Explainer: KPU’s History with Varsity Sports

Even though KPU cut the varsity sports program in 2015, it hasn’t bid a final farewell to the future of athletics at the school

Meet the old mascot for KPU athletics, Kwinten. (flickr/ KPU Dept. of Athletics & Recreation)

Varsity sports used to have a large presence in KPU’s campus life. There were eight varsity teams, totalling at 92 student athlete participants at the time of the sports program’s cancelation. The sports included in the program were men and women’s basketball and soccer, men’s golf, and women’s badminton. The school’s teams were known as the Kwantlen Eagles, and they were supported by Kwinten, the team mascot.

This all came to a surprising end in 2015, however, which left the KPU community without any teams to play on, coach, or cheer for. Once each of the teams had completed their finals season of 2015/16, the varsity program was officially dismantled.

A petition was created at the time of the cancelation to save the sports program and accumulated 1,268 signatures, to no avail

The decision to cut varsity sports was made in part due to financial reasons; the program cost approximately $750,000 per year. This follows a trend where varsity athletics are continually experiencing a rise in funding costs even though the amount of participation in sports in Canada is decreasing across all age groups according to a federal government report released in 2010.

Joshua Mitchell, the Senior Director of Student Affairs, says that KPU wanted to focus on creating a “more inclusive and expanded model of sport, recreation, and wellness that would benefit more students” at the time of cancelation.

The funding was distributed among other programs to better suit all students rather than just athletes, he explains. This meant using the $750,000 athletic funds to start “intramural leagues and drop-in sports programs, including soccer, basketball, volleyball, and ping pong.” 

KPU also offers fitness classes such as yoga, weight lifting, and other forms of working out.

“Since this new model was adopted, KPU has established fitness centres at KPU Langley and KPU Tech, and expanded hours of service in our fitness centres and Surrey campus gymnasium,” Mitchell says.

Since the implementation of a new way to offer sports at KPU, the amount of participation at fitness centres in Kwantlen has notably increased. In 2016, there were around 3,700 visitors, and now that number is closer to 12,300. Drop-ins at KPU gymnasiums has also increased from 12,000 per year to 19,000 over the same time period. 

The university also created a collaborative program in hopes of helping out students who struggle with their mental health. As a result, KPU’s Wellness in Action program is a union between Sports and Recreation and Counselling Services. 

Mitchell says that the goal with Wellness in Action is “to support students suffering from depression and anxiety with a structured program that includes physical exercise.” He also says that KPU’s plans for expanding the current sports and recreation initiatives are still under development, adding that students might see more activities available at the university over the coming years.

“Looking to the future, we’re working to secure resources to introduce new facilities at KPU Richmond and expand programming and hours of operation into the weekend,” he says.