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1966 - 2012 (Creation)
- Wesmen Athletics
1938 - 1967 (Creation)
- United College
1904 - 1938 (Creation)
- Manitoba College
1900 - 1938 (Creation)
- Wesley College
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1.5 m of photographs
1.0 m of posters
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The athletics program at the University of Winnipeg traces its roots to the intercollegiate sports leagues formed among Winnipeg’s schools starting in 1889. Both of the University’s forerunners Manitoba and Wesley College participated in these leagues, which included football, track, basketball, and hockey. Manitoba College included a gymnasium in the expansions to its building in 1894. Wesley College, in turn, had a small gym in the basement of its original 1896 building as well as the advantage of Wesley Park – the land stretching from behind the building to Ellice Avenue – for a field in the summer and a rink in the winter. Further gym facilities were included in the basement of Sparling Hall, opened in 1913. The Intercollegiate leagues engendered friendly competition and school spirit among Winnipeg’s early colleges, and the colleges included sport facilities for their students from the beginning.
In 1962, United College appointed its first professional Athletics Director, Blue Bomber player Raymond Jauch, in anticipation of its new Riddell Hall gymnasium that opened the following year. These changes allowed United College to take its athletics program more seriously. In 1966, as the reality of becoming an independent University began to take shape, the United College Student Council held a public competition and vote to name its sports team. The winning entry was Wesmen, a “pluralized” combination of Wesley and Manitoba. The new University of Winnipeg, with an Athletics Director, a good gym, and a brand for its sports team, was set to participate in the national University sports scene.
Shortly after the University of Winnipeg’s incorporation, the Wesmen began to compete with other University teams across Canada as a member of two sports governing bodies: the Western Intercollegiate Athletic Association (later Great Plains Athletic Conference, and Canada West Universities Athletic Association) and the Canadian Interuniversity Athletic Union (later Canadian Interuniversity Sport, and U Sports). The main competitive sports of the Wesmen were basketball, volleyball, and hockey, although the latter discontinued after 1984. The University had both men’s and women’s teams in basketball and volleyball – the women’s teams are known as the Wesmenettes or the Lady Wesmen. In addition to the seasonal games of sports governing bodies, the Wesmen hosted invitational tournaments – most notably the Wesmen Classic (previously the Golden Boy Classic, 1967-1976) and others; and was invited to play in similar tournaments hosted by other institutions.
Having long since outgrown the Riddell Hall gym, the University opened its much-needed Athletics Centre in 1984. The facility gave the Wesmen the resources and space they needed to remain nationally competitive. That building has remained the cornerstone of Wesmen sports to the present day; in 1992, it was renamed to the Duckworth Centre in honour of the University’s past President Henry Duckworth, a proponent of athletics. 2008 saw an expansion to the building, the Bill Wedlake Fitness Centre, named after long-time basketball coach and retiring Athletics Director. Finally, in 2014, the building was complemented by the Axworthy Health and RecPlex, an adjoining fieldhouse for soccer and sports education.
The Athletic Directors at United College and the University of Winnipeg, to date, include: Raymond Jauch (1962-1964); Edward Vidruk (1964-1966); David Anderson (1966-1984, covered by Glen Conly during a leave of absence in 1973); Aubrey Ferris (1984-2000); Bill Wedlake (2000-2008); Doran Reid (2009-2015); and Dave Crook (2015-present).
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United College was formed in 1938 by an amalgamation between Wesley College and Manitoba College. The two colleges had enjoyed informal unity for two periods in the past, and a formal unity was convenient due to several causes: their physical proximity, their long co-operation in instruction, the sale of the Manitoba College building, and the formation of the United Church of Canada which incorporated the separating denominations of the colleges, Methodist and Presbytarian respectively.
United College took the site of Wesley College as its headquarters, and added several buildings to the campus over its existence: Bryce Hall in 1951, Manitoba and Ashdown Halls in 1959, and Graham and Riddell Halls in 1962. Eventually, United College sought incorporation as the University of Winnipeg in 1967.