Advancing Ryerson Athletics a collaborative effort

[R]yerson is the only school in the history of the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) conference to never have won an OUA championship.

“It’s frankly embarrassing!” says Dr. Ivan Joseph, the Athletic Director for Ryerson University, who joined Ryerson in 2008 with the task of ending that championship drought.

Speaking at the premiere event of the Ryerson Sports and Business Association on November 29th, Dr. Joseph candidly explained why having a strong athletics program enhances the reputation of a school; how it creates the realest sense of community for an entire student body by giving them platforms to engage with the largest groups possible, and therefore, leading to a higher quality of life on campus.

“We will be the heartbeat of the university. Our students, our athletes, and staff will be proud to be Rams.”

However, growing an athletics program at what is considered a commuter university, in downtown Toronto with limited facility space, and which has never been known for athletic prowess, presents hurdles even Dr. Joseph cannot possibly clear on his own.

Enter the Ryerson Sports and Business Association (RSBA).

Founded by Vedran Kuljanin, who is a student at Ryerson, the RSBA was conceived with three essential goals, with the ultimate goal to have Ryerson create a four year degree program in Sports Management. That would help toward achieving the second goal of bringing Ryerson business students with an eye for sports into the fold of the Canadian sports industry.

The third goal is a by-product of attempting to meet the first two goals, and is more a necessity than an outright aim but nonetheless, Kuljanin stipulated that the RSBA would work hard in collaboration with Ryerson athletics in order to grow the program along Dr. Joseph’s lines.

[T]he RSBA premiere event was the first of what organizers hope to be many networking opportunities for Ryerson students, steadily growing to include more and more influential people in the sports business world.

The main focus of these events is growing a partnership between Ryerson business students and the sports world, which is why the next speaker after Dr. Joseph was Jonathan Savage, VP of Marketing and Social Platforms at The Score. Yet, even in Savage’s talk about getting one’s foot in the door of the sport business there were great lessons to be had for growing Ryerson’s athletic presence on and around campus.

One such avenue is the creation of a radio and video broadcast for Ryerson’s sports teams, and this is something already in the works as the referendum to approve a new Rams radio station makes way for sports broadcasting.

With that comes the idea of building Ryerson’s athletic brand, an idea which parallels what the third speaker, Sunny Pathak, founder of S.O.S. Media, spoke about in terms of marketing his clients, including current Leafs, Tyler Bozak and Colby Armstrong.

And it’s this ability of the RSBA to bring together such a diverse background of athletes, sports industry professionals, and students is a step toward building the profile of Ryerson athletics and the beginnings of a deep seated partnership.

This is a vital partnership, because Kuljanin believes the creation of the RSBA is an acknowledgement that sports at Ryerson could become a viable business – if not nearly on the same level as NCAA athletics, at least in a business learning capacity. Says Kuljanin, “We are committed to helping out in any way to grow athletics here, from giving out shirts and other merchandise to advertising to bring more fans to the games.”

While anyone who actually goes to a Ryerson home basketball or hockey game can see that attendance tends to be sparse, other areas of the athletics program are improving rapidly, and everyone hopes that the fans will soon follow.

In the past three years since Dr. Joseph took over, Ryerson has handed out over $10 million dollars in scholarship funds at a maximum of $3500 dollars per student athlete, a sure sign that the field is shifting and Ryerson is fully prepared on all fronts to endorse Dr. Joseph’s plan for improving athletics.

Turning Maple Leaf Gardens into the new Ryerson athletics centre is a major step toward building the reputation of a program. It is also a prime example of why it is important for Ryerson to have organizations such as the RSBA, so that the business side can generate the money required to let the athletic side flourish.

The Ryerson Sports and Business Association plays a part in the growing realization which athletes like Jahmal Jones, Andrea Raso, Aaron Best, and Emma Crawley already knew, and why they chose to be here: Ryerson can excel both athletically and academically.

chrisbabic@ryersonfolio.com