UBC Thunderbirds

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. In Canadian intercollegiate competition, the Thunderbirds are the most successful athletic program both regionally in the Canada West Universities Athletic Association, and nationally in U Sports.

UBC Thunderbirds
UniversityUniversity of British Columbia
AssociationU Sports
ConferenceCanada West
Athletic directorGilles Lépine
LocationVancouver, British Columbia
Varsity teams25
Football stadiumThunderbird Stadium
Basketball arenaWar Memorial Gym
Ice hockey arenaDoug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre
Baseball stadiumTourmaline West Baseball Stadium
Fight songHail UBC
ColorsBlue and Gold[1]


Across 14 varsity sport disciplines, UBC fields 25 teams overall; notably, 13 of which compete in U Sports, and eight in the American collegiate NAIA circuit:


The UBC Thunderbirds football team has won the CWUAA 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 Trophywinners: Jordan Gagner in 1987; Mark Nohra in 1997; and, most recently, Billy Greene in 2011.


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. In 2015, Chris Pritchett was named the new head coach of the baseball team and Terry moved up to the position of Director of Baseball.

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. T-bird baseball successes include their trip to the 2006 NAIA World Series.

Men's ice hockey

In 1974, the members of the Thunderbirds hockey team travelled to China to help share hockey skills to Chinese players.[2] The men's team currently holds two Canada West championships (1963, 1971).[3]

Men's rugby

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 was coached for many years 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)).

The men's team is currently coached by Rameses Langston and Curry Hitchborn.

UBC's rugby program has a long tradition of producing national team rugby players (7s and 15s), most recently Jim Douglas (RWC 2003), Mike Burak (RWC 2007), Chris Pack, Ryan MacWhinney, Justin Mensah-Coker, Tyler Hotson, Eric Wilson, Harry Jones (RWC 2015), Brock Staller and Ben LeSage.

Men's soccer

The UBC Thunderbirds are the most successful men's soccer program in Canada, having won 13 CIS championships, eight more than any other school in the country.[4] Notable players include Brian Budd and Srdjan Djekanovic.

In the 1960s and 1970s, the Thunderbirds played in the old Pacific Coast League, notably finishing as league runners up in 1967-68 and 1968-69.

Men's volleyball

Coached by Richard Schick from 2003 to 2015. Kerry MacDonald took over the helm of the men's volleyball program following the end of the 2015-2016 campaign. The Thunderbirds defeated the two-time national champion Trinity Western Spartans in straight sets in the U SPORTS gold medal match on March 18, 2018 to win their first national title since 1983.

Women's volleyball

Led by head coach Doug Reimer, the Thunderbirds captured their tenth overall women's volleyball Canadian championship in 2013, which marked the most recent national banner in a streak of six straight titles dating back to 2008. In the 2013 gold medal match, the Thunderbirds defeated the Alberta Pandas in straight sets to tie U Sports' all-time record—shared with the Winnipeg Wesmen—for holding the longest reign as repeat champion in the sport.[5]

U Sports and NAIA National Championships

U Sports Championships

Women's swimming (20)

  • 2018, 2017, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1996, 1995, 1994, 1986, 1985

Men's swimming (15)

  • 2018, 2017, 2015, 2012, 2009, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1965

Women's field hockey (19)

  • 2017, 2016, 2015, 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 (12)

  • 2019, 2017, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 1978, 1977, 1974, 1973

Women's Basketball (6)

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

Women's soccer (6)

  • 2015, 2006, 2003, 2002, 1993, 1987

Football (4)

  • 2015, 1997, 1986, 1982

Men's volleyball (4)

  • 2018, 1983, 1976, 1967

Men's basketball (2)

  • 1972, 1970

National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Championships (10)

Women's golf

  • 2000, 2004, 2010, 2012, 2019

Men's golf

  • 2008

Women's cross country

  • 2012, 2013

Men's cross country

  • 2017

Women's track and field

  • 2019

Men's track and field

  • 2019, 2017


Fight song

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

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.[6]

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.[7][8] Simon Fraser did apply and was accepted, but in April 2009 UBC deferred a decision on applying.[9]

Notes and references

  1. UBC Colour Palettes (PDF). Retrieved September 7, 2016.
  2. Rose, Les (1974). "Thunderbirds in China". Documentary film. National Film Board of Canada. Retrieved 2009-10-05.
  3. "Championships". www.gothunderbirds.ca.
  4. "CIS:Past CIS Champions". Canadian Interuniversity Sport. Canadian Interuniversity Sport. Retrieved 31 May 2013.
  5. "CIS Women's Volleyball Past Champions". CIS. Retrieved 2016-08-24.
  6. Ewen, Steve (2005-11-08). "UBC expects visit by NCAA". The Province. Archived from the original on 2007-10-12. Retrieved 2008-01-17.
  7. 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.
  8. "No Canadian schools apply for Division II membership". NCAA. 2008-06-03. Archived from the original on 2008-06-09. Retrieved 2008-06-12.
  9. "UBC defers decision on application to join NCAA Division II". UBC. Retrieved 2010-06-18.
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