By Linda Scales
Alumni donors have provided two big boosts to the Gee-Gees football program: a meal plan and a refurbished locker room. Both are boons to the players and coaching staff, and will help recruit new student-athletes to the team.
“We always talk about the family that connects you with past generations,” says Ty Cranston, a student-athlete on uOttawa’s 136-year old football team. “When you get that financial donation and investment, it makes you feel like you are part of something larger.”
1980s Gee-Gees Meal Fund
Competing for a position on the Gee-Gees football squad during its annual two-week training camp in mid-August is hard, physical activity that demands many hours on the field plus attending team meetings. What does this have to do with food? Simply, everything.
“When you’re trying to keep 110 guys happy and healthy, you give them food,” says Cranston. “That makes them all happy.”
The annually replenished 1980s Gee-Gees Meal Fund is named for the alumni squad that created the fund in 2016. Since food is a big program expense, members of the 1980 team — winners of the Atlantic Bowl — started the meal fund for the Gee-Gees, one of the oldest established university teams in Canada. Working with advice from a nutritionist, the team feeds the student-athletes during the camp and provides special meals such as an all-you-can-eat barbeque for players, their parents, staff and donors.
“Many of the 1980 team members wanted to give back,” says former player Craig Walker (BSocSci ’89 [Economics]), owner of Tippets Records Management in Toronto. “The meal program offers a specific, tangible initiative. We felt that having the ability to contribute to the nutritional well-being of the players during training camp and throughout the season, we would play a small role in the overall success of the football program.”
New locker room
“Pretty basic” is an apt description of the players’ original locker room — which is currently being renovated — according to Steven Drover, manager, development (sports). In addition to not meeting essential requirements such as safeguarding players’ possessions, the room was hurting recruitment efforts. “It was an impediment,” Drover says, because potential student-athletes compare uOttawa’s facilities with that of other universities. “We weren’t competitive.”
Until recently, the locker room, located on the Lees campus — home of Gee-Gees Field — was equipped with a few lockers and with wall hooks, the lockers going to the senior players and the hooks to the rookies.
The updated room will have lockers outfitted with USB ports for recharging devices and lock boxes for securing valuables, and will be decorated with team memorabilia. All of this is thanks to donations from alumni and supporters, who helped the University raise $55,000 during Giving Tuesday, the international 24-hour giving event held annually in late November. The University matched all financial gifts, including a team donation from the players themselves. Other in-kind support was also provided by alumni-owned companies.
For the current players, the locker room and the meal fund show “how much pride those guys still have in the program even though they are 10, 15, 20, 30 years out of it,” says Cranston, who will play one more season with the Gee-Gees before graduating. “It’s an investment for the players and the next generation.”