NCAA talk: Reaction to UBC's no-go

Justin McElroy, a past news editor at The Ubyssey, the UBC campus newspaper was kind enough to give the lay of the land in the wake of news the Thunderbirds won't join the NCAA for 2009-10:
"General reaction from students seems to be 'smart call' — given the state of the economy right now (UBC lost $200 million in its endowment this past year), and the lack of enthusiasm the community has to the athletics program, there isn't much complaint. The only people who have been really championing this have been Athletic Director Bob Philip (he's been pushing for this since 1999, I believe), a few donors/alumni, and most players/coaches.

"The window isn't completely closed on going to the NCAA, but according to president Stephen Toope, next year is the final year of the three-year window. For UBC to reverse course, a) the university community would have to get on board, b) accreditation would have to be waived, c) the economy would have to improve, d) the CIS would have to remain stubborn on all the issues UBC has with them. Possible? Perhaps. Likely? Not really.

"The reason it's always been in doubt is simply the litany of problems with it. Students have been against it since the beginning (UBC students pay more in athletic plus gym fees than anywhere else in the country).

"University officials have been lukewarm on the idea (the new president is much less a 'build build build/make the university world-class guy,' and more of a 'let's listen to people and make this a good place for teaching and learning' guy). Athletics has been publicly deliberately unclear in whether this is a stepping stone to D1, which has muddled the debate, and made it easy to attack the finances/culture change of potentially going to D1. People don't see real benefits in going to D2. None of these things are deal-breakers in themselves, but there's just way too many obstacles."
Vancouver Province sportswriter Marc Weber, who was previously the sports information director at UBC, left a comment earlier today, saying in part,
"Two things: One is GNAC (Great Northwest Athletic Conference -- ed.) is almost all travel by bus, which everyone knows is much cheaper than flying, especially when you factor in a major sport like football or hockey. More importantly, CIS cost-shares championship travel, which schools pay almost half a million into. There is no such thing in NCAA, where the league pays for championship travel.

"Most of all when you consider UBC, you have to understand their long term vision is D1 not D2. They're not going to talk about that while they're trying to go D2 and be a valuable member there, but everyone knows it's the case. The Athletic Department stated it publicly years ago when they first went down this road.

"And if you need a more 'legit' reason to explore this avenue, look no further than the very real potential of an all-B.C. division within Canada West in a couple of years. Yes, perhaps that reduces the travel cost argument, but it raises a more important one about competitive opportunity. UBC gets to play... Vancouver Island University? UBC Okanagan? UNBC? As well as Fraser Valley and Thompson Rivers. How is that any different than your Academy of Art.

"As far as attracting athletes: Will being a D2 school keep kids at home who have good D1 opportunities down south? No. But what about all the kids playing at no-name D1 schools or D2 schools. Personally, I believe you will keep some of those kids home simply because you can give them a full ride and they can stay in Canada and get a great education."
Again, it's complex. It seems pretty clear the centre will not hold from UBC Athletics' point of view. Sports doesn't happen in a vacuum, though, and a subtext here seems to be the divide you sometimes see between varsity athletics and student life on Canadian campuses. (That by no means is limited to one school.)

UBC puts NCAA Div. 2 application on hold (Marc Weber, Vancouver Province)
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  1. Last time I checked UBC was in Vancouver - isn't that in Canada????? Uh yaaaaaaaaaa - don't try and be what you're not. If you have issues with the CIS then try and bring about real change don't jump ship and become a weak NCAA program.

  2. The first comment is a prime example of exactly why this initiative, right or wrong, has failed so far -> people are misinformed and speak about university athletics as if they know the issue, which clearly they don't. UBC has been at the fore front of pushing for changes in the CIS since at least BP arrived, if not longer, always to no avail.

    Personally I am not sure if pushing for NCAA membership is the right choice for UBC, but the CIS is offering very few inspiring alternatives and in all honesty that will unlikely change in the near future.

  3. Memo to last comment - UBC isn't the only school mad at the CIS about certain issues. The only reason they can even entertain the possibility of joining the NCAA is geography.

  4. Geography and the fact they have tons of money.

  5. Geography, money, reputation, quality of teams, and vision. However, that last point could go either way depending on how the whole thing panned out.

  6. I don't think money is an issue for switching to NCAA DivII. Most of the wealthiest schools in Canada with strong athletic traditions are out East. Toronto, Queens, McGill, Dalhousie, Waterloo, McMaster, Western etc....

    None of them have entertained joining NCAA.

    SFU on the otherhand, while a good school with strong athletic traditions, is NOT among the wealthiest schools...

    The primary reason is Geography, and the fact that the competition in the NAIA has gotten weaker as US-bsaed NAIA teams have moved to NCAA.

    The only other alternative left for UBC and SFU would have been the CIS, but then geography became an issue, so NCAA DivII was really the best option.