The University of the Fraser Valley has dismissed athletic director Rocky Olfert.
Olfert, who had served as the Cascades’ AD for the past two years, was informed of the decision last Thursday.
Quizzed as to the rationale for the move, UFV vice-president of students Jody Gordon – who oversees the athletic department – said she’s not at liberty to discuss private personnel matters.
“It was a difficult decision . . . but we do feel it was the right decision for our students, and both our varsity athletics program and our campus recreation program,” she said.
Olfert issued a statement to The News.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity and would have liked to continue building on the successes we have had the last couple years. I’m proud of our teams as well as the new connections we were building in the community. I wish all the best to the great coaches and student athletes at UFV.”
Olfert has been a fixture on the Abbotsford sports scene since 2001, when he was hired as assistant athletic director and women’s volleyball coach at Columbia Bible College. After a stint as an assistant AD at Trinity Western University, he returned to CBC to take over as athletic director and men’s volleyball coach.
He was hired by UFV in June 2012, following a ninth-month search to replace Rick Nickelchok.
Highlights of his two-year tenure included the women’s volleyball team winning the CCAA national title (2013); the women’s basketball squad winning bronze at CIS nationals (2014); the men’s and women’s golf teams both winning gold at the CCAA golf championships (2013); two straight trips to the Canada West Final Four by the men’s basketball squad; the men’s soccer team’s first-ever playoff berth and Canada West bronze medal (2013); and the formation of a new men’s wrestling program which will begin CIS competition this fall.
Asked whether she anticipated negative feedback on Olfert’s dismissal in light of his roots in the community, Gordon said UFV is “extremely grateful for his contributions” and wishes him well in the future.
“We understand that some people may not agree with our decision, but we also hope that people understand that while we can’t get into details on a personnel matter, that myself and the support I received from the president, we feel this is the right decision for our program,” she said.
Chris Bertram, the Cascades’ golf coach and an associate professor in the kinesiology and physical education department, was to be on sabbatical this year, but will delay that until January in order to reprise his role as interim athletic director. Bertram also helmed the department on a temporary basis prior to Olfert’s hiring.
Gordon plans to be “pretty assertive and aggressive” to ensure UFV has a new athletic director in place prior to Bertram’s sabbatical. She said she’s looking for someone who can help to develop alternative sources of funding for the athletic department.
“We’ve had budget cuts within the entire post-secondary sector for the past three years,” she said. “This year, we’ll see some tightening of the belt again, and that puts on pressure throughout the whole university, and athletics is no different.
“We certainly do need to put considerable attention into how we fundraise and how we market our programs, how we seek out sponsorship.”
The Cascades’ funding challenges first came to light back in the fall of 2011 (prior to Olfert’s arrival), when it was revealed that the volleyball, golf and rowing teams were in danger of being cut. Those programs were spared thanks to community fundraising.
“Volleyball and golf, at this point, I would say they’re much more sustainable than they were, and more stable than they were,” Gordon said. “But we’ve still got work to do there.”
Women’s basketball coach Al Tuchscherer, the longest-serving of the Cascades’ CIS coaches, termed Olfert’s departure “disappointing.”
“I thought Rocky was doing a good job,” said Tuchscherer, who has worked for six athletic directors (not including Bertram’s interim stint) since taking over the UFV women’s hoops program in 2002.
“We’re on this eternal search for stability, and I hope that we can get that this time around.”
Men’s soccer coach Alan Errington said the decision “came as a surprise.”
“I thought he (Olfert) was very supportive of the program and athletics in general,” he said. “He was a real nice guy to work with.”
Women’s soccer coach Rob Giesbrecht echoed Errington’s comments.
“I really enjoyed working for Rocky,” he said. “He’s a good guy, good communicator. I felt he supported my program really well.”