SFU Football Alumni Spotlight: Mark Bailey

The current president finds purpose in football and honouring past players

headshot of SFU Football Alumni president, Mark Bailey.
PHOTO: SFU Athletics

By: Hannah Kazemi, Staff Writer

We often hear about SFU athletes who have stepped up or had a particularly impressive season, but what happens to those athletes when they graduate and leave SFU? For the final piece in this series, The Peak spoke with Mark Bailey, current president of the SFU Football Alumni Society, and former linebacker of the SFU football team from 2007–2009, to find out why he continues to support SFU’s young student athletes.

Bailey’s senior year with SFU was cut short when the athletics program began discussing a move from USPORTS to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in 2009. “There were a number of individuals, including myself, that were ineligible to play in the NCAA due to the eligibility [rules],” said Bailey. “We weren’t allowed to be grandfathered into the collegiate league in our senior years.” Bailey transferred to UBC to play his final year with the Thunderbirds, while many of his teammates found themselves at universities all over the country to play out their final year of university football.

Two years prior to Bailey’s arrival to SFU, the team was experiencing a significant losing streak. At one point during the linebacker’s first season, the team had went “25 games in a row without a win.” It wasn’t until SFU’s first victory against UBC to kickoff their 2008 sesaon that things started to turn around. “Myself, as well as our starting quarterback, [Bernd Dittrich] — who unfortunately passed away the following year due to an undetected heart condition — were both nominated as the national defensive and offensive players of the week across the country,” said Bailey. “As time had gone on, we ended up beating the number two ranked team in the country, which was, at that time, the University of Saskatchewan. We beat them at BC Place [ . . . ] which then made us a nationally ranked team.”

Bailey became president of the Football Society in 2016, but has been supporting SFU football athletes well before that. On Remembrance Day in 2011, Bailey established the Bernie Bowl to commemorate Dittrich’s passing two years earlier. In 2016, all the money raised through the event was used to create a scholarship for SFU football athletes in Dittrich’s name. 

Bailey attributes the support he received from alumni when he was a student athlete as the catalyst for his current involvement in SFU’s football program. “A lot of the alumni were quite involved with us as student athletes, and provided opportunities to find career paths,” said Bailey, who was one player to receive a job from an alumni. “Through that job, I was able to develop my skills [and] apply myself to another portion of that industry, [where] I found some career development and success.” Bailey referred to SFU’s football program as “more of a brotherhood,” and commended its ability to help navigate a good work-life balance: an especially necessary skill for student athletes.

“It’s important for them to know that there’s already been people before them that have gone through a lot of the same adversity that they have to balance.” 

Going forward, Bailey sees the Football Society broadening their impact by “providing more engagement and inclusion for the university campus and its students, alumni, staff and supporters as a whole. 

“It’s bigger than football. It’s bigger than each of us as individuals.”

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