The life of Brock athletics began in 1967 when Arnie Lowenberger was brought on as Director of Athletics and Recreation. Though there were athletics around the campus when the school opened in 1964, Brock did not enter into Ontario university play until Lowenberger joined the school’s administration staff.
Lowenberger joining the school was sort of an “accident,” as the long-time employee said in Brock Athletics 40 year book. His career as an Athletic Director began with the University of Regina, which convincing him to leave was not an easy task for Ed Mirynech, the first ever Athletic Director at Brock. When Mirynech asked Lowenberger to come to Brock, Lowenberger replied “Where is that?” Then when told it was in St. Catharines, Lowenberger replied, “Where is that?” Finally, being told it was near Niagara Falls, Lowenberger still was not sure if the move to Brock was good for him, his wife and two children.
It was a national conference on physical education that was held in Toronto that originally brought Lowenberger to Ontario. Mirynech invited Lowenberger to come visit Brock after the conference, but Lowenberger respectfully declined the offer, deciding that getting home to his family was more important. But then, Lowenberger missed his flight back to Regina that led him to giving Mirynech a phone call, asking if the Brock invite was still open.
Lowenberger would then bus to St. Catharines, where Mirynech would meet the Regina native. Both men met with Dr. James Gibson. After a conversation of future goals, Gibson asked Lowenberger to come back in April with his wife to visit Brock.
The only reason Lowenberger and his wife agreed to come visit Brock was because two years prior the two discussed that if they were to ever leave Regina it would be for Victoria-Vancouver, the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia, or the Niagara Peninsula. After the visit, Gibson told Lowenberger that he would recommend Lowenberger’s appointment to the Board of Trustees, and that he would then call him as soon as possible.
Lowenberger saw the months of April and May go by with no phone call from Gibson or anyone at Brock. By mid-June Lowenberger took it upon himself to write a letter to Gibson and inform him that he was no longer interested in being considered for the appointment at Brock. Gibson responded by saying that the delay was due to Brock’s 1966-67 budget not being approved by the Ontario government.
The then Athletic Director at the University of Regina would continue to help that school as Lowenberger helped open a new physical education centre, that won an international design award. Regina had also been approved to start a physical education degree program. However, Brock would not go away as they would contact Lowenberger the next spring. He received phone calls from Brock’s Dean of Arts and Science, John Mayer, and then a call from Gibson asking what it would take to move Lowenberger to Brock. Gibson then called again the following day, and Lowenberger finally made the switch.
When Lowenberger first arrived the school had already drawn up a plan to build a single small gymnasium, a 25-yard pool, and 144 lockers in the locker room, a plan that would have come to a cost of $750,000. Lowenberger quickly convinced the Board of Trustees that the building would be a poor decision. Lowenberger’s plan was to first plan a program to develop in athletics and then a building of the facility that would accommodate the program. The new program created by Lowenberger would cost the school an estimated $150,000 less than the first plan. Still, the estimated cost was too high for Brock at the time and Lowenberger would have to recreate his proposal.
Lowenberger then applied the school to join the Ontario Intercollegiate Athletic Association (OIAA), where Brock did not have a single athletic team. The school would enter cross-country, golf, curling, hockey and fencing after approval.
Lowenberger would then move on to become the school’s first ever Dean of Students, as Bob Davis took over as the new Director of Athletics. Davis would then make the, “Lowenberger’s dream a reality” as Brock athletics would only be on the rise from there on.
Following Mirynech, Lowenberger and Davis, the next Director of Athletics would be Paul Dupre (1998-2001), Lorne Adams (2001-2010), Robert Hilson (2011-2014), and currently, Rob Cargnelli (2015-present). With Cargnelli holding the title of Interim Director of Athletics and Recreation, and Hilson as Associate Director and Business Development, the two along with their staff have made it a priority to make athletics a “student first” department, building off of Lowenberger and Davis’ legacy.
Bringing on current students, Bawe Nsame (Marketing & Fan Engagement) and Mohamed Hassan, the two have built a goal of making Brock’s home crowd at varsity home games the best in Canadian university.
Together, Nsame and Hassan have built a hashtag of #WeAreReady to show the Brock community and every other university that this school is ready for anything that comes their way.
“Sir Isaac Brock in the 1800s warned everyone that there would be a war. No one believed him, but he continued to get ready for his prediction of a war against the United States,” said Nsame. “He was ready and the war did happen with Canada winning. Isaac Brock was ready for whatever happened and so are we.”
In a more humourous explanation, Nsame explains the #WeAreReady slogan as, “you don’t want anyone coming into your house and eating your chicken.” Through this, Nsame wants Brock students to understand the importance of coming out and supporting the varsity teams that work so hard to bring the school a championship banner every year.
“It’s cliché when people say the six player, but I think our fans become that,” said women’s basketball coach Si Khounviseth. “I want them coming out, cheering and getting on the opposing team’s nerves. We need them to be great fans for us and we will respond.”
The goal for Nsame and Hassan is to build up school spirit and build a culture for fans. Last year Brock sold-out the most home games for basketball. There even were times when fans lined up for hours trying to get into the gym.
Last year Nsame and Hassan, along with other students built a great atmosphere for fan engagement at home games with different activities throughout the games and live music that kept the fans involved.
This year they plan to grow the fan engagement through social media, fan sections and new in-game chants.
“I’ve been incredibly impressed with what [Nsame] has done,” said Rob Cargnelli. “Going back to last year and seeing some of his video production and his ability to motivate and inspire. When we had an opportunity to bring him on with a more formal role, we jumped on it.”
Nsame and Hassan are also working with departments outside of the Athletic and Recreation Department to create the best atmosphere at home games. This includes, but is not limited to the Marketing and Communication department.
With both men’s and women’s basketball teams and the women’s volleyball team not returning home until the end of November, Nsame will use the time to prepare students and build up “hype” for future home games.
Back in the late 1960s, Lowenberger and Davis grew Brock athletics through innovative ways that have brought the school’s varsity teams to new heights over the years. Now, Nsame, Hassan, Robert Hilson, Cargnelli, and other members of the department are doing things in an innovative way. But for them to succeed, they need the help of students to make this the best home crowd in Canadian university athletics. A lot will be announced in the coming weeks, so Brock students should keep an open ear for the exciting times ahead.