheung’s Bobcats men’s basketball team. "I know that Coach Cheung went out of his way to recruit me and get me here, so the fact that he is not able to coach us while we’re in the season is really, really tough right now ... It is actually frustrating."
All four Bobcat teams are well into their Canada West conference schedules and all sport losing records, with the BU men’s basketball team sitting at 1-3 and the BU women at 0-4. The Bobcats’ men’s volleyball squad — ranked eighth in the country — has fallen to 1-5 without head coach Russ Paddock, while the BU women’s volleyball team snapped a four-match losing skid to improve to 2-4 on the weekend.
"We proved a lot just to ourselves this past weekend, beating Trinity, obviously," Robertson said.
"But long-term we need a coach. I mean, (assistant coach) Becky (Young) is doing an awesome job, but we need a coach ... I think everybody just feels unorganized and drained because we don’t know what’s going on with school and practices, so everybody is kind of stressed out."
Ravier agrees, adding that the men’s basketball team is rallying around each other during this difficult time.
"At the end of the day, we have a great group, we’ve really stuck together and we feel like we’ve just got to keep going really, because it’s not in our control," Ravier said. "And the other teams that we play are not going to go easy on us or have any pity for us, so we still have to go out and perform well. But it is definitely kind of frustrating for the team."