By Jon Filson
Like the Ravens wide receivers in recent years, Carleton University’s football alumni might not be able to hustle quite fast enough to keep football at the university.
Time is ticking on the team, since Carleton’s director of athletics Drew Love recommended it be axed in a Jan. 7 report. The department is seeking public input until Jan. 29, and Carleton president Richard Van Loon will decide the team’s fate in mid-February.
With deadlines looming, the Carleton’s Old Crows alumni chapter — made up entirely of former Raven football players — is preparing a counter-proposal to ensure that the current crop of players wouldn’t be the last addition to the team’s alumni. But Kevin McKerrow, the Old Crows president, doesn’t sound too optimistic the team will be taking the field next year.
“The last thing I want to do is try to suggest that we’re going to achieve some sort of magnificent feat that right now I just don’t see happening,” the former Ravens offensive linesman says, although he adds saving the team is still a possibility.
In recent years other universities, such as the University of Toronto and the University of Alberta, have faced cash crunches and managed to survive, largely due to strong alumni support. Saving the Ravens could happen too, but McKerrow says “it’s going to require all the stakeholders, the alumni, the student body, the institution and the athletic department making it happen.”
“What’s happened elsewhere is that it hasn’t just been football alumni at places like Alberta,” McKerrow says. “It’s been other individuals in the community — the general school alumni — that have helped. And we are certainly interested in hearing from anybody with ideas and an interest to join in.”
Gary Shaver, assistant director of alumni at Carleton, has been helping the Old Crows co-ordinate their efforts, although he says they’ve been the only alumni chapter that has approached the department to save the team.
“It would be the alumni that would need to take the initiative,” Shaver says.
The size of any movement to save the club will definitely be taken into consideration, Love acknowledges. Although he says no matter what happens, the university’s football operations “should not continue under the status quo.”
Saying it’s high time a debate on the team’s future began, Coach Donn Smith is willing to debate the team’s future, saying it has been isolated from the rest of the campus for too long. He would like to see the university get behind the team, instead of killing it.
“If they want us,” he says, “then they’re going to have to pitch in, roll up their sleeves and help us out.”
Smith says Love’s report hampers efforts to keep the team not just by cutting its funding, but because many of its recommendations would benefit other university sports at Carleton. While Love cut football’s funding entirely, his overall estimated sports budget only dropped by roughly $50,000 from what was spent in 1998-99. That means approximately $100,000 of the $147,891 that went to football last season would go to other athletic programs at the university.
“I don’t think it’s a real positive move to carve up football to enhance other sports,” Smith says. “And that’s obvious if you read the report that’s what he’s doing. He seems to be cutting up the football carcass to feed it to other programs. And that’s not fair.”
But Love rejects he tried to isolate football players and their alumni, saying he looked at Carleton’s entire athletic program before coming to his conclusions.
“It isn’t an issue of targeting one sport over another.”