The change to the bylaws made by the NCAA to flirt with the idea of allowing international universities and colleges to join any of their three divisions has many people worried about the future of the CIS.
CIS CEO Marg McGregor, however, is not worried at all but admits that the CIS needs to keep an eye on the developments.
“We have to monitor the situation,” McGregor said. “We’re in a period of great uncertainty. Nobody knows what will happen.”
She mentioned that although the NCAA has changed its bylaws, there is still a hefty process ahead. Each of the three NCAA divisions have to vote on the decision, and the earliest a Canadian team would be able to join is January 2008. After that, there is still a 10-year period where schools become, among other things, trial members before becoming a full member of the NCAA.
While the University of British Columbia and the University of Alberta have gone on record saying they are interested in joining the NCAA, or at least looking into it, no other schools reached by The Concordian would be. McGill had been rumoured as one of the three schools (along with UBC and the University of Alberta) interested in making the jump. However, Director of Athletics at McGill, Dr. Derek Drummond, denies any such allegations.
“It something we don’t aspire to do,” he said. “We enjoy playing U.S. schools in exhibition games, but we have no intention on leaving the CIS,” he said.
One school that has been interested in making the jump is not a CIS member, but has explored the move for several years.
St. Clair College, an Ontario college with campuses in Windsor, Thames and Wallaceburg were interested in the move to the NCAA after the Ontario Collegiate Athletic Association folded its hockey league. The Saints had just re-started their hockey team and won two gold medals and a silver medal and explored joining the NCAA, but were turned away because they were not part of the United States. They have since joined a senior hockey league in Ontario, but their interest in joining the NCAA hasn’t disappeared.
“We haven’t done anything yet,” said Jay Shewfelt, Athletic Coordinator at St. Clair. “We will be keeping our eyes and ears open. It isn’t a high priority at the moment, as we seemed to find a good fit, but we’re definitely going to follow the situation,” he said.
Shewfelt added that the fact they are a college with two and three year degrees poses a problem when it comes to looking at the NCAA.
Dr. Marvin Washington is an associate professor at the University of Alberta. As an expert in organizational infrastructure of college sports, he says that it is a move that makes sense for some schools.
“It will obviously be a school-by-school decision, but if you look at UBC, they will have several advantages of making the jump,” Washington said. “They will have lower travel costs as they are closer to a lot of American schools as opposed to some Canadian teams they have to face on a regular basis, and their athletic budget is probably already as high as some Division III schools, so it may even end up costing them less money,” he said.
McGregor said while UBC explores whether if a move to the NCAA makes sense, they are a “valued member” and that she is sure the CIS has a lot of advantages for them that will be obvious to the exploration committees.
McGregor also thinks schools will not make the jump because you can’t “cherry pick” and say you want to compete in soccer and nothing else. “The fact that you have to choose seven men’s sports and seven women’s sports will deter some schools,” she said.
“We would be very surprised to see many schools leave for the NCAA.”
“The Ripple Effect”
Washington says this situation can turn out like a similar one the NCAA was faced with 50 years ago. At that time, both the NCAA and NAIA were at the top of the college sports world in the United States. Washington points out they were comparable both in number of schools and number of championships.
“But,” Washington starts, “some schools left to go to the NCAA, and then they became superior than the NAIA, and the teams left in the NAIA didn’t want to be part of an ‘inferior league’, so what you were left with was the NCAA the way it is today,” he said.
“So if UBC decides that it is best for it to leave the CIS, then you have schools like Simon Fraser and Alberta thinking about it, and if they leave, then it’s a ripple effect because then you have schools like Calgary, Lethbridge and Manitoba considering it and that is the biggest issue to fear,” he said.
What they’re saying:
The NCAA, UBC and University of Alberta speak about their decision
—Files from Boris Korby (The Ubyssey) and from The Gateway
“I would characterize this latest step as the first of many in the process to open the door for international membership,” said NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn, adding that “the interest is definitely there” to see a Canadian school in the NCAA by the end of the 10-year program, or sooner.
“It’s our hope that when we get to the end of the 10 years we will have two [to] three [international] schools that are active NCAA members,” Osburn said. “The 10-year window also allows time for not only having new membership, but hopefully they’ll have been members long enough to evaluate the process and recommend any changes that need to be made,” she said.
“The decision was certainly initiated by our interaction with them,” Bob Philip, UBC’s director of recreation and athletics said.
According to Philip, the next step towards submitting an official application will be to evaluate the conditions attached to foreign university acceptance, followed by a campus-wide university engagement that will evaluate what is needed — both from UBC and the community at large — to compete successfully against American programs.
“To be successful down there we’d have to be able to attract the top Canadian athletes . . . and there are people that have expressed an interest — if we competed at the NCAA level — in generating a lot of support for scholarships.”
The university expects to be in contact with the NCAA in the upcoming week regarding the specific intent of the announcement and to clarify a few remaining details. However, the department of athletics considers the announcement the ideal outcome to a courtship process they have been engaged in for more than 20 months.
“We do need to hear from the NCAA what the conditions would be [for entrance] . . . but obviously the door has now been opened for us,” Philip said.
“We’re happy that the doors have been opened, now once we hear what that means we’ll have that debate and see where we go.”
While Alberta has yet to begin an application process, Athletic Director Dale Schula has spent the last two weeks spreading his intentions to apply. Here are some of Schulha’s plans:
-The U of A would join the NCAA as a Division II school, but would play Division I in hockey and volleyball in a smaller conference, as well as some other potential sports-the most notable of which is basketball, which Schulha hoped would be able to jump up to a smaller conference of Division I competition after a few years of increased recruiting in Division II.
-If accepted, the Bears and Pandas would not necessarily move entirely to the NCAA. Schulha expressed concerns over the NCAA’s announcement being a “ten-year pilot program” and was cautious about cutting all ties with CIS.
-Alberta and UBC own 34 per cent of the national championship banners in the last ten years, and are the top two schools in academic all-Canadians over the same period.