By Erin Valois
After over a year without an athletic director, Ryerson Sports and Recreation has found the man they hope will bring the sparkle of victory to teams who usually come home empty-handed.
On July 1, Ivan Joseph began his reign at the university. Joseph is looking to inject life into the struggling Rams. Last year, Jean Kennedy was named acting athletic director after the sudden firing of then athletic director Dave Dubois. But Kennedy was clear that her appointment was only short-term because she was close to retirement. With the addition of Joseph this summer, varsity sports at Ryerson can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Like the Rams, Joseph needed a change. He was bored at Graceland University in Iowa, where he was the head coach of the men’s soccer team. National championships and National Coach of the Year — they were just titles. He wanted a new beginning.
“I think sometimes the worst thing that can happen to you is success because then you start to get bored,” he says. “I applied for the director position at Ryerson and sent in my resume. The next thing I knew, I was athletic director.”
Joseph was born in Guyana, a South American country near Brazil. At the age of five, he moved to Canada and spent most of his childhood in the quiet Ontario town of Maple. His hard work at school and on the track earned him a scholarship offer to Laurentian University in Sudbury, and that’s when it all changed.
When Joseph attended Laurentian, he soon found himself caught up in the college lifestyle. With poor time-management skills and declining grades, he had to make a choice.
“I couldn’t go back to Laurentian. I just decided I would start all over,” he says. “I decided to transfer to a school where no one knew my name and I could redefine my identity. It was the best decision I had ever made.”
Joseph moved to Graceland University to finish off his degree. For the next fifteen years, Joseph was known as a winning soccer coach and a popular professor in health and movement sciences. His contribution to the school is seen in a smattering of postings on the Internet — the players from Joseph’s winning men’s soccer team have posted a tribute to him on YouTube.
The athletic director at Graceland, Dave Hannon, thinks that Joseph will make a smooth transition from head coach to director, except for one impotant obstacle.
“I think he will do a great job and he’s very capable,” he says. “But he’s definitely going to miss the kids. It’s just a different type of relationship, he’ll find out very quickly that it’s not the same.”
Don’t look for the new athletic director to implement any major changes this year. He sees student engagement at other levels of the university and wants to make this a priority for athletics. However, Joseph feels that with a new position, there is always pressure for immediate change.
“I think it takes a year to really observe what’s going on to really get your feet wet to know what changes need to happen,” he says. “ I can’t do what I did at my other university and just bring it here and say it’s going to work.”
Joseph already has help from the front lines. He says that President Sheldon Levy has wiped out the deficit from last year so the new athletic director could have a fresh start. However, Joseph says that this is not going to be a trend — the budget next year needs to be balanced.
“We were in the red, about $130,000, but the university has taken care of it for us,” he says. “It was one of the things they were trying to do to set me up to succeed.”
Joseph wants the university to shed its outdated image. He says there is a lack of branding at the school. For instance, the uniforms of the sports teams are different shades of blue and gold, a problem he is hoping to fix. Joseph also says in the next two to three years, the Ryerson Rams logo will be replaced.
“That logo is from 1965. When you see that ram, it should say Ryerson University. I don’t want the ram to say Sports and Recreation,” he says. “It’s all about that branding and image.”
But there is one important element missing from Joseph’s vision — winning teams. He may have been part of a championship squad, but the new athletic director says little about how he plans to bring this to Ryerson.
Instead of an emphasis on winning, Joseph wants athletes who strive to be well-rounded people. Although he understands that winning varsity teams can enrich other aspects of the university’s athletic program, he has found other ways of bringing in money.
At Graceland, Joseph worked to ensure funds that led to the construction of new athletic facilities — an investment that is desperately needed at Ryerson. But Joseph doesn’t believe that improved facilities and increased funding will ensure success on the playing fields.
“If athletes have the same values and goals as their coaches, winning will happen,” he says. “I don’t think you can buy a championship.”