By Matt Vocino
Running a large-scale event isn’t easy, but that’s exactly what Ryerson athletics did for the U SPORTS Women’s Final 8 tournament this past weekend.
From March 7-10, the Mattamy Athletic Centre (MAC) was home to eight women’s basketball U SPORTS teams, thousands of fans and countless media. It concluded with the McMaster Marauders claiming the gold medal in the 11th and final game on Sunday night.
While the tournament only lasted four days, the preparation and selection process takes months on end.
According to U SPORTS manager of sport technical and national championships Scott Ring, the process begins with a “bid book” being released and a national call for hosts.
Once the bid books are released, U SPORTS institutions and communities across Canada are called to submit proposals that will be evaluated over a period of roughly six months based on the host’s ability to meet certain standards in a number of areas including marketing and sponsorship.
“We are always looking for ways to create exceptional experiences for our students,” said chair of the organizing committee Amanda Cohen.
“For our student-athletes, it’s an incredible opportunity to compete for the national championship at home and provides a great goal for the program to build towards over two years.
The event creates fantastic experiential learning opportunities for RTA students in a variety of roles, and to work closely with a national broadcaster like Sportsnet is an invaluable career-oriented experience.
Also, Cohen said the event provides other students opportunities to build career skills in event planning, marketing, social media and communications.
Once Ryerson was officially announced as the host of the tournament on Feb. 1, 2018, the preparing process really began, and according to Cohen, the final eight months leading up to the tournament is highly focused.
The process involves numerous tasks with U SPORTS staff, including media pitches, ticket sales, travel and food accommodations, as well as game operations.
This was not the university’s first time hosting, as they welcomed the 2017 U SPORTS Women’s Volleyball Championship and the 2015 U SPORTS Men’s Basketball Final 8
This included transforming the Mattamy Home Ice rink by removing the ice and putting in a regulation basketball court five days before the tournament tip-off.
“Ryerson does a great job at what they do,” Ring said. “The venue is awesome. Not often do our athletes get to play in a venue like this.”
Even though the Final 8 didn’t come with any obvious problems, Cohen admits there are some challenges of running a national-wide event.
“This is a busy time of year for our staff as all of our teams are pushing into playoffs and vying for spots in national championships across Canada,” she added.
It can also be challenging to market sports events in a city like Toronto where there are so many entertainment and professional sport options available to people.
Thankfully for the Rams, this was not the university’s first time hosting as they welcomed the 2017 U SPORTS Women’s Volleyball Championship and the 2015 U SPORTS Men’s Basketball Final 8.
This experience, according to Cohen, made the athletics department confident going into the hosting process.
“This is our third national championship, so we went into this one with a strong sense of what works both from a marketing perspective, but also the logistics and staffing required.”
“We really felt confident that we were on top of all of the details and well prepared this year.”