I'll be completely honest — I'm no expert on the calibre of teams playing NCAA Division II. Should UBC or Simon Fraser or any other Canadian school make the leap next season, I personally don't have much of a handle on how big of a jump that is or how they'll fare.
This week's assignment, then, was to find someone who did.
There really isn't a lot of movement between CIS and the NCAA in any respects, but one Canadian who was on the American side of the NCAA annual general meetings last week was Ian Newbould, a Guelph native who is now the president of N.C. Wesleyan College in Rocky Mount, North Carolina.
Newbould was Mount Allison's president for 10 years before going south, and saw that small school compete for national titles in football at the CIS level. Now at the helm of a Division III school, he had some interesting thoughts on what it would mean for a Canadian school to play in the NCAA.
"Most schools in the States are smaller," Newbould said. "I mean some of the biggest names in the States – Duke, for one, has only got about 6,000 undergraduates … it's not big at all. UBC would dwarf most of them.
"Division 2 is not that different from Division 3. We don't give athletic scholarships, but we give financial aid. Division 2 can call their financial aid a scholarship. They use athletics as a tool to recruit students to the schools, which Division 3 does, and athletics is an important component of our college. They don't get TV revenues, they don't get gate receipts… there's no big money and it's not the big time in that sense."
He also said local Division II schools such as national champion Barton College generally only draw about 1,000 spectators for men's basketball, which isn't that far off from CIS teams.
N.C. Wesleyan College is a small liberal arts college right in the thick of some pretty big Division I powerhouses like Duke and the Tar Heels, and Newbould follows the developments there quite closely. He talked about the scale of what it costs to finance a program like Blue Devils basketball and if the Thunderbirds could make the jump to Division I.
"[Duke basketball head coach Mike] Krzyzewski — He goes out and raises a million bucks to fund one athlete's scholarships, and that's big big money. But it's private," he said.
"UBC wouldn't have that problem because their tuition is very low. So scholarships there wouldn't require the same amount of money at all. So sure they could do it."
Pretty interesting stuff.
So how would they fare in Division II? Probably not bad at all, especially if the size of the school's athletic budget will increase. Size is certainly an advantage, as is low tuition.
Now we're just going to have to wait and see if UBC actually applies to play Division II for this coming season.