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Obituary: Wayne MacDonald guided UVic Vikes sports program to success over 14 years

MacDonald died at age 74

Wayne MacDonald, who oversaw an eventful 14-year tenure as University of Victoria athletic director, died June 4 at the age of 74.

MacDonald replaced ­legendary predecessor and UVic athletic director Ken Shields, who had left to coach the Canadian national men’s basketball team, in 1990.

Under MacDonald’s stewardship from 1990 to 2004, Vikes teams continued their record of success and won 31 national championships. There were numerous UVic athletes and Vikes alumni who performed for Canada during that period at the Olympics and Paralympics — 19 at Barcelona in 1992, 16 at Atlanta in 1996, 14 at Sydney in 2000 and 19 at Athens in 2004, including gold medallists Darren Barber, Andy Crosby, Derek Porter, Bruce Robertson, John Wallace, Kirsten Barnes, ­Jessica Monroe, Mike Edgson and ­Stephanie Dixon.

Women’s soccer and rugby and men’s field hockey gained varsity status under MacDonald and men’s and women’s golf were added to the varsity program. The UVic Vikes Golf Classic, Brown Cup in rowing and the UVic Sports Hall of Fame were inaugurated under his reign.

MacDonald was known to be masterfully adroit at ­navigating around the skimpy funding accorded Canadian university sports in comparison with the U.S. But there were also some hard financial decisions made, particularly the cutting of the varsity men’s and women’s Vikes volleyball teams, which caused an uproar at the time in a city where the sport is popular and its fans avid.

The other side of MacDonald’s position involved student recreation and that increased notably with the Ian Stewart Complex gym and weight areas, hockey rink and the addition of two turf fields. It was also the era in which Centennial Stadium hosted the opening and closing ceremonies of the 1994 Commonwealth Games, with the Games Athletes Village now used as UVic family student housing.

MacDonald advocated diligently for varsity athletes as a member in various capacities of the CIS (now known as U-Sports) executive board and as president of the Canada West Conference. Much of his understanding of the athletes’ needs and desires stemmed from having been one himself in football and lacrosse growing up in Cornwall, Ont., and later as a football player for Dalhousie University and the University of Windsor.

“I was impressed by how Wayne handled and ­juggled it all as our UVic sports ­administrator,” said Doug Tate, who coached the UVic men’s rugby team during and after MacDonald’s tenure.

“He had such a wide range of interests in sports and thorough knowledge of them. Wayne hired me and was very supportive of me and the rugby program and gave me the time to also coach the national [sevens] team. ­Volleyball was a very tough ­decision for him but the ­athletic program didn’t have a lot of money and most of the UVic coaches were only [paid] three-quarters time.”

The Vikes rugby team of the time produced several players for Canada’s World Cup teams as did the UVic field-hockey team. The UVic runners, swimmers and rowers were regulars at the Olympics and world championships.

“Wayne knew the numbers and the budget and he fought for us and was very supportive of our team and all the UVic teams,” said Brent Fougner, who coached the Vikes runners for 32 years.

“He was such an advocate for the varsity athletes on all the UVic teams and was awesome to work with.”

A serious stroke in 2002 cut MacDonald’s UVic tenure short but the former athlete in him came out and he was determined and tenacious in his efforts to stay active and vital and was a regular in his wheelchair at UVic games and sports functions over the past two decades. He remained his affable self and retained a positive outlook on life.

MacDonald is survived by wife Nancy, son and former BCHL Victoria Grizzlies and NCAA Div. 1 R.P.I. hockey player Kirk MacDonald, ­daughter-in-law Caroline and grandson Alexander.

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