By Anthony Lopopolo
There was always the need to wait. After athletic director Ivan Joseph was hired back in July 2008, it was apparent that Ryerson’s athletic makeup was going to change.
Questions of how and when the university would evolve from its 20-year-old sports and recreation centre, how and when the school would be freed from athletic destitution, how and when each sports program would become challengers instead of pushovers, had become relevant.
Joseph knew exactly what his job would entail, that he couldn’t command the school to renew its image at the shake of an Etch A Sketch board. Time had to be the supreme judge.
And just a year into his tenure, Ryerson’s athletics has managed to advance the ticking of that clock. Even before Maple Leaf Gardens was announced as an official piece of Ryerson property, programs across the school’s sports landscape have achieved newfound success, beckoned top talent to campus, and secured a vote in favour of a new sports facility.
The men’s soccer team, under the tutelage of Joseph in an interim role, recorded their first winning season since joining the OUA in 1986. The men’s basketball team went out and found prominent high school and international coach Roy Rana to nurture the program’s rise.
The women’s basketball team is working toward cementing themselves as a top contender in the OUA East. The men’s hockey team — which is hovering around the .500 mark at the midway mark of the season —has a legitimate chance of making the playoffs for the first time in seven years.
Rowing has captured the imagination of the university, and through coach Dominic Kahn’s development of gems like Matt Buie and Philippe Roy, has become one of Ryerson’s poster sports.
Our collection of athletes in this year’s Sports Top 10 is representative of that spread of promise. If there’s any particular player who has seen our Rams go through peaks and troughs of adversity, it’s Kevin Krasnowski. As a five-year veteran and captain of men’s hockey, he’s been on many tireless commutes to George Bell Arena to represent the school. With Maple Leaf Gardens, that anxiety evaporates.
“It’s an incredible facility and the fact that it’s a two-minute walk from campus will generate more fans. Ryerson has been a commuter school for so long,” Krasnowski once said. “We as a hockey team are always stuck with commuting two hours for practice, so eliminating that would make it easier on everybody.”
On the other side of the spectrum, we’ve seen players like Andrea Raso and Alex Braletic turn down tempting scholarships and opportunities in the U.S. to sport the Rams jersey. That kind of grassroots attraction to the school and Toronto has been identified by Joseph and he won’t complacently watch his plants flourish. He’s prepared to water them in every way possible.
The wonders that Maple Leaf Gardens will provide obviously give Joseph the wherewithal to realize his initial aspirations. But he’s also responsible for laying out a schematic vision for athletics.
Incidentally too, the Rams antiquated logo (patented in 1965) and website will be undergoing a massive overhaul to modernize athletics. “It’s all about branding and image,” Joseph said.
The job is nowhere near complete, however, and Joseph would be the first to say that. Progress is incremental when it works best, and the athletic director wants to turn what have been franchise records into OUA championships.
The clock is still very much a factor in whether the school will solidify itself as a premier domain for athletics. What we do have, though, is a cavalcade of athletes who should be heralded because, as Joseph has preached, they’re paving a foundation for our athletic program.