By Robyn Doolittle
Since arriving at Ryerson five years ago, volleyball star Ryan “Snake” Vandenburg has become the face of the Ryerson Rams.
The Sports and Recreation department frequently uses his mug on promotional posters and pamphlets, and last year he was featured on The Eyeopener’s cover no less than three times — with at least a dozen references inside.
He’s not the only “celebrity athlete.” Among others, volleyball player Jen Williams, basketball prodigy Boris Bakovic, and soccer sensation Tessa Dmitrakopouls have each had high profile coverage in both campus papers.
But we wanted to know whether anyone besides the athletes and a few sports journalists know — or care — who they are?
This week we continue an annual tradition of highlighting the top 10 athletes at Ryerson, pages 7-10. We figured, if there’s any chance a Ram is going to be recognized, it’d be one of these guys.
So we conducted an extremely unofficial poll throughout campus earlier this week. Three Eyeopener interns showed 85 students headshots of our top 10, and the results won’t shock you.
Three people knew that Vandenburg, Matthew Fugard and Oleh Kovalchuk played on the men’s volleyball team. One identified Vandenburg’s nickname as “Snake,” but was unsure of his real name.
When the interns hung around northwest Kerr Hall, near the athletic therapist, team rooms and gym, one person was able to name Kevin Li as a badminton player and another was pretty sure Suzanne Briggs is on the soccer team.
That was about it. Most of the students polled didn’t know the headshots were of athletes. This sure isn’t something the university wants to hear.
Over the past few years, Ryerson has been working to build a Rams fan base by targeting residence kids, removing admission fees for students, more fan buses, game raffles and promotional events.
At any American school, these jocks would be the big men (and women) on campus. But at Ryerson, where game attendance is dismal, building athletic enthusiasm is a daunting task.
There are a number of contributing factors to our fan apathy. One, since the majority of students commute to campus, few are willing to stick around for evening games, nevermind braving the DVP to return on the weekend.
Another barrier is Ryerson’s lack of facilities. Our soccer, hockey and figure skating teams have to trek off campus to compete, and it seems few people other than friends and family are willing to follow them.
Finally, we have a losing record. In recent years the athletics program has made major gains in a number of sports.
And certainly the men’s volleyball near-win at OUA finals last year has landed them a solid fan base, but until our Rams are given the tools for victory (more money, cough, cough, more money), these hard-working student athletes will continue to go unnoticed by most of the community.