UBC Thunderbirds

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UBC Thunderbirds
University University of British Columbia
Association Canadian Interuniversity Sport
Conference Canada West
Athletic director Ashley Howard
Location Vancouver, BC
Varsity teams 29
Football stadium Thunderbird Stadium
Basketball arena War Memorial Gym
Ice hockey arena Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre
Baseball stadium Scotiabank Field at Nat Bailey Stadium
Mascot Thunderbird
Nickname T-Birds
Fight song Hail UBC
Colors Blue and Gold
Website gothunderbirds.ca

The UBC Thunderbirds are the athletic teams that represent the University of British Columbia in the University Endowment Lands just outside the city limits of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The Thunderbirds are the most successful athletic program in the CIS, though a few of their teams are members of the U.S. NAIA.


Thunderbird teams compete in:


UBC Thunderbirds
UBC Thunderbirds logo
First season 1923
Athletic director Ashley Howard
Head coach Blake Nill
First year, 6–2–0  (.750)
Other staff Steve Buratto (OC), Paul Orzetti (STC), James Colzie III (DC)
Home stadium Thunderbird Stadium
Field David Sidoo Field
Year built 1967
Stadium capacity 3,411
Stadium surface Polytan LigaTurf
Location Vancouver, British Columbia
League CIS
Conference CWUAA (1972 - present)
Past associations Western Intercollegiate Football League, Western Intercollegiate Football Union, Evergreen Football League
All-time record – 
Postseason record
Vanier Cups 4
1982, 1986, 1997, 2015
Uteck Bowl Championships 1
Churchill Bowl Championships 3
1978, 1986, 1987
Atlantic Bowl Championships 2
1982, 1997
Hardy Cups 16
1929, 1931, 1933, 1938,
1939, 1945, 1959, 1961,
1962, 1976, 1978, 1982,
1986, 1987, 1997, 2015
Hec Crighton winners 3
Jordan Gagner, Mark Nohra, Billy Greene
Current uniform
Colours Blue and Gold


Fight song Hail U.B.C.
Outfitter Under Armour through 2014
Rivals Saskatchewan Huskies
Website gothunderbirds.ca

The UBC Thunderbirds football team has won the Hardy Trophy conference championship 16 times, which is third all-time among competing teams. On a national level, the team has won the Vanier Cup championship four times, in 1982, 1986, 1997 and, most recently, in 2015. The team has also lost twice in the title game, in 1978 and 1987. The Thunderbirds program has also yielded three Hec Crighton Trophy winners, Jordan Gagner in 1987, Mark Nohra in 1997, and, most recently, Billy Greene in 2011.

Following four straight years out of the playoffs from 2007 to 2010, the team finished with a 6-2 record in 2011 and in second place in the CWUAA with an appearance in the Hardy Cup. Quarterback Billy Greene would also become the third Thunderbird to win the Hec Crighton Award that year. However, all team accolades would be for naught as an ineligible student-athlete, who played in all eight games, would force UBC to forfeit all six regular season wins as well as its post-season results from that year. The school was fined and the program was placed on probation for the following season.[1] This seemed to halt any progress that was made as the team finished 2-6 for the 2012 season and out of the playoffs for the fifth time in six years.

In 2013, the team bounced back with a 4-4 regular season record led by a solid defense and running back Brandon Deschamps, who was one of only three running backs in Canada to rush for more than 1,000 yards. They would lose in the Canada West semifinal to the eventual Mitchell Bowl champion Calgary Dinos 42-28. The program would regress again in 2014 as they finished with another 2-6 record and out of the playoffs. During the following off-season in 2015, UBC athletics would draw the Dinos head coach, Blake Nill away from Calgary in what was arguably the biggest off-season move in the CIS that year. Nill's impact was immediate as he was able to recruit quarterback Michael O'Connor, who was the ranked the sixth best quarterback by ESPN in the 2014 recruiting class.[2] The team competed right away, finishing the 2015 season with a 6-2 record and a second-place finish in Canada West. The team upset the heavily favoured Calgary Dinos in the Hardy Cup and defeated the St. Francis Xavier X-Men in their first Uteck Bowl win. The Thunderbirds then defeated the defending champion Montreal Carabins in the 51st Vanier Cup in Nill's first season as head coach for the program's fourth Vanier Cup win, tied for the most in Canada West.[3]

The team has a long-standing rivalry with the cross-town Simon Fraser Clan which has been dormant since SFU left for the NCAA Division II Great Northwest Athletic Conference. While the two teams did not play within the same governing bodies until 2002 (SFU played in the NAIA while UBC has always competed in the CIS), they would compete in an annual match-up known as the Shrum Bowl, named after Gordon Shrum. After SFU moved to NCAA Division II, it seemed as though the game would stop, however, the two teams would indeed play in October 2010 at Thunderbird Stadium using Canadian rules. The game has not been played since then, as scheduling conflicts have prevented the two teams from playing.

Recent Regular Season Results[edit]

Season GP Won Lost OTL Pct % PF PA Standing
2000 8 3 5 0 0.375 206 231 4th in CW
2001 8 2 6 0 0.250 132 233 5th in CW
2002 8 3 5 0 0.250 144 141 5th in CW
2003 8 0 8 0 0.000 132 260 7th in CW
2004 8 5 3 0 0.625 235 212 3rd in CW
2005 8 4 4 0 0.500 210 200 4th in CW
2006 8 4 4 0 0.500 287 209 3rd in CW
2007 8 3 5 0 0.375 167 198 5th in CW
2008 8 2 6 0 0.250 117 160 6th in CW
2009 8 3 5 0 0.375 110 263 5th in CW
2010 8 2 6 0 0.250 164 255 6th in CW
2011[A] 8 0 8 0 0.000 58 72 2nd in CW
2012 8 2 6 0 0.250 193 297 5th in CW
2013 8 4 4 0 0.500 256 215 4th in CW
2014 8 2 6 0 0.250 175 293 6th in CW
2015 8 6 2 0 0.750 289 239 2nd in CW

^ A. UBC forfeited all six regular season wins and their post-season games were removed from record in 2011 due to use of an ineligible player.[1]

UBC Thunderbirds vs USask Huskies

CIS Playoff Results[edit]

Thunderbirds in the CFL[edit]

As of the start of the 2015 CFL season, four former Thunderbirds are on CFL teams' rosters:


In the summer of 1996, 30 years after the original UBC baseball program was disbanded due to budget cuts, Athletic Director Bob Phillip along with former professional Jim Murphy and community baseball coach Mark Hiscott provided funding for the present day Thunderbirds baseball. Hiscott recognized student Terry McKaig, a former collegiate player and national team member, as the one to take over the program as head coach. Since 1997, McKaig has been the driving force behind the T-Birds with support and funding from such major leaguers as Jeff Zimmerman and Ryan Dempster.

The Thunderbirds compete in the United States as the only Canadian member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). In 2001, the program reached a new level as the New York Mets made Derran Watts the first ever Thunderbird to be drafted, when they selected him in the 12th round. Since then nine more Thunderbirds have been drafted including 2007 World Series starter Jeff Francis, who recently signed a contract worth close to $50 million. T-bird baseball successes include their trip to the 2006 NAIA World Series.

Men's Ice Hockey[edit]

In 1974, the members of the Thunderbirds hockey team travelled to China to help share hockey skills to Chinese players.[4]

Men's Rugby[edit]

Men's rugby is one of the oldest varsity sports at UBC (including the precursor to UBC, McGill University College of BC, varsity rugby started in 1906). The varsity XV now competes against the University of Victoria in a two-game, combined score series to claim the coveted "Boot". They also play a two-game, combined score series against the University of California for the "World Cup" trophy (a competition started in 1921). The varsity XV is coached by Spence McTavish (former UBC varsity rugby captain, former Canadian rugby international and captain, and former Bobby Gaul award winner), and assistant coach Rod Holloway (former UBC varsity rugby scrumhalf, and former assistant coach of Canada's National Senior Men's team (RWC 1995)). UBC's rugby program has a long tradition of producing national team rugby players (7's and 15's), most recently Jim Douglas (RWC 2003), Mike Burak (RWC 2007), Chris Pack, Ryan MacWhinney, Justin Mensah-Coker, Tyler Hotson, Eric Wilson and Harry Jones.

Men's Soccer[edit]

Notable players include: Brian Budd, Srdjan Djekanovic
The UBC Thunderbirds are the most successful men's soccer program in Canada, having won 12 CIS championships, eight more than any other school in the country.[5]

Women's Ultimate Frisbee[edit]

Besides being a finalist in 1997, the team became the first Canadian University program to win the USA Ultimate (called UPA back then) College National Championship in 2008 held in Boulder, Colorado.[6]

Men's Volleyball[edit]

Previously coached by Dale Ohman, Richard Schick took over the men's program in 2002, coming off of a CIS National Championship with the Alberta Golden Bears.

Women's Volleyball[edit]

Led by head coach Doug Reimer, the women's volleyball team captured a historic 5th CIS championship in a row in 2012. Beating out the Alberta Pandas in a 5 set match, the team became the second Thunderbird squad to win 5 CIS championships consecutively.[7] With the opening of the 2012-2013 season they are ranked first in Canada and are attempting to win a 6th consecutive title.[8]

CIS and NAIA National Championships[edit]

Canadian Interuniversity Sport Championships[edit]

Women's Swimming (18)

  • 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1996, 1995, 1994, 1986, 1985

Men's Swimming (13)

  • 2015, 2012, 2009, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1965

Women's Field Hockey (16)

  • 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2009, 2006, 2004, 2003, 2001, 1999, 1998, 1990, 1983, 1982, 1980, 1978

Men's Soccer (13)

  • 2013, 2012, 2007, 2005, 1994, 1992, 1991, 1990, 1989, 1986, 1985, 1984, 1974

Women's Volleyball (10)

  • 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 1978, 1977, 1974, 1973

Women's Basketball (6)

  • 2008, 2006, 2004, 1974, 1973, 1972

Women's Soccer (5)

  • 2006, 2003, 2002, 1993, 1987

Football (4)

  • 2015, 1997, 1986, 1982

Men's Volleyball (3)

  • 1983, 1976, 1967

Men's Basketball (2)

  • 1972, 1970

Men's Cross Country

  • 1993

National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Championships (7)[edit]

Women's Golf

  • 2012, 2010, 2004, 2000

Men's Golf

  • 2008

Women's Cross-Country

  • 2012, 2013

See also Canadian Interuniversity Sport.


Fight Song[edit]

UBC used to have a fight song "Hail UBC", written by Harold King in 1931.
A pep song with the same name "Hail UBC", written by Steve Chatman, was adopted in 2011. The lyrics go:

Hail to the Thunderbirds! Hail UBC!
Thunder and lightning — Onward to victory!
Hail to the Blue-and-Gold! Hail UBC!
U, B, C forever — Onward to victory!

NCAA membership bid[edit]

In 2005, they applied to become members of the principal U.S. college sports governing body, the NCAA. They are not the first Canadian school to try to join the NCAA; in 2000, local rival Simon Fraser, then exclusively an NAIA member, sought to join the NCAA but was turned down. At the time, the NCAA's constitution prohibited non-U.S. schools from joining; however, some observers believed the real reason Simon Fraser was turned down was that the school sought to join as a Division II school, and the NCAA did not want to set a precedent with a lower-level school. UBC, on the other hand, was reportedly interested in joining Division I. UBC's athletic budget of approximately $4 million Canadian is dwarfed by those of schools in the Pacific-10 Conference, the only BCS conference on the U.S. West Coast. However, at least two mid-major conferences with a West Coast presence, the West Coast Conference and Western Athletic Conference, had been suggested as possible future homes for the Thunderbirds.[9]

The NCAA approved a change to its constitution on January 14, 2008 to allow Canadian schools to become members. Under a 10-year pilot program due to begin June 1, 2008, Canadian schools can join the NCAA as Division II members, and any school that meets the June 1 deadline for application can become a member as of the academic year immediately following the deadline. CIS has not officially indicated whether a school joining the NCAA under this program can retain its CIS membership. It was expected that both UBC and Simon Fraser would be among the first schools to apply for NCAA membership under this program.[10][11] Simon Fraser did apply and was accepted, but in April 2009 UBC deferred a decision on applying.[12]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Canada West sanctions UBC for eligibility violation". 2011-12-20. Retrieved 2012-12-14. 
  2. ^ Former Penn State quarterback Michael O'Connor commits to UBC
  3. ^ Vanier Cup: UBC Thunderbirds beat Montreal Carabins 26-23
  4. ^ Rose, Les (1974). "Thunderbirds in China". Documentary film. National Film Board of Canada. Retrieved 2009-10-05. 
  5. ^ "CIS:Past CIS Champions". Canadian Interuniversity Sport. Canadian Interuniversity Sport. Retrieved 31 May 2013. 
  6. ^ http://www.usaultimate.org/archives/1997_college.aspx USA Ultimate 1997 College
  7. ^ Fenton, Drake (2012-03-04). "Drive for five completed, UBC women's volleyball wins national championship | The UbysseyThe Ubyssey". Ubyssey.ca. Retrieved 2012-12-14. 
  8. ^ Tsumura, Howard (2012-10-17). "Classic serving up fireworks". Theprovince.com. Retrieved 2012-12-14. 
  9. ^ Ewen, Steve (2005-11-08). "UBC expects visit by NCAA". The Province. Retrieved 2008-01-17. 
  10. ^ Press release, Canadian Interuniversity Sport (2008-01-15). "CIS responds to NCAA membership openings". TSN. Archived from the original on 2008-01-19. Retrieved 2008-01-17. 
  11. ^ "No Canadian schools apply for Division II membership". NCAA. 2008-06-03. Archived from the original on 2008-06-09. Retrieved 2008-06-12. 
  12. ^ "UBC defers decision on application to join NCAA Division II". UBC. Retrieved 2010-06-18. 

External links[edit]