After a national search for a new athletic director that lasted nearly nine months, the University of the Fraser Valley ended up finding its man just across town.
Rocky Olfert, the erstwhile athletic director at Columbia Bible College, has been hired to fill the same role at UFV.
It amounts to a promotion for Olfert – the CBC Bearcats teams play in the PacWest collegiate conference, while four of UFV’s eight teams are members of Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS), the nation’s top university league.
Still, Olfert said he’s making the move with mixed emotions.
“I’ve really been blessed with some great years at CBC, but from a careers perspective, I was looking for a new challenge,” said Olfert, whose two stints at CBC add up to a decade. “When this (UFV job) came open, I thought it would provide me with those new challenges and opportunities, and allow me to expand my skill set. I just think there’s so much potential at UFV.”
If it’s a challenge Olfert desires, he’ll get that in spades at UFV, where the athletic department is coming off a tumultuous year.
In mid-October, it came to light that the Cascades’ four non-CIS sports programs – men’s and women’s volleyball, men’s golf, and rowing – were on the chopping block due to funding shortfalls. The teams in limbo went into the community and raised $38,000 to bridge the financial gap and secure their futures for 2012-13, but a permanent funding solution is needed.
Earlier this month, men’s basketball coach Barnaby Craddock departed for greener pastures, as he was hired away by the Alberta Golden Bears. Losing the high-profile bench boss was a huge blow – Craddock had fashioned the Cascades into a national championship contender over his five seasons in Abbotsford. Adam Friesen, an assistant under Craddock, will helm the squad next season on an interim basis.
All the while, the athletic department was without a permanent director – the university having parted ways with Rick Nickelchok in early October.
Olfert said he wants to bring a sense of stability to the program, and added he’ll take time to learn the culture at UFV as he develops a vision to move forward.
“I’m not at all dissuaded by what’s been happening here,” he said. “I’m up for the challenge, I’m optimistic.
“I really want to make this a flagship program in Canada. I think there’s so many good student-athletes in the Fraser Valley, and we have some really good coaches in place. I’m trying to build on some of those successes in the past, but shore up some of our weaknesses and go forward.”
Chris Bertram, the Cascades men’s golf coach who had been serving as interim athletic director, was on the search committee which hired Olfert. He said Olfert’s existing ties to the community were viewed as a positive.
“We’re looking to get our community profile raised here at UFV,” Bertram said. “Having someone who’s made those ties and been effective at engaging the community and in fundraising activities in the past, that’s something we certainly saw a lot of value in.”
Bertram said the UFV athletic director job drew upwards of 40 applicants.
“The important thing was, we wanted to make sure we got the right person,” he said, explaining the amount of time it took to settle on Olfert. “And we feel like we did.
“He’s a great guy, he’s a real honest person, he’s a hard worker.”
Olfert’s roots in the community run deep. He spent six seasons (2001-07) at CBC as assistant athletic director and women’s volleyball coach, before moving over to Trinity Western University to serve as assistant AD. After one year at the Langley school, he returned to CBC to take over as athletic director and men’s volleyball coach.
Olfert’s second stint with the Bearcats was a memorable one. In 2011, he guided the CBC men’s volleyballers to their first Canadian Colleges Athletic Association (CCAA) championship. In 2012, CBC hosted the men’s volleyball nationals – another first for the program – with Olfert leading the organizing committee. While the Bearcats just missed the podium, finishing in fourth place, the event was deemed a success from an organizational and attendance standpoint.
Olfert feels he’s leaving the CBC athletic department on solid ground.
“I’m quite confident with what’s in place there,” he said. “I’m really excited for some of their programs next year.”