There is a new face at the forefront of Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) athletics, and he is taking the program in a new direction.
David Kent assumed the role last week as the university’s new director of athletics and recreation, and will lead a department of six varsity teams. All six currently compete in the Pacific Western Athletic Conference (PACWEST), but could soon be competing against major universities from across Western Canada as members of the CIS (Canadian Interuniversity Sport).
“The light at the end of the tunnel is the CIS,” said Kent, a Langley resident who brings more than two decades of experience in post-secondary sports to KPU. “The CIS is the highest level of amateur sports in Canada.”
Moving up to the CIS level is what Kent suggested to administrators at Kwantlen, and was a big reason he decided to pursue the job.
“Moving to the CIS was part of my proposal, a two-hour presentation I made during my interview,” he said. “I can’t see why we couldn’t be in the CIS eventually. We’d be a brilliant bridge between UVic and UBC (to the west) and Fraser Valley and Trinity Western (to the east).”
While some regard the University of British Columbia (UBC) as the ultimate CIS model, with UBC Thunderbirds competing in basketball, soccer, track and field, men’s and women’s hockey as well as football, Kent isn’t suggesting KPU should have the same kind of profile.
Like smaller CIS schools such as the University of Northern B.C. (UNBC), Trinity Western University and the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV), Kwantlen could field teams in just soccer and basketball, and be successful in Canada West, one of four regional leagues under the CIS umbrella.
“Basketball and soccer are the core sports played everywhere,” noted Kent. “And the soccer facility (at Newton Athletic Park) is already up to standard, it would be approved by the CIS in two minutes.”
UBC is the only school in British Columbia which plays in the Canada West league in hockey and football. But it is one of seven which play men’s and women’s basketball, and among five B.C. teams playing soccer in Canada West.
The Eagles already have soccer and basketball, with men’s and women’s teams in both sports playing in the PACWEST league. The women’s soccer team has appeared in three CCAA (Canadian Colleges Athletic Association) national championship tournaments, most recently at the 2013 event in Newton hosted by KPU.
But playing in the CIS would be a completely different game.
“CIS has a different mentality,” said Kent “It’s full-time coaches as opposed to part time.”
He has plenty of experience working in athletics at the university level, having been employed at Concordia University, Carleton University and, most recently, the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) Cascades, where he focused primarily on promoting student-athletes. He has spent 23 years in coaching, management and communications in post-secondary sports.
Kent was head coach of the women’s soccer teams at both Carleton University and Montreal’s Dawson College before moving into administration.
At Carleton, he raised more the $1.5 million for the university’s 19 sports team, and helped expand the athletic department’s communications and game staging staff from two to 40 part-time and full-time employees. He was also behind five successful bids to host national soccer championships at Carleton.
While he has a couple of things to tend to, Kent will spend most of the next few months meeting people and learning more about the university, its athletic department and his staff.
“I’ll see how we’re competing, I’ll see how the coaches are doing and will meet with them,” he said. “We have good people in the department, and they will guide us through the rest of this year.
“But we do want to ramp up the marketing and communication right away. And I would like to hire a communications officer by next year.”
Contacting Canada West, where he was served on the marketing board, is also on the to-do list.
“We’ll meet with Canada West before the end of the year,”, he said. “And we’ll play by their rules.”