How do you say no to the U.S. Women's National Rugby Team? That's exactly the question that Director of Athletics Jeff Ward asked himself earlier this summer when the national team visited Bowdoin for a three-week training camp. During its stay at the College, the team asked to play on the Pickard Rugby Fields. The fields, however, were closed for scheduled maintenance, so Ward declined the request.

"We had to and we did," said Ward. "You've got to stay true to yourself to be able to do that."

Ward noted that he has worked with the grounds department to ensure that fields are kept on a rotation to allow for proper recovery and growth.

Overall, this past summer was relatively quiet overall because the athletic department was coming off of two years of significant projects, Ward explained. Last September, the College opened the Peter Buck Center for Health and Fitness, which now houses the fitness center, select athletic department offices, and Health Services. Additionally, the College made another large expenditure when it built the highly-regarded Sidney J. Watson Arena two years ago.

While the changes this year are less noticeable than the radiant glass of the Buck Center or the impressive interior of Watson Arena, they will not go unnoticed. The College replaced aging exercise equipment that had been carried over from the old fitness rooms, repaired broken seams on the Ryan turf field and improved the drainage of the softball outfield.

The most noteworthy change though, is the new fleet of 18 boats purchased for the sailing team. While the acquisition, which also included a storage trailer, was expensive, Ward acknowledged that it was made possible through a mix of generous donations from individuals, the Polar Bear Athletic Fund and the Athletic Department.

The Athletic Department decided to buy the new boats to replace the team's aging fleet of Larks, which were built in 2000. According to coach Frank Pizzo, the Larks "are an obsolete class of boats in college sailing, with Tufts being the only school that still sails them. The old boats required constant repair and maintenance."

In addition to decreasing maintenance costs for the upcoming year, the new boats, called Flying Juniors, are standard in college sailing. When sailing teams compete at college regattas, they do not bring their own boats, but instead use those provided by the host school.

To avoid giving any one team a competitive advantage, all of a school's boats are supposed to be of the same class and in similar condition. Thus, an entire fleet overhaul is necessary when old boats are deemed unworthy for racing, which the Larks were.

"The boats actually absorb some water over time," said Ward.

Coach Pizzo added that the new Flying Juniors would allow his team to host more events at scenic Bethel Point, the Polar Bears's home waters.

In addition to acquiring the sailboats, the Athletic Department also bought new football uniforms. The uniforms are part of a new partnership that Bowdoin has developed with Nike. Ward explained that in general, new uniforms are given out according to a rotating schedule, one that he helped initiate. Last year, baseball and softball received new jerseys; this year it is football, and next year it will be men's and women's ice hockey. Therefore, teams that complain about old jerseys are not more likely to get new equipment than teams that don't speak up.

"We try to buy good-quality stuff so that it will last, but we don't buy glitzy stuff," said Ward. "We're not going to ever buy Virginia Tech-quality football uniforms, because that's beyond quality—it's a glitz thing. I like classic looks, but I like to give teams some autonomy, too."

In reference to the jerseys, Ward made a comment applicable to all the athletic department's recent acquisitions: "I want people to look good representing the College," he said.