Former York coach takes time off the field to teach

Former York University head football coach Mike McLean is taking a temporary leave from the sport to focus on teaching religion, wrote the Toronto Star March 24.

The 46-year old McLean, given the task of rebuilding one of the worst university football programs in Canada, was fired last week by Jennifer Myers, director of York Sport & Recreation, while in the second year of his three-year contract.

Myers, who had a meeting with players following the dismissal of McLean, said the change was as a result of “serious philosophical differences”. “A change in leadership was in the best interest of the football program,” she said. “There were far too many issues we could not ignore and some could have become damaging. There was a lack of communication, accountability and he and I had different views on how the program should be run.”

McLean, who played seven Canadian Football League seasons (1985-1992) as a linebacker with the Edmonton Eskimos and won a Grey Cup, was hired by Myers’ predecessor, Pat Murray, an associate lecturer in York’s School of Kinesiology & Health Science in the Faculty of Health.

Under McLean, York – plagued by a bitter labour dispute that had an effect on recruiting – had back-to-back 0-8 seasons.

The Lions, who lost to Windsor 17-14 in their opener, finished the 2009 season with the worst record among 27 teams in Canadian Interuniversity Sport. York’s last win was a 21-20 nail-biter over the University of Toronto on Sept. 29, 2007.

“Turning around a team doesn’t happen overnight,” said McLean, who is a graduate of the University of Alberta and a theology teacher. “There was improvement and this would have been a breakthrough year. But (Myers) wanted her own guy and right now I’ll be focusing on teaching.”

McLean was the eighth head coach in Lions history after serving as defensive coordinator for the Saint Mary’s Huskies and helping the Halifax team advance to the Vanier Cup in 2007.

Prior to that, he led the Edmonton Huskies to two Canadian Junior Football League championships.

Myers denied rumours that York would be folding their football program and confirmed a nationwide search was underway to find a head coach to replace McLean with Canadian university experience being a bonus.

Legacy of excellence lives on in winners

Saron Gebresellassi, 23, is the recipient of a Scotiabank Group Leadership Award, wrote the Toronto Star March 24 in a story about the Black Business and Professional Association Harry Jerome Awards. The Saudi Arabian born community activist and women’s advocate is working on a PhD at York University. “The award is my community telling me my work is important…It makes me proud,” she said.

What advice would she give to other young people? “Pursue a post-secondary education. Education will help build lives free from poverty in our community.”

PhD student talks Ontario budget online

Grad student Simon Black of York University explained why governments don’t think the welfare system is broken in an online commentary about the Ontario budget for the Toronto Star March 24.

Racism report was released at York

Racism is still a significant problem that needs to be addressed in postsecondary campuses across Ontario, according to a report released by the Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario, wrote the North York Mirror March 23.

After a year of research and hearings in 14 colleges and universities, including York, the University of Toronto and Ryerson University, the Ontario chapter of the federation hosted a meeting at York’s Keele campus on March 22 to showcase their 60-page document, “The Final Report of the Task Force on Campus Racism”. Its pages contain anecdotal evidence provided from racialized students and faculty members who have experienced discrimination on an individual, systemic or institutional level.

  • York student Alan Shields spoke about a new study of racism on Ontario campuses by the Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario, on CBC Radio Toronto’s “Metro Morning”

Newspaper’s funding jeopardizes copies for language classes

Canada’s only daily Italian newspaper faces serious financial troubles after funding it receives from Italy’s embattled government was cut by half, wrote The Globe and Mail March 24.

Corriere Canadese, the top news source for many first-generation Italians in Canada, has launched a determined campaign to keep running after learning on Feb. 25 that the $2.8-million grant it received from the Italian government would be cut by 50 per cent.

The grant, which has been coming to the Toronto-based paper for the past 15 years, will shrink the paper’s budget significantly. The ink is barely dry on deals Corriere signed with York University, the University of Ottawa, Queen’s University and the University of Toronto to have the paper distributed to Italian language classes. That likely won’t happen without the funding, said editor-in-chief Paola Bernardini.

York prof speaks to Port Hope group about songbirds

Port Hope’s Willow Beach Field Naturalists will welcome York University biology Professor Bridget Stutchbury of the Faculty of Science & Engineering to their meeting Friday to discuss her book Silence of the Songbirds: How We Are Losing the World’s Songbirds and What We Can Do to Save Them, wrote March 24.