Brandon University Bobcats an endangered species?

By Sean Nyilassy and Lee Bogle

A representative of the carnivorous mascots from each of the Canada West Athletic Association member schools will meet May 4-6 to decide if the Bobcats’ extinction is imminent. In simpler terms, the Brandon University Bobcats basketball teams may not be allowed to play in the Canada West conference due to a technicality.

Since the amalgamation of the Great Plains Athletic Conference and CWAA in 2001, the Bobcats have had probationary membership status due to the fact that they only have a basketball program.

Although Canada’s other conferences only require one sport with two teams, Canada West members must have two sports with both men’s and women’s teams to be eligible for league competition. Unless a new sport program is proposed for the 2005-2006 season, the Bobcats will likely be voted out of the conference by the other members of the CWAA.

At the moment, starting a new team is a difficult task in Brandon on account of the tuition freeze and the consequently stretched budget at the school. Although steps have been taken towards starting up a volleyball program, it will be near impossible to get going by 2005.

"It is not a viable option at this time," commented University of Brandon Athletic Director Rick Nickelchok. "Internally we don’t have the resources."

The Bobcats’ basketball team has been an integral part of the school for the 36 years it has been a member of Canadian Interuniversity Sport.

"Within the university [the basketball team] is very important for student life," noted Nickelchok. "[Watching games] is a relatively inexpensive event for students to participate in."

He also believes the Bobcats are a vital component of the community. All of their home games are broadcast on cable television. On the other hand, while many Brandon dwellers would be very upset with the loss of basketball, some members of the university look forward to money being transferred from athletics to academics.

From Mar. 18-21 the male Bobcats are in Halifax competing for the national basketball crown. The team has battled in 17 of the last 18 national championships, winning four times since 1986. We can all agree this impressive history indicates the extinction of the Bobcats would leave a gaping hole in CIS basketball.

It certainly reinforces Nickelchok who boasted "an infamous legacy that’s in place here."

Hopefully that legacy will find a way to live on.

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