Sports Illustrated weighs in on SFU's move south

Judging by the headline Sports Illustrated used — "Canadian school's admittance to NCAA may change rules up north" — they must be reading the minds of some of you. Greater minds have that Canadian Interuniversity Sport is in a show-me position with respect to keeping other schools from making entreaties to the NCAA. Just appealing to patriotism and status quo will not do.

The S.I. writer, Joe Lemire, showed more respect for Canadian university hoops in one article than most of the country has in their entire lives:
"Most coaches and athletic directors consider Canada's best teams to be the equivalent of low- to mid-level Division I schools, an evaluation supported by the recent track record of international exhibition games. Carleton, which has won six of the past seven CIS national titles, went 4-3 against U.S. competition last fall, beating such schools as Buffalo and Northeastern, while losing to Kansas by one and Cincinnati by 10. St. Francis Xavier, which won CIS titles in 2000 and '01, defeated Bryant and trailed Boston College by only three at halftime, before getting blown out in the second half.
The entire article is worth a read. Here are some quotes strip-mined from the column:
  • St. FX men's coach Steve Konchalski: "For schools that want to be progressive and want to emphasize excellence in our programs, sometimes the CIS can be frustrating because they won't let you take that next step, to take your entire program to the next competitive level ... Some of this looking to the U.S. is a backlash of frustration from schools that want to have high-profile athletic programs but feel restricted by the CIS."

  • SFU athletic director David Murphy: "We're doing more to promote Canada by playing in the United States than we ever do up here."

  • UBC athletic director Bob Philip: "We'd like to give Canadian student-athletes the NCAA experience but have them stay at a Canadian school."

  • UVic athletic director and CIS president Clint Hamilton: "We want to be the destination of choice for top Canadian student-athletes ... The NCAA decision is an important catalyst for us."

  • Konchalski: "Frankly I'm a little puzzled by it, by (Simon Fraser) entering Division II ... Are they entering Division II with the intention of eventually moving to Division I? Speaking from a perspective of basketball, our top 15 schools in the country can pretty much play at a low Division I level, so why would you want to sell the farm, so to speak, to go play Division II?"

It's a thorny issue, let's try to be rational!

Canadian school's admittance to NCAA may change rules up north (Joe Lemire, Sports Illustrated; via and
O Canada? (Rush The Court)
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  1. I'm not sure who Joe Lemire is but he did a great job with this article. He touched on a couple of points I've been pondering, especially regarding SFU's intention to move to Division 1.

    The argument that the better competition is in the States is false for the most part. When we compare the level of competition in the CIS and the NCAA we make the mistake of comparing our best teams to their best teams. We compare ourselves with Ohio State and Oklahoma. We say there is no way we could compete against those programs and for the most part we're absolutely right. But I contend that CIS teams could compete against Div 1 teams in every sport but football. Hockey, Volleyball, Basketball, Soccer, we're already at as the St. FX coach put it, a low to mid level.

    I hope that SFU's intention is to move to Div 1 eventually, because moving to a lower level of competition to give out maybe one or two full scholarships based on Div 2 rules is ridiculous.

  2. As a Western Grad from the 70's who competed in more than one OUA and CIS Championship,
    I think that we should celebrate and maintain the unique aspects of what it means to be a true university student-athlete here in Canada.
    I had a great coach and athletic director who were true mentors and professors that demanded excellence. Their value of me as a person extended far beyond my ability to perform.
    I enjoyed a balance between my academic and athletic pursuits. I valued the opportunity to compete and earn two degrees at a Canadian University with a great academic standing so much, that I took out a student loan. I worked full time and trained in the summers, in addition to competing in international competitions.

    If full athletic scholarships become part of CIS sport, the balance between academics and athletics will end and the abuses that we see in the NCAA will be common practice in the CIS.

    What is the true value and worth of a university degree ?
    I think that the CIS Athletic Directors and coaches that want to flee the CIS should answer this question before they march down the NCAA's path of "best practices" that could limit a student-athlete's abilty to graduate.

  3. That is one of the best contributions here in some time, certainly better than any posts I have made.

    You have posed a tough question. We have strong roots in Canada that need to be augmented without over fertilizing and damaging that unique culture. Full-time pay for full-time coaches, better product positioning for the media, a better approach to admissions and scholarships for student-athletes are ways to do that.

    For example, with admissions, some have argued there should be some latitude for a recruited athlete. This makes sense. Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers pointed out there's a fallacy in admissions. If all it takes is a 75 average to be able to succeed in a certain program, then it's a mistake to make the cutoff 82 or 83. The person with a 77 is good enough and if he/she has well-developed work habits, as almost all athletes do, they'll do fine. Unfortunately, that thinking does not have a lot of sway in Canada and we lose good people who are other-centred and will make a positive contribution.

    Really, the admin people at universities need to get more involved, but to too many of them, sports is not central to the life of the university.