Gaels teams face new challenges after Paladins slash basketball program
The OUA basketball season tipped off last weekend with just one Kingston team.
Last June, RMC abolished their men’s and women’s varsity basketball programs following an extensive evaluation of the school’s athletics department.
After the review, commissioned in 2010, the school downgraded from 11 varsity teams to seven. The decision was made to reduce the number of teams relative to student population.
“Even after the changes, we’re still the highest in Canada on a per-capita basis, but we’re more in line with the other schools,” said Darren Cates, RMC’s director of athletics.
Basketball was the only program to be slashed entirely, while RMC’s taekwondo and running teams were demoted to the competitive club level.
Cates said several elements were considered in the decision to eliminate the basketball programs, including the teams’ on-court performance.
From 2004 onwards, the Paladin men and women combined for five wins in 352 OUA games. Both went winless in 2011-12.
“A key factor was our perceived ability to compete in basketball going forward,” Cates said.
The school plans to revisit the status of the affected programs after the 2016-17 season — four full seasons from now.
While RMC’s withdrawal is unlikely to impact the OUA standings, the resulting changes to the league schedule will affect Queen’s in particular.
The majority of the basketball schedule is composed of weekend doubleheaders, with teams travelling in pairs to another region to face two local teams. Before RMC’s departure, the Paladins were paired with the Gaels.
This season, the Gaels men’s and women’s teams will still play two games every weekend — but their opponents will only play one.
James Bambury, assistant coach of the Gaels’ women’s basketball team, said this could put Queen’s at a physical and mental disadvantage.
“The fact that [opposing teams] don’t have to play a second game allows them to give everything they can for 40 minutes, as opposed to 80 each weekend,” Bambury said.
The Gaels hired Bambury as an assistant coach this past August — two months after RMC’s decision to cut basketball left him out of a job.
Bambury, who played for Queen’s from 2000-03, spent the past two seasons as the head coach of RMC’s women’s team. He led the Paladins to a 64-47 win over Waterloo on Nov. 5, 2010 in his coaching debut.
As of now, that victory is the last in school history.
“I think [the elimination of basketball] was an incredibly disappointing result when it came down,” Bambury said. “Anyone below the highest administration had absolutely no say in what was going to happen.”
Bambury said the decision has severe implications on RMC’s student-athletes, who benefit from varsity competition on and off the court.
“There’s no greater learning tool when it comes to teamwork and leadership than sports at an elite level,” he said.
“I felt there was no better way of being able to prepare young officers for what was to come.”