Editorializing: Canada's national newspaper throws down a gauntlet

It's fair to say The Globe & Mail's editorial about Simon Fraser joining the NCAA all but left a gauntlet outside the front door at 801 King Edward Ave.
"Whatever prestige comes with NCAA membership, it will also bring greater challenges as well.

"But this is undoubtedly the point. Canadian university sports have never developed into serious spectator pastimes, as they are in the U.S. A smaller market means fewer resources and a lower level of competition. Canadian high school students must often decide whether to study at home or depart for more lucrative offers and stiffer competition south of the border. Keeping more of these young men and woman at home would be a good thing.

" ... this change means the CIS now faces serious competition for the loyalty of its members. If such a situation produces a more accommodating stance within the organization regarding scholarships, travel and other complaints from Western schools, so much the better. A little competition never hurt anyone."
That echoes a general point about the CIS/NCAA debate: The national body has to give schools a reason to stay. Justify the love.

Holding to the status quo does not work in Canadian sport. Simon Fraser's move to the NCAA might be more about SFU being SFU, unique for the sake of being unique, but it's hard to believe this happened in a vacuum when UBC is considering the same move and many top teams are now beating NCAA Division 1 teams in exhibition and non-conference games.

For the sake of clarity, this is called The CIS Blog but that does not necessarily connote fealty toward the national organization. I'm a Canadian who loves college sports and believes there should be more of a spotlight on young people excelling in them, whatever the umbrella organization. Traditional media should pay more attention if someone from their coverage area is starting for a NCAA D-1 basketball or football team, since that is a notable feat. That's my bias.

Again, this is an "emotional and logistical hornets' nest" (some random idiot, April 16, 2009). Please keep the dialogue going on Justin McElroy's post, which is down below.

Simon Fraser's boldness (Globe & Mail)
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  1. If you'd truly like to reinforce your bias as stated above, simply spend about 10 minutes talking about how to make this better with the so-called leadership tasked with "running/marketing" the CIS. Their silence on the Simon Fraser issue once again prove how much they matter and why CIS sports continues to wallow when we know that the athletes, coaches and supporters form the basis of what could be a tremendous product.

  2. My ideas are in no way superior to anyone else's, so don't hold back if you have a few.

    I'm not so confident in my own ability to get points across to what you call the so-called leadership. I don't profess to know the ins and outs. Besides (sarcasm alert), I'm Generation X, so if experience has taught me anything, Baby Boomers won't listen.

    Off the top of my head ...

    1. Get the best marketing firm you can to help define your audience -- who follows the league and how they follow it. I don't have that answer. I suspect the people who are paid to have it don't know.

    Toronto FC knew there was a base of football fans in their city. They tapped that enthusiasm, familiarized themselves with how they experience football and realized that having that enthusiastic base would draw in the demographic of casual sports fans. It also made BMO Field a Place To Be, even though it's notable it was awfully quiet there Saturday when there was no booze being sold.

    2. Further to point one, find out what demographics you're missing, i.e., the all-important males 18-34. Next time you go to a game, do a head count of how many people you see in between the age of 25-40 who aren't students. That's an important market for sports leagues.

    You need to have those numbers in order to get the ad dollars. I'm not a sales person, but that seems pretty Marketing 101.

    3. Make more use of (so-called) social media. (Isn't all media social?)

    I'm grateful many SIDs across the country see value in this site and that the OUA invited me to talk to them about blogging and social media. I haven't set myself up as an adversary. I want to draw more eyeballs to this product; it would help my career.

    4. Know who you are. Is this a something-for-everyone student activity (an outmoded 1970s view) or is it a kind of NCAA lite, with paid coaches

    5. Have an appealing media product. Seth Davis' book When March Went Mad, which is about the 1978-79 college basketball season and the build-up to the Michigan St.-Indiana St. final between Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, has a lot of lessons.

    That game converged with some other catalytic events in the growth of college basketball, namely the creation of ESPN and the Big East, the first made-for-TV league.

    I would see the college basketball landscape of 1979 as analogous to Canada in 2009. That year, they played the Final Four at an off-the-beaten-path school, the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. That's similar to the CIS holding the CIS Cavendish University Cup in Thunder Bay, no offence.

    It's not entirely the fault of the highers-up. We have too much geography and not enough history. There is a general Canadian tendency not to support our own in sports other than hockey (the Hockey Reflex), plus a lot of the media decision-makers ("myopic followers" in Doug Smith's phrasing) only want to cover CIS sports just enough to make sure they're covered. Many of them are not with the times.

    5a. Seriously look at creating more compelling rivalries. I don't mean kick out the bad teams, but look at the model for Division 1 men's basketball in the U.S. Organize the teams by their commitment, not geography.

    It's unfair to both programs that RMC and Carleton have to play in basketball just because Ottawa is 2 hrs. from Kingston. Why can't we have a Big East in CIS basketball?

    Of course, if I trotted out that realignment concept, I would be told you can't have Ontario and Quebec schools playing in the same league because of vagaries in academic standards, scholarships, et cetera.

    That is the mentality we have to change, though. Too many people look at what's potentially wrong with something instead of what could go right.

    Ultimately, you have to have the right people.

  3. Well thought out and well done. Unfortunately these suggestions will fall on deaf ears because there is absolutely no incentive for the "leadership" to listen to anything (god forbid bringing in an outside firm that would threaten whatever power these people believe they have). These are not hard-driving, progressive thinking business people with a vested interest in making things better; they are politically-driven power-protecting bureaucrats that waffle when challenged. Unfortunately they are generally supported by a Board of Directors generally made up of individuals of the same ilk. Hopefully with new AD's like the Mac guy, Brian Heaney and others, this will change however it will be a long, arduous evolution. And if this sounds like a defeatist attitude, it is only because nothing has or will change.

    You don't have the "right" people and you won't get the "right" people for a very long time.

  4. Amen... as a CIS fan who has access to business people who would support the right people, there's no way I'd introduce them to the current leadership...