The 2014-15 season was pivotal for Ryerson athletics, with the university hosting its first national championship and both the men’s and women’s basketball teams becoming national contenders.

Ryerson hosted the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) men’s basketball Final 8 from March 12 to 15, which brought national attention to the university, the men’s basketball program and the Mattamy Athletic Centre (MAC).

The tournament was televised nationally on Rogers Sportsnet and, although the Rams didn’t win, Ryerson associate director of athletics Stephanie White says the tournament was a success.

“We showcased that Ryerson can host an amazing event and fill our arena with over 4,000 people and be a great host for CIS basketball,” she says.

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The Rams winning bronze was a huge accomplishment for the athletics department.

The Rams were also able to justify their selection as hosts, proving they could compete with other elite teams in the CIS. The Rams finished third.

This year marked the first time in more than 30 years the CIS men’s basketball Final 8 was held somewhere other than Halifax or Ottawa, which has sparked discussion on whether it should be held in big cities like Toronto more often to increase exposure.

White says hosting on an annual basis would be nice but also difficult.

“It would be quite draining on us and it could hold us back from hosting for some of our other programs that are excelling,” says White.

Ryerson is hosting the women’s volleyball championships in 2017 and will look to host more championships in 2018 and 2019.

Along with men’s basketball several other teams had successful seasons, as seven out of eight varsity teams reached the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) playoffs.

Many teams improved their win totals and are progressing even faster than expected.

White points to the women’s hockey team, which improved from five wins last season to 13 this season to make the playoffs for the first time. The women’s basketball team also finished second in the OUA.

White says there was a quiet confidence in the athletics program that women’s basketball was ready to take the next step, but this year’s team exceeded expectations.

“We were looking for them to get to nationals next year but doing it one year ahead is even better and is a great experience for the team.”

With each team seeing the graduation of players — who were all part of turning the athletics program around at Ryerson — there is now a leadership void to fill.

But, the athletics program is confident in the next group of leaders and incoming players to pick up where the graduating players left off.

“We are establishing a culture and the new players coming in see that and they don’t know any different so they expect to perform at the highest level,” says White.

The Rams teams will look to improve on three record-setting campaigns next season as they are now expected to win often because of their recent success.

Pierce graduated from the Ryerson School of Journalism in 2015. @PierceOLeary