UBC Thunderbirds

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UBC Thunderbirds
UniversityUniversity of British Columbia
AssociationU Sports, NAIA
ConferenceCanada West
Athletic directorKavie Toor
LocationUBC Campus, British Columbia[a]
Varsity teams26
Football stadiumThunderbird Stadium
Basketball arenaWar Memorial Gym
Ice hockey arenaDoug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre
Baseball stadiumTourmaline West Baseball Stadium
Fight song"Hail, UBC!"
ColorsBlue and gold[1]

The UBC Thunderbirds are the athletic teams that represent the University of British Columbia. 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, winning 116 national titles. UBC has won an additional 20 national titles competing in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics against collegiate competition from the United States and 40 national titles in sports that compete in independent competitions.


Across 15 varsity sport disciplines, UBC fields 26 teams overall; notably, 15 of which compete in U Sports, six in the American collegiate NAIA, and five of which are independent of these governing organizations:[2]

U Sports




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 three times in the title game, in 1978, 1987, and 2023. 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.


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

Women's basketball[edit]

Men's ice hockey[edit]

Father David Bauer coached the Thunderbirds for two seasons, and led the team to a Western Canadian Intercollegiate Athletic Association championship in 1963, and reached the final game of the Canadian Interuniversity Athletic Union men's ice hockey championship tournament for the CIAU University Cup, but lost by a 3–2 score to the McMaster Marauders.[3]

Bob Hindmarch began coaching the men's ice hockey team during the 1964–65 season, and led them to the 1971 Western Canadian Intercollegiate Athletic Association championship. He accumulated a winning record in 11 of 12 seasons, and set UBC record with 214 wins by a coach in ice hockey.[4][5] In December 1973, they became one of the first Western Bloc sports teams to tour China, and played a series of games focused on friendship and teaching hockey skills to local players.[5][6] The trip was supported by the Government of Canada as part of a desire to normalize relations with China, and was not well-publicized at the time. The Thunderbirds won all seven games played by a combined scored of 56 to 5.[6]

Women's ice hockey[edit]

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 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 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.

U Sports does not currently contest a national championship for Men's Rugby, however UBC are champions of the independent Canadian University Men's Rugby Championship in 2017 and 2018.

Men's soccer[edit]

The UBC Thunderbirds are the most successful men's soccer program in Canada, having won 13 U Sports championships, eight more than any other school in the country.[7] They have also won 22 Canada West conference titles since competition started in 1972.

Notable players include Brian Budd, Pat Onstad, 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[edit]

The Thunderbirds men's volleyball team has won four U Sports men's volleyball championships and five conference championships.[8] Kerry MacDonald took over the helm of the men's volleyball program starting with the 2016–17 season. In the following season, the Thunderbirds defeated the two-time defending 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.[9] MacDonald resigned after this season to take a position with Volley Canada and Mike Hawkins took over as head coach for the 2018–19 season.[9]

Women's volleyball[edit]

The Thunderbirds women's volleyball team has been the most successful program in its sport, with 14 National Championship victories, most recently in 2024.[10] The Thunderbirds have also won 16 conference titles with the most recent win occurring in 2014.[11] The team has been led by head coach Doug Reimer since 2000 (and from 1994 to 1997) and he has accounted for ten of the program's championship wins.[12] Notably, 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 (1983-1988) and Alberta Pandas (1995-2000) for holding the longest reign as a repeat champion in the sport with six consecutive wins (2008-2013).[13] The program has also featured five Mary Lyons Award winners, with Liz Cordonier (2010), Shanice Marcelle (2011, 2013), Kyla Richey (2012), Lisa Barclay (2014), and Kiera Van Ryk (2019) each winning the award.[14]

U Sports, NAIA, and Independent National Championships[edit]

U Sports Championships[edit]

Women's Swimming (24)

  • 2020, 2019, 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 (20)

  • 2023, 2022, 2020, 2019, 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 (14)

  • 2024, 2023, 2019, 2017, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 1978, 1977, 1974, 1973

Women's Soccer (8)

  • 2023, 2019, 2015, 2006, 2003, 2002, 1993, 1987

Women's Basketball (6)

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

Football (4)

  • 2015, 1997, 1986, 1982

Men's Volleyball (4)

  • 2018, 1983, 1976, 1967

Men's Basketball (2)

  • 1972, 1970

Men's Cross Country (2)

  • 2023, 1993

Women's Cross Country (1)

  • 2023

National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Championships[edit]

Women's golf (7)

  • 2023, 2022, 2019, 2012, 2010, 2004, 2000

Women's cross country (5)

  • 2017, 2016, 2014, 2013, 2012

Women's track and field (3)

  • 2023, 2022, 2019

Men's track and field (2)

  • 2019, 2017

Men's golf (2)

  • 2023, 2008

Men's cross country (1)

  • 2017


Women's golf (16) - Canadian University/College Golf Championships

  • 2023, 2022, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2014, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003

Men's rowing (8) - Canadian University Rowing Association

  • 2023, 2022, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2014, 2005

Men's golf (7) - Canadian University/College Golf Championships

  • 2022, 2019, 2016, 2015, 2013, 2009, 2008

Men's rugby (5) - Canadian University Men's Rugby Championship

  • 2023, 2022, 2021, 2018, 2017

Women's rowing (4) - Canadian University Rowing Association

  • 2021, 2019, 2018, 2004


  • Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre (Ice Hockey)
  • John M.S. Lecky UBC Boathouse (Rowing)
  • Thunderbird Stadium (Football and Soccer)
  • Thunderbird Park (Field Hockey, Rugby, Soccer, Track & Field)
  • War Memorial Gymnasium (Basketball and Volleyball)
  • UBC Aquatics Centre (Swimming)
  • Gerald McGavin UBC Rugby Centre (Rugby)
  • Tourmaline West Baseball Stadium and UBC Baseball Rose Indoor Training Centre (Baseball)

Fight song[edit]

UBC used to have a fight song "Hail UBC", written by Harold King in 1931.[15]
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 Pac-12 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.[16]

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.[17][18] Simon Fraser did apply and was accepted, but in April 2009 UBC deferred a decision on applying.[19]

Awards and honours[edit]

Since 1984, the Outstanding Female Athlete of the Year Award is named in honour of Marilyn Pomfret. Before her death in April 2019, she had spent 23 years at UBC, supporting the increase in funding and intramurals for women. [20] Having worked as a coach, Pomfret also served as the Director of Women's Athletics from 1963 to 1969, followed by a second stint from 1972 to 1986. In addition, she served in the role of president of the Women's Athletic Directorate, creating and organizing several women's sporting events. Prior to her administrative career, Pomfret was a student-athlete, arriving to UBC in 1951, participating in basketball and volleyball.

Athletes of the Year[edit]

The Thunderbirds Female Athlete of the Year is awarded the Marilyn Pomfret Trophy. In recognition of the Male Athlete of the Year, the Bus Phillips Memorial Trophy is awarded.

Since 2010[21]

Year Female Athlete Sport Male Athlete Sport
2009-10 Liz Cordonier Volleyball Josh Whyte Basketball
2010-11 Shanice Marcelle Volleyball Inaki Gomez Track & Field
2011-12 Robyn Pendleton
Kylie Barros
Field Hockey
Billy Greene
Tommy Gossland
2012-13 Kris Young Basketball Gagan Dosanjh Soccer
2013-14 Lisa Barclay Volleyball Luc Bruchet Track & Field
2014-15 Maria Bernard Track and field, Cross country Coleman Allen
Conor Lillis-White
2015-16 Hannah Haughn Field Hockey Michael O'Connor
Ben Thorne
Track & Field
2016-17 Danielle Brisebois Volleyball Yuri Kisil Swimming
2017-18 Kat Kennedy Golf John Gay Track and Field
2018-19 Emily Overholt
Kiera Van Ryk
Markus Thormeyer Swimming
2019-20 Keylyn Filewich Basketball Kieran Lumb Track & Field, Cross Country
2020-21 Not Presented - Not Presented -
2021-22 Rylind MacKinnon Ice Hockey Rylan Toth Ice Hockey
2022-23 Glynis Sim Track & Field, Cross Country Theo Benedet Football

Du Vivier Team of the Year[edit]

Since 2010[22]

  • 2010: Women's Volleyball
  • 2011: Women's Volleyball and Women's Golf
  • 2012: Women's Swimming
  • 2013: Women's Ice Hockey
  • 2015: Women's Cross Country and Men's Swimming
  • 2016: Men's Football
  • 2017: Men's Rugby
  • 2019: Women's Volleyball
  • 2020: Women's Golf
  • 2021: Not Presented
  • 2022: Women's Rowing
  • 2023: Women's Golf and Women's Volleyball

Canada West Hall of Fame[edit]

Sport BC Honours[edit]

  • Danielle Brisebois, Volleyball: 2018 Sport BC University Athlete of the Year[25]
  • Deb Huband Coach, Basketball: 2018 Sport BC In Her Footsteps Honouree

Further reading[edit]

  • Wells, Don (2007). Flight of the Thunderbirds: A century of varsity sport at the University of British Columbia. Vancouver, British Columbia: University of British Columbia. ISBN 978-0-88865-469-4. OCLC 226801402.

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ The main campus of UBC is located on an unincorporated area just outside the city limits of Vancouver.
  1. ^ UBC Colour Palettes (PDF). Retrieved September 7, 2016.
  2. ^ https://gothunderbirds.ca
  3. ^ Oliver, Greg (2017). Father Bauer and the Great Experiment: The Genesis of Canadian Olympic Hockey. Toronto, Ontario: ECW Press. pp. 91–93. ISBN 978-1-77041-249-1.
  4. ^ "Bob Hindmarch". Canada West Hall of Fame. November 4, 2019. Retrieved September 23, 2020.
  5. ^ a b "Bob Hindmarch earns Order of Canada honour". University of British Columbia Athletics. January 15, 2019. Retrieved September 23, 2020.
  6. ^ a b Willes, Ed (September 22, 2017). "Canucks in China: UBC T-Birds beat the Canucks to Beijing by 44 years". The Province. Retrieved September 23, 2020.
  7. ^ "CIS:Past CIS Champions". Canadian Interuniversity Sport. Retrieved 31 May 2013.
  8. ^ "Overview - Men's Volleyball". UBC Thunderbirds. Retrieved April 11, 2021.
  9. ^ a b "Volleyball Canada comes calling for men's volleyball head coach Kerry MacDonald". The Ubyssey. May 16, 2018.
  10. ^ "UBC stays golden with second straight U Sports championship". UBC Thunderbirds. March 17, 2024.
  11. ^ "Women's volleyball history". Canada West. Retrieved April 11, 2021.
  12. ^ "Doug Reimer". UBC Thunderbirds. Retrieved April 11, 2021.
  13. ^ "FINAL: T-Birds make it a six-pack, tie national record". U Sports. March 2, 2013. Retrieved April 11, 2021.
  14. ^ "Mary Lyons Award (Play of the Year)" (PDF). U Sports. Retrieved April 11, 2021.
  15. ^ "UBC Archives - Harold King and "Hail U.B.C."". www.library.ubc.ca. Retrieved 2021-12-12.
  16. ^ Ewen, Steve (2005-11-08). "UBC expects visit by NCAA". The Province. Archived from the original on 2007-10-12. Retrieved 2008-01-17.
  17. ^ 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.
  18. ^ "No Canadian schools apply for Division II membership". NCAA. 2008-06-03. Archived from the original on 2008-06-09. Retrieved 2008-06-12.
  19. ^ "UBC defers decision on application to join NCAA Division II". UBC. Retrieved 2010-06-18.
  20. ^ Fred Hume, UBC Communications (April 25, 2019). "UBC Thunderbirds mourn the passing of the iconic Marilyn Pomfret". gothunderbirds.ca. Retrieved 2021-04-18.
  21. ^ "Awards".
  22. ^ "Awards".
  23. ^ "UBC Thunderettes (WBB Team)". canadawesthalloffame.org. January 26, 2021. Retrieved 2021-04-16.
  24. ^ "Joanne Sargent (WBB | Student-athlete)". canadawesthalloffame.org. 2019-11-07. Retrieved 2021-07-23.
  25. ^ "SPORT BC ANNOUNCES AWARD WINNERS AT THE 52ND AWARD GALA". viasport.ca. Retrieved 2021-06-17.

External links[edit]