The SFU Red Leafs have parted ways with Annie Hamel as their women’s soccer head coach, although the school isn’t providing details.
Hamel, who had been in charge of the program since 2014, and assistant coach Anna Picarelli were taken off the roster page on the SFU website earlier this week. SFU director of media relations and public affairs Braden McMillan explained via email: “Due to privacy considerations, I can’t comment on employment matters. However, I can confirm that Carlo Basso will be the interim head coach for the coming season.”
A May email from McMillan stated that SFU had hired North Vancouver lawyer Sarah Chamberlain, who specializes in workplace conflicts, to look into issues with the women’s soccer program before adding that “the university takes complaints of bullying and harassment very seriously.”
SFU athletic director Theresa Hanson stated in an email earlier this year that “we are aware of concerns raised by members of the SFU women’s varsity soccer team,” and that the team “will be under direction of other members of the athletics staff while we work to understand more.”
None of the emails mentioned Hamel nor Picarelli. Hamel had not responded to a request for an interview as of Friday afternoon.
SFU is slated to start its season next Thursday with an exhibition game versus the Fraser Valley Cascades at SFU. The Red Leafs were supposed to start the season with a trip to Norway, but that was cancelled. The school’s men’s team did play games in Norway this week.
Basso is a former SFU star player — he was named SFU’s male athlete of the year in 2012 — and was appointed an assistant coach with the women’s team in 2019. He coaches club with in the Coquitlam Metro-Ford system. SFU recruited six players from Metro-Ford for this coming season.
Hamel’s team finished 5-7-7 overall and 4-5-5 in Great Northwest Athletic Conference play in the season that wrapped up last November, pushing their record with Hamel at the helm to 47-75-14 overall and 39-55-8 in conference.
The school did mention Hanson’s recent departure publicly. Hanson, who had been the school’s senior director of athletics and recreation since 2015, and SFU “have come to mutual agreement that the time is right for a change in direction, within Athletics and Recreation,” according to an open letter from vice provost, students and international Rummana Khan Hemani posted on the SFU athletics website Aug. 2. Hanson left her role that day, according to the letter.
SFU has yet to announce their next steps in replacing Hanson.
Along with soccer issues, SFU had come under scrutiny during Hanson’s watch for shutting down the football program in April, even though the team had just completed spring camp in preparation for the 2023 season. Players and alumni complained that they were not consulted about the decision ahead of time.
The program dates back to 1965.
After a public pushback from the players, alumni and the football community including B.C. Lions owner Amar Doman, SFU agreed to appoint Bob Copeland, who is a senior vice-president with McLaren Global Sports Solutions, as a special adviser to “explore options for the future of football at SFU.” His full report is expected in September.
SFU football was slated to lose affiliation status with the Texas-based Lone Star Conference after the 2023 season, and Hanson said that the program was running out of options for places to play and didn’t want to prolong what she felt was an inevitable shutdown. SFU had moved all its teams to NCAA Div. II from the Canada West Conference of U Sports in 2010. They have struggled to compete in football since the move, going 4-63 in the last seven campaigns.
Hanson said that the school’s other programs wanted to stay in the NCAA and she didn’t believe that the football team would be permitted back in Canada West on its own. Players and alumni complained that she didn’t a make formal application.
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