"As coach, (Christine) Stapleton guided the Regina Cougars to a CIS championship in 2000-01. She also worked as the University of Regina's assistant to the Athletic Director from 1994-98.Andrew Bucholtz already hit it out of the park with how scholarships have changed CIS. Some women ballers are staying in Canada. Just today, Western announced Mustangs coach Steph Barrie got a commitment from junior national team player Laura Dally, a 6-foot guard from Sarnia Northern.
" 'Ontario has lots of athletes to go after, but there's also a lot of schools in this province. There's certainly that competitiveness to try to get the collection of athletes at one school.
" 'A lot of the kids are going south. When I was playing, the top Ontario athletes were staying in Canada. I don't think that's the case any more.'
"Western schools, unlike Ontario, also pay for a student athlete's entire tuition fee.
"At this weekend's eight-team tournament at the Burridge Gym, the Simon Fraser Clan will be shooting for their second straight CIS title and fifth in the last nine years. Head coach Bruce Langford has led Simon Fraser to nine straight appearances at nationals."
" 'A lot has to be said about the coaching," Stapleton said. 'Obviously, they're doing a great job. The coaches at SFU, UBC and Victoria must be working hard at what they do. And there's the quality of athletes they've been able to attract and retain.' "
There is another reason West is best, beyond the scholarships. They play FIBA rules!
The high school systems are, by and large, is way ahead of Ontario. The latter still persists in having girls basketball in the fall, on top of also playing a 32-minute game with no shot clock since schools are loath to pay to install them and perhaps some coaches don't want to give up what they know. At least one of those Ontario quirks has hurt overall development, notwithstanding the individual talent in the province such as Natalie Achonwa and Kayla Alexander, among others.
Off-hand, every other province plays FIBA. Every province and U.S. state has come around to the crazy notion girls and women deserve to play when it's basketball season, just like the guys.
It's important to keep the FIBA and fall-season arguments separate. There are justifications for the latter (time management with coaches, officials), but you need to go to the grassroots if the results aren't there. There might be some cause-and-effect between Ontario's anachronistic high school system and the lack of a Bronze Baby-winning team from the province dating back to the Laurentian Lady Vees in 1991.
Two more all-things-considered. One, OUA is close to a breakthrough, with coach Chantal Vallée's Windsor Lancers seeded No. 2 this weekend in Hamilton. The Lancers are a bit of an outlier, though, but their roster that reflects the need for a local base (almost all of their eight Ontarians from the 519/905 region), national recruiting (guards Shavaun Reaney and Emily Abbott are Albertans) and some post presence imported from overseas (6-foot-3 Frenchwoman Jessica Clémençon and 6-5 Iva Peklova, a Czech). Other coaches, including Barrie at Western, Ottawa's Andy Sparks and Carleton's Taffe Charles, are doing wonders with their programs.
Secondly, the designated wild card for the conference which produced the previous season's champion makes Canada West's dominance more self-perpetuating. There's more reason for a CW school to apply to host, since a berth is harder to come by.
That means half the Final 8 field often comes from Canada West. That has helped keep that streak going. Imagine the reaction if the OUA had been assured an extra berth at every men's championship dating back to 2004, due to the success of Brock and Carleton.
OUA women's basketball should have a day in the sun, soon, especially with Simon Fraser out of the picture. That's no reason not to address some of the anomalies.
Meantime, Western not only got a commitment from a junior national team player, but two forwards who played on provincial teams, Lacey Knox of Kingston and Lauren Seabrook from B.C., whose sister Julie plays D-1.
(* Back in '90-91, it was the OWIAA. Hence the technicality.)
West best since 1991; Ontario drought blamed on too many schools, scholarships (Larry Moko, Hamilton Spectator)