For almost a year, Brock University and its Athletic and Recreation Department have searched for a new director. The pursuit has been a patient and thorough process, as Brock has become a leader in Canada for their innovative approaches to athletics.
On Feb. 9, the Department announced the hiring of Neil Lumsden, a former Canadian Football League player as the schools’ eighth Director of Athletic and Recreation. Lumsden, a 63-year-old resident from Burlington, Ontario heard about the opening position at Brock after a phone call from a friend and decided it was something of interest for him.
“It’s funny how these things happen,” said Lumsden. “I had a phone call in early December from a friend who knew what was going on here at Brock, so I did some quick homework.”
Lumsden has been highly involved within the OUA, specifically serving as the coach for Guelph for the past five years. His role with the Gryphons was as a volunteer coach than of a formal coaching role. Lumsden’s administrative history with the OUA is limited, however the former football player served as the general manager of the Hamilton Tiger Cats from 1997 to 2000.
“I slid my name in last minute,” Lumsden explained about his decision to apply for the director position. “I was massively impressed with the people I met [at Brock] during the [application] process.”
The CFL Hall-of-Famer also plans to make a move from Burlington to St. Catharines with the new job under his belt.
Lumsden will be replacing Robert Cargnelli, who took over as interim Director of Athletic and Recreation in March of 2015. Cargnelli will now move back to the internal audit and director in university services, the position he held for six and a half years prior to his role with the Department.
The Athletic and Recreation Department at Brock is a very tight group of administrators and students working together. The Department has taken a ‘student first’ approach over the last couple years and Lumsden understands the importance of that for the school.
“I like the people that are here and the way they think,” said Lumsden. “From what I’m able to gather the student participation and commitment to the university is maybe second to none, certainly in the OUA. I can see that from what they do and the way they do it.”
Lumsden will begin in his position on Feb. 15 and looks to bring his experiences as a former athlete and CFL executive to the table. Lumsden also has a championship pedigree, winning three Grey Cups with the Edmonton Eskimos.
The former fullback/running back has won individual awards such as, Frank M. Gibson Trophy (awarded to the top rookie in the east division) in 1976 and the Dick Suderman Trophy (the Grey Cup’s Most Valuable Canadian) in 1981. He spent his university career with the Ottawa Gee-Gee’s.
In terms of what experience Lumsden can bring to Brock as an administrator he said, “as my wife said, probably an awful amount of my past has led to this.” Outside of football, Lumsden was also the general manager and COO of the 2003 Road World Cycling Championships and for 10 years he was the head of a sport marketing agency.
With a history of football, Lumsden quickly shot down any thought of Brock adding a varsity football team.
“It never came up in the conversation,” said Lumsden about any discussion of a football team coming to Brock. “I never asked because I’m not coming here for that reason, so it hasn’t even crossed my mind. That’s who I was for a lot of my life, but that’s not who I am all the time. It’s about the business of sport and it’s about our responsibility for all the students and everyone on this campus and we can make [athletics] better for them.”
Lumsden will settle into his new role in the coming week and continue to throw himself into Brock’s athletics. Lumsden will work closely with Assistant Athletic Director Chris Critelli, Robert Hilson, Marketing and Business Development at Brock and the students.
In terms of how Lumsden will go about handling the coach’s at Brock, he plans to focus more of how they work behind the scenes with the athletes. “It’s not about the championships or the winning record,” said Lumsden.
Though the goal is to grow the varsity programs at Brock, Lumsden believes championships will come. His focus, as of now, is to settle into his new role and learn the ropes.
The move for Brock is major within the OUA and CIS community. Lumsden is a well-known sports mind all-across Canada.
This year Brock Basketball played host to Lakehead at the Meridian Centre and broke attendance records. The basketball team will play at the St. Catharines arena again on Feb. 24. For Lumsden, his past success will bring more sporting events similar to games at the Meridian Centre. The community can look forward to possibly seeing other teams such as the Brock Men’s and Women’s Hockey teams playing at the Meridian. Also, Lumsden will have the ability to propose Brock has a possible host for CIS Final-8 Championships and other major capacity events.
Lumsden hiring is a turning point in Brock’s athletics. His experience and knowledge for sports will take the Athletic and Recreation Department to new levels, as it has already seen major growth throughout the last couple years.