True Story Tuesday: What you didn’t know about the Athletics Department

When recently asked to present a piece of UBC history that thus far, to the best of our knowledge, has never been documented, it resulted in the following…
Even though sports teams have represented this university since 1908, the roots of UBC’s Athletics Department can be traced to the 1936 hiring of a young American sports star named Maury VanVliet. As it happened, VanVliet’s mandate was extensive; to not only coach Varsity teams but to introduce, promote and oversee the concepts of physical fitness and physical education, quests he would achieve in large part through UBC’s newly-created intramural program. VanVliet would indeed gain wide spread acclaim as coach of a variety of Thunderbird teams but he also organized and managed just about everything concerning athletics. He had help however as Gertrude Moore at this same time was managing the women’s side of fitness and sport.
With his passion for physical education, VanVliet planted the seed for what would later become UBC’s School of Human Kinetics (Kinesiology), in which a degree program was successfully implemented in 1946 by VanVliet’s successor, Bob Osborne. Osborne, a former Blue & Gold athlete, not only directed for 33 years UBC’s School of Physical Education as it was known at the time, but was also a very successful UBC coach, represented UBC and Canada on the Olympic stage and was a founding father of the CIS, all the while serving as head of UBC’s athletics component.
With Osborne and Physics Dean Gordon Shrum envisioning a much broader athletics scope, the concept of a director of UBC Varsity athletics was introduced in 1951. With Osborne still serving as head of Physical Education, the recreational and intramural programs as well as Varsity teams would now fall under the direction of the Athletics Department located in the newly constructed War Memorial Gym. Bob Robinett was hired as its first director but after less than two years stepped down to be replaced in 1953 by R.G. “Bus” Phillips. Phillips not only built the foundation for what we now know as the Athletics Department but he served as its director an impressive 27 years and among his many accomplishments ushered UBC into the Canada West and CIS Varsity sport leagues.
Upon Phillips’ retirement in 1980, former UBC athlete and hockey coach Bob Hindmarch was selected as UBC’s new director. Hindmarch, similar to Phillips, brought local passion and new skills to the table including the facilitating of international tours and exchanges involving university athletes, teams and coaches.
The women meanwhile were experiencing their initial official direction in the 1960s under Dr. Barbara “Bim” Schrodt with her office located in UBC’s original gymnasium situated across from Brock Hall. Schrodt was succeeded by Marilyn Pomfret who as women’s director from the late 1960s to the early 1980s engineered a profound influence upon women’s sport both at UBC and across the nation. She amalgamated the women with the men in both the Department and in the CIS and pioneered the concept of national championships for women’s university teams. Today’s men and women of UBC sport working in unison is the product of the work of Pomfret together with directors Phillips and Hindmarch.
Bob Hindmarch was succeeded as director in 1992 by former Concordia athlete and coach, Bob Philip. Under Philip and his team, financial health has been experienced by the Department which has spilled over to the Varsity teams. This is combined with a push for more athletic scholarships with the thought of attracting more good Canadian athletes to Canadian universities. The success of UBC teams has always been there but it has been exceptional during the 2000s. In fact, between 2000 and 2010, UBC Varsity teams won 36 Canadian national championships, by far more than in any other decade at UBC. That is between 3 and 4 national titles per year – it is hard to imagine any other Canadian university keeping up with that pace.
Throughout the tenure of directors Phillips, Hindmarch and Philip, in fact from 1964 until 2011, the Department had one constant; Buzz Moore. It is safe to say none of those three directors would have made the full complement of their contributions without Buzz. He was their man for advice, knowledge, support and the taking care of details. He is truly a Hall of Famer.

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