Let's just start right away with the quote from Waterloo's Joe Surgenor because it's pretty frank:

“To be perfectly honest, anyone who doesn’t think there are seven to 13 players on every team [using performance-enhancing drugs] in the CIS, you’re kidding yourself. There’s at least that number. I don’t think the CIS really wants to find out what’s going on. They don’t want to know the answer [to how many athletes are taking steroids].”

In today's Globe, Surgenor admitted to being one of the Warriors who used steroids. It's part of a larger story by Allan Maki that highlights a) just how ineffective the CIS drug testing strategy was and b) how much they now (apparently) want to improve it.

(Full credit, by the way, to Mr. Maki, who needs to write on CIS more often.)

As our Evan Daum points out, you can't just test players at training camp and three or four months later at the Vanier Cup and call it a day. (And even if officials show up to test, who's to say the players aren't "accidentally" going to the wrong facility?) Evan concludes, "It's going to take the Waterloo whirlwind to bring attention to the problem, and some headaches for CIS before this gets straightened out, but hopefully some good will come out of it when the dust settles."

But if CIS does indeed care about its players being clean (whatever that means), it shouldn't take a few front-page articles and some criminal charges to motivate them. That's where the reactive-instead-of-proactive part comes in: yes, it's easy to criticize ill-prepared people in hindsight about any situation, but when it's drug use by competitive athletes? In football? Nobody saw that coming, except everybody.

Who knows whether this actually motivates CIS to change their policies, or even if they can afford to be more vigilant once they do. Ask anyone at all involved with university sport in this country and they'll say there's not enough money. (Or no money.)

And I'm not that bothered to vilify Surgenor for using, or to lionize him for his Jose Canseco moment (okay, a kinder, gentler version of it). But this will resonate. Being on the front page of a national newspaper still means something, even in 2010, even below the fold. This is messy.

Will this issue be solved by the fall? No.

Are they working on it? Let's hope.

UPDATE: Excuse my editorial laugh, but WLU's got it covered! "Laurier plans to introduce regular information sessions for its student-athletes conducted by health professionals and police to outline the consequences of using and possessing banned substances. ... Other universities, including UW, are expected to follow suit."

So, telling young adults that drugs are bad. That'll do it.

More from Laurier (Jun. 1): WLU AD (and OUA football convener) Peter Baxter told The Record that he would be shocked, shocked if Surgenor's statement were true.
A couple of men's basketball loose ends to wrap up. Notably, Greg Jockims, head coach of the reigning CIS champions and seen here counting the number of media members who showed up to Scotiabank Place in March and then rounding up to the nearest 10, is out for a year for...well, let's let Darren Zary tell you:

Barry Rawlyk will step in to become the interim head coach of the University of Saskatchewan men's basketball team while Greg Jockims exercises a 12-month professional leave-of-absence term beginning July 1.


Rawlyk plans to continue his job at St. Joseph High School, but in a part-time capacity, given approval by the school board.
--Saskatoon StarPhoenix

One would think that will be very, very part-time...the immutable laws of physics don't allow Rawlyk to be in two places at once, and CIS coaches aren't known for having free time.

Who knows what this means for Saskatchewan in 2010-2011. This year's Huskies didn't come of nowhere in Canada West, necessarily, but they didn't come out of a place we were watching all that closely. They weren't one of the 20 teams we previewed, which mostly shows how little we know about this university sports thing. Despite that, they were a legit team when the calendar turned to 2010 and were far from an upset winner in both the conference final and the Final 8. (An interesting thing, anecdotally, about the 2009-10 Huskies is that their four main players didn't come straight out of Canadian high schools. How many teams find a core that way?)

And as for now-former SFU coach Scott Clark, he says the move to the interior is about fishing and golfing and returning to his roots (and possibly a salary increase, hints Wayne Thomas). There's also mention of relishing the challenge of improving the not-yet-there WolfPack, and we'll see how Clark handles that.

But, of course, there's another big potential reason for his departure from the NCAA-bound school. Was Clark originally in favour of going D-2 until he wasn't, or was he never really that keen on it to begin with?

Whatever the outcome, at least Canada West coaches can change teams without this site blowing up...
Fears that McMaster's roster and recruits would be affected by the Head Coaching saga can be put to rest. All of Mac's returning players, including Victor Raso, who probably had the most question marks around his status given the somewhat unceremonious firing of father and Head Coach Joe Raso, will remain with the team.

It also appears all four of Mac's previous recruits, including standout Winnipeg Guard Keith Omoerah, will still be suiting up for new coach Amos Connolly and the Marauders in the fall.

It would also appear that we'll never know the truth about Windsor bench boss Chris Oliver wanting the job but not being able to reach a financial agreement. McMaster AD Jeff Giles would not confirm today that Oliver was set to become Head Coach, instead saying that Connolly was far and away the best guy for the job.

Giles cited Connolly's innovative basketball strategies, ties to Hamilton's strong basketball community and commitment to student athletes as the reasons for his hiring.

Given those criteria, it seems like the Raso firing was more of a basketball decision rather than a personality dispute or fundamental flaw. Raso was (and is) arguably the kingpin of Hamilton basketball, and as far as I've seen, had a very good relationship with his players.

{Ed. note: if you're looking for our coverage of the 2011 Cavendish University Cup, our preview is published here. -RP]

(left to right: Co-Chair Roger Shannon, UNB Athletics Director Kevin Dickie and Co-Chair Lloyd Henderson)

Just back from UNB's presser, and have a meeting to go to, but here's a few details.

Cavendish Farms is back as the title sponsor. The Home Depot will be a presenting partner. They've been doing a lot with UNB hockey locally and are stepping up for the University Cup.

Seven members of the successful steering committee for the 2003 and 2004 University Cups in Fredericton are back. The co-chairs are Roger Shannon and Lloyd Henderson.

Tickets: Current UNB season ticket holders get first crack at tickets starting June 1. Package #1 is an all-events (varsity sports) season pass, plus playoffs plus the University Cup and will be $250. Season ticket holders also can buy one (1) extra University Cup pass for a discounted price of $125.

New season tickets go on sale June 16. If you don't want Nationals, then it is only $150 (package #2).

Package #3, for the seven games at the University Cup, go on sale to the general public on July 15 and will be $140 across the board (no discount for seniors or students).

UNB makes no bones that they want to use Nationals to increase their season ticket base. It is highly doubtful that there will be any tickets left for single games, as the only ones in 2003 and 2004 were the visiting team allotments that were given back to the box office.

V-Reds marketing guy Dave Morell pointed out that there are 301 days to go to the Awards Gala night and 302 days before UNB captain Kyle Bailey takes the opening faceoff against someone ... so I guess UNB is planning to open play on the Thursday.

Co-Chairs of CIS Men’s Hockey Championships (UNB Varsity Reds Media Release)
Amos Connolly ought to have a strong show of support from his new players when he's introduced as McMaster new men's basketball coach.

Connolly, a former assistant with both Marauders hoops teams, has been tabbed as the replacement of the Marauders, according to sources.

Speaking strictly from an outsider perspective, having a few players up on the stage would help with the optics. It would offer reassurance they're onside with the change and are ready to heal by the time it gets real in November.

Kirk Alfaro posted at The Hoop-la that McMaster and Windsor coach Chris Oliver could not come to terms on a contract. (That's unconfirmed, and beside the point anyway.)

Most recently, Connolly had been director of the basketball program in the Sport Academy at R.A. Riddell Elementary School in Hamilton. (The National Post wrote a feature on the academy three years ago.)

Best of luck to Connolly -- there's no such thing as an easy task where taking over a CIS program is concerned. He seems like someone whom you could take on face value as a first choice for the job, no mean feat when Oliver was also in the running.

Meantime, Windsor keeps a coach who might get it to the promised land. There's been no traditional media follow-up on all the bluster at Brock, so it might have been a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing. Sigh, the OUA West is getting back to sanity.

(Update, 3:45 p.m.: It's official.

Whoever posted on May 11 at 8:18 p.m., take a bow. You were closer than anyone to calling it.)
The plot thickens, evidently: Chris Oliver is staying put as coach of the Windsor Lancers, according to a tweet from Barry Hayes at Hoopstars Canada.

Many signs suggested Oliver was heading to McMaster. Mac only posted the job for a men's basketball coach for a week. They wanted it done this week, before the end of May. Oliver also spoke openly on Friday with the Windsor Star about the process being dragged out:
"I'm in a waiting game. Honestly, I wish the whole process had been a little faster. It's not fair to my players and my recruits for it to go on any longer."
Windsor also didn't deny it. Assistant athletic director Mike Havey posted on Canadian Hoops Talk that a coach's contract does not prevent her/him from leaving for another job, as some had suggested could come into play with Oliver.
"A contract for employment is basically unenforceable. If an employee wishes to leave the employer cannot force the employee to continue to show up for work. A multi-year term basically sets the date when both parties agree to go through an evaluation and renewal (or termination) process."
If confirmed, this is great news for Windsor. It has to sting a little for McMaster, which might be close in announcing. Oliver would have been the best-case scenario after the way Joe Raso departed. Having the new person be a second choice at best might not sit well with the Marauder faithful.

Meantime, it's refreshing that there has been some transparency.

(And yes, it is also weird that Dave DeAveiro left a perennial Top 10 team at Ottawa for McGill six weeks ago and we have not even had one comment speculating about his replacement.)

Oliver confirms interview for Mac job (Mary Caton, Windsor Star, May 21)
This year, in addition to the CIS-endorsed and UFRC-run Top 10 poll, our own Mike Radoslav organized a Fans Top 10 polling panel, which he described as a group of "fans, ex-players and a few members of the media representing each conference." Assuming there was little overlap in membership in the Fans and UFRC groups, this was an interesting experiment, if nothing else, because it allowed for additional voices in the weekly top 10 discussion.

I was curious, however, to see how different their opinions were from the media members' poll (see here). Maybe the fans would be more emotional, overreacting to wins and losses, but rational in their detachedness from any one team (other than their own); while others would naturally favour their home team/conference over another, but bring greater inside knowledge to the process.

Or not. Turns out, there's not much difference at all.

First, let's look at the top overall vote-getters from the Fans. These are the eight teams with the most votes across all weeks of the season. Including anyone else means we have teams like Laurier, who had one or two good weeks in the voting, but were otherwise not a factor, and therefore not very interesting from a voting point of view. (Click for bigger versions of all charts.)

(Percentage of all votes, or vote share, is just the number of points for that team divided by all voting points from that week. Using vote share helps us compare two polls with a different number of voters. The thin red lines represent a theoretical "consensus #1" team and the same cutoff for the consensus top five.)

Looking at the more noticeable drops in each team's vote share, you can see the (likely) effects of Western's loss to McMaster, Laval's loss to Montreal, Saskatchewan's loss to Alberta, and Montreal's two late-season losses. St. F-X also climbed steadily until their loss to Bishop's (at home, even!).

Interestingly, it seems to take several wins for fans to “forgive” a loss (like Saskatchewan and SMU) and losses near the end of the season are very damaging to the perception of a team. Anyone who's surprised by that has never met a sports fan.

What about the UFRC results? If you've been following along, you might have already guessed the answer:

If you think I just copied the chart from above and changed "Fans" to "UFRC"...well, you'd be wrong. But I don't blame you: the results really are that similar. And if one was being critical, one could say these polls capture nothing more than wins and losses...which are already captured pretty well in the win-loss record.

But maybe early-season polls can shed some insight on the differences between the fans and the media. Let's add up the vote totals through Sept. 9 (the "early share"), and see if we learn anything. Here are the top five early-season vote-getters, along with their vote share in the final vote (Nov. 3):

Laval: 18.2% early share to 18.2% final share (no change)
Western: 15.6% to 9.9% (-5.7)
Saskatchewan: 12.8% to 14.3% (+1.5)
Calgary: 10.6% to 15.2% (+4.6)
Saint Mary's: 10.3% to 7.3% (-3.0)

Western down, SMU down, Calgary up 4.6.

Okay, and the UFRC? Well, they had the same top five teams in their first few votes, so not much is different:

Laval: 18.2% to 18.4% (+0.2)
Western: 16.6% to 10.0% (-6.5)
Saskatchewan: 12.9% to 13.6% (+0.8)
Calgary: 11.6% to 16.3% (+4.6)
Saint Mary's: 11.5% to 9.8% (-1.7)

Western down, SMU down, Calgary up 4.6. Wait, that sounds familiar.

(Between you and me, I'm running out of ways to differentiate these polls.)

Let's do one more thing: take the eight teams from above and chart the difference between the Fans' vote share and the UFRC's vote share.

...Actually, let's not bother with the chart, because the only noticeable differences in vote share (and I'm using the word "noticeable" loosely here) are St. F-X in Week 5 (the Fans had them 2.5 points lower) and Saint Mary's in Week 11 (Fans also lower by 2.5). Neither difference was that significant, though, and having just four teams in the conference might explain variations in AUS voting. But these differences really are just too small to matter.

So, to recap: the Fans voting and the UFRC voting start out the same, follow the same trends, reward wins and losses in the same way, have the same opinions on each team as the season progresses, and give the same result in the end. (This is hardly surprising to Mike, who said, "Having compiled the lists, they always seemed pretty similar.")

Which means either, “the fans know just as much as the people paid to cover the league,” or, more generously, “nobody knows anything more than anyone else.” Let's go with the second one.
It's easy is to give into the conundrum that no one wants to host a flagship championship such as the CIS Final 8 men's basketball championship.

However, there is a glass-half-full regarding the 2013 and '14 hoops tournaments going to Carleton by those two sweetest words in the English language, de-fault. (The latest round of bid proposals also elicited only one proposal for the 2013 women's hockey tournament, from the U of T Varsity Blues.) It's simply a case of CIS still having to dig its way out after getting buried from years of inaction at the national level, along with its choice to make the Final 8 (or 10) such a cash cow that some say it's cost-prohibitive to schools to bid for the men's basketball tournament. Recouping costs is impossible.

That cannot be reversed overnight. Instead of picking old sores, please keep in mind this came out the very same week Ontario University Athletics announced at long last it will have marketing committees for basketball and men's hockey. They're starting to turn it around a bit.

There are positives on the horizon for hoops. This was maybe not so discernible two months ago at the Final 8. It was easy to get caught up being surrounded by scores of empty seats, the TSN producer who ripped "boring" Carleton in the media room and that broadcaster's general indifference to covering the basketball championships (a small-town-cheap telecast of the women's final and not allowing Streaming Sports Network Canada to have a videocast of men's games).

The hoops group includes a few people who by reputation are ahead of the curve, such as Mark Wacyk at cishoops.ca, Howard Bloom of Sports Business News renown and Ravens coach Dave Smart. New OUA president Gord Grace has also touched in passing on the "introduction of a televised Final Four concept in OUA basketball."

Anyway, it sounds as if things could take a turn for the better for those who care about basketball in Ontario and across the country. The province has lost its economic clout, but it can still influence sporting tastes. It's good to see OUA highers-up (Grace: "The OUA is the largest association in the CIS and the highest profile in my opinion") trying to take more ownership in building a brand, daunting as that can be in Canada.

That seems like a decent spot to focus. Since I'm about cover a meaningless game at the Memorial Cup between Brandon and Calgary (they'll meet again in the semifinal), one does wonder how television would sell a Final Four if one team is already in the Final 8. Teams already being assured of a NCAA tournament bid never stopped conference tournaments from being appointment viewing in the States.
It's been a good couple of weeks for CIS football. After a strong showing by CIS prospects in the CFL draft, including first-overall pick Shomari Williams (who I interviewed before the draft), six CIS players appear in good shape to catch on with NFL teams. The Detroit Lions signed [Sean Yuille, Pride Of Detroit] Laurier defensive end Chima Ihekwoaba after their rookie minicamp [Tom Kowalski, Mlive.com via Ron Balaskovitz], and Concordia linebacker Cory Greenwood signed with [Mark Masters, National Post] the Kansas City Chiefs today. Waterloo offensive lineman Joel Reinders has signed with Cleveland [David Naylor, The Globe and Mail, Concordia offensive lineman Kristian Matte has inked a deal with Houston [Herb Zurkowsky, The Gazette], Bishop's wide receiver Shawn Gore reached an agreement with Green Bay [Dave Heller, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel] and Regina wide receiver Jordan Sisco signed with the Indianapolis Colts [Ian Hamilton, Regina Leader-Post].

This does seem to represent a significant change. CIS players like Israel Idonije and Dan Federkeil have headed straight to the NFL out of CIS schools before, but most of the Canadians in the NFL have come from American schools, like Nate Burleson. Having so many players from CIS schools sign with NFL clubs is certainly surprising, especially when several of those players weren't even ranked among the top CFL prospects [Kirk Penton, Toronto Sun].

Christine Rivet of the Waterloo Record had an interesting piece on this, interviewing New York Jets' scout Brock Sunderland, a former director of scouting for the Montreal Alouettes. Sunderland said the gap between CIS-trained and NCAA-trained players is closing, and the fourth-round selection of Western defensive end Vaughn Martin by San Diego last year has convinced more NFL teams to take CIS football seriously.

"I think the Vaughn Martin thing really opened up the eyes to the CIS athlete – that maybe this might be a real opportunity more than just a (fantasy)," Sunderland said. "It opens up the belief it can happen."

What's also interesting about this is that NFL teams are looking at CIS wide receivers and linebackers. Previously, many of the CIS guys taken have been offensive linemen, and some have made the argument that those guys have been seen as projects, chosen based on physical attributes and in spite of the quality of their competition, rather than because of it. Physical attributes are obviously important at receiver and linebacker too, but the amount of guys heading south and the diversity in their positions suggests to me that NFL teams are developing more of a respect for the quality of play in CIS.

The loser in all of this may be the CFL, though. The CFL draft has always been difficult because you have to balance a player's talent against the likelihood that they'll suit up for you; as Masters pointed out in this piece, the more talented players obviously have a higher risk of sticking around in the NFL. Sometimes, top talents will bounce around the NFL for a year or two before heading back north, like Jamall Lee; in other cases, they'll make their reputation up north and then head to the NFL, like Ricky Foley. In other cases, high CFL draft picks like Samuel Giguere, Federkeil and Idonije stick in the NFL and never see the field up north.

It's a delicate balancing act, and we won't be able to properly evaluate it for a few years, but it's important to keep in mind that most of these players went pretty high in this year's CFL draft. The big loser could be the Montreal Alouettes, who used their first two picks on Matte (seventh overall) and Ihekwoaba (14th overall). However, the reigning Grey Cup champions have less immediate needs than other teams and may be able to afford to wait a few years in hopes that those guys will come up north. The Toronto Argonauts have more immediate problems; they traded down from first overall to third, passing on Williams and picking Greenwood, who now seems unlikely to suit up for them next year. They also chose Reinders 26th overall, which seems like reasonable value given that he was rated as the 11th-best prospect by the CFL's scouting bureau, but that could hurt them if he sticks in the NFL. Sisco went eighth overall to Saskatchewan, and the Riders can probably afford to wait for him, given the depth of their Canadian receiving corps. Gore went 10th overall to B.C., and that may hurt more, as the Lions could use some more Canadian pass-catching talent. The eventual effects of this trend on the CFL can't be fully analyzed until we see where these players wind up in a few years, though.

In the end, this seems to me to be a bit of a reflection on how CIS football is changing. I wrote about the effects of increased athletic scholarships and national recruiting a while back, and this may tie into that. There's more competition than ever to attract recruits, and many schools have looked to do that by improving their athletic facilities, adding full-time coaches and offering more advanced strength and conditioning programs. We've also seen a rise in out-of-conference exhibition games among the bigger programs, which has helped to increase their national profiles. More CIS schools seem to be taking football seriously, and high-school recruits, CFL scouts and NFL scouts are all noticing that. To me, that's a good thing.

[Cross-posted to Sporting Madness]
We're a little late on this (with our big guy off in Brandon), but Warren Craney, previously the defensive coordinator at Concordia, is now the head coach at York University:

“The only way to win is with GTA players,” said Craney. “While it won’t be easy, my job is to build credibility, a successful program, win the battle of recruiting and own the best (graduating high school) players in this area.”


“Some of the top players in Canada came out of the Greater Toronto Area and it’s time to put pride back in the program and have York become Toronto’s team. We need to build, build fast.”

I would certainly hope some of the top players come out of the GTA...it's only several million people after all. The AD Jennifer Myers is also quoted about the GTA recruiting angle, so I guess they are legitimately hoping to make a difference there. (Couldn't hurt to have both U of T and York be successful, actually, if only to stop the annual jokes from the drive-by media.)

Speaking anecdotally, the two quarterbacks in the last Vanier Cup were from the Toronto suburbs, but if you go down the rest of that Dinos roster, there's a lot of Calgary and Airdrie in the "Hometown" column, and already a lot of Toronto/Mississauga/Brampton on the 2009 York roster. All else being equal, a team that can't draw out-of-province players will be farther behind those that do, so maybe Craney just wants to get York back to being competitive for high schoolers in the 416 and 905 and then he can branch out to, oh, let's say the 514. West Island especially.

Nothing says he can't do it, though. Craney's ten years at Concordia and his experience at Vanier College (among other places) do speak well for his coaching and recruiting-from-anglophone-Quebec bonafides. It's described as a heavy loss for Con U. In the last few years, you just couldn't run against the Stingers. (The same was not true for recent vintages of the York Lions, and Craney's first order of business should be to address their awful defense right fast.)

It's been a couple of dreadful years for York as they've descended further in the OUA. As you no doubt recall, the last coach was fired for reasons related to "a lack of communication [and] accountability" and other damaging issues.

One hopes, for the school's sake, that the slope is now positive.

York Lions pick winner in new head coach Warren Craney (David Grossman, Toronto Star)
Of all the weeks to be down the street from the other BU, rather than the one in Ontario wine country.

The new job at Yahoo! Sports Canada, which this weekend includes covering the Memorial Cup in Brandon, Man., precludes pursuing much CIS at present, but it has been crazy the way OUA West coaching rumours have multiplied.

There is talk now (surf through the comment thread down page) about Ken Murray bowing out from the Brock Badgers. Assistant coach Brad Rootes, just two years removed from having the sweet handle at point guard during the Badgers' 2008 national championship season, would take the reins. That was expected to happen eventually, everyone sort of knew Rootes was being groomed as Murray's replacement, but damn that is fast. Some of our commenters are suggesting there was a mutiny. It has happened before in men's basketball.

There is also the Chris Oliver-to-McMaster meme and the Darrell Glenn-to-Windsor meme. Crazy. All this has gone down at a time when I am in transition to a new beat.

Ironically, the biggest sports story going in St. Catharines is a shakeup with the Niagara IceDogs, meaning anything to do with Brock is likely to get back-burned. Brock athletic director Lorne Adams resigned last week as director of athletics, so it's not even clear who would answer the phone if the media called.

Please don't take that a dig. A big apology is owed to the St. Catharines Standard's Bernie Puchalski for not linking earlier to an incisive April 30 feature on Badgers guard Joel Whitty, who suffered a third concussion last season and has this summer to decide whether he'll keep playing basketball.

Meantime, three coaching changes in the OUA West (pending), three in various sports in my own backyard (Ottawa in men's basketball and football, Carleton in men's hockey). It calls to mind the character the late, great Lloyd Bridges played in Airplane! "Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue."

A big thanks to our commenters for keeping the fires burning. t's self-serving on this end to tell people to be really sure about what they say in the comments and not be able to go after it full force, but it sounds like there's a story coming out, one way or the other.
It used to be that no one in AUS men's hockey would announce their recruits until mid or late summer. Then Pete Belliveau returned to the conference and continued the practice from his Lakehead days and started sending out recruitment press releases from Dal in March and April. Now some of the other AUS coaches are joining the early publicity club, and no surprise to many, a good chunk of the names are from the WHL.

Now before the annual "the AUS are pirates" talk starts, some simple math. There are more people (and potential CIS hockey players) living in the city of Edmonton than the combined population of the provinces of New Brunswick and PEI - and they account for four CIS hockey schools. There are at least, if not more, folks in the city of Calgary than the population of Nova Scotia, which accounts for another four CIS hockey schools. Can you imagine if all seven of the Canada West teams were only able to recruit players who live in the cities of Edmonton and Calgary. Of course not. So why expect AUS schools to only recruit from their region if they want to be competitive nationally?

Tom Coolen at Acadia in the 1990's should probably get credit for being the first AUAA/AUS coach to look beyond Ontario for recruits. Darren Burns has continued the recruiting tradition at Acadia and Gardiner MacDougall certainly followed the same path when he took over the reins at UNB some ten years ago. Last season Brad Peddle landed some big western boys for StFX and Belliveau got some Junior "A" players from out west last year and now this recruiting season SMU's Trevor Steinburg has jumped into the "Dub" pool, while not ignoring the "O" and the "Q". No wonder those Canada West coaches grumble ...

Thanks to the recruit watchers over at HFBoards, here's who we know about so far coming to the AUS for the upcoming season:

D Brett Plouffe, Tri City (WHL) to Dal.
C Dan Joyce, Pictou County (MJAHL) to Dal.
F Brad McConnell, Camrose (AJHL) to Dal.
LW Keven Guérette-Charland, Gatineau / Val d'Or (QJMHL) to Moncton.
D Kyle Wharton, Syracuse (AHL) & Johnstown (ECHL) to SMU.
F Connor O’Donnell, Guelph (OHL) to SMU.
D Ryan Gottschalk, Guelph (OHL) to SMU.
RW Josh Domingues, Gatineau (QMJHL) to SMU.
C Jason Bast, Moose Jaw (WHL) to StFX.
D Derek Claffey, Swift Current (WHL) to StFX.
RW Michael Stickland, Swift Current (WHL) to SMU.
LW Chris MacKinnon, Kitchener (OHL) to SMU.
F Pierre-Alexandre Vandell, Shawinigan (QMJHL) to Dal.
RW Pat Daley, Peterborough (OHL) to Dal.
D Ben MacAskill, Halifax (QMJHL) & Truro (MJAHL) to Dal.
LW Joe Gaynor, Plymouth (OHL) to Acadia.

D Simon Lacroix, Val d’Or (QMJHL) to Moncton.
C Brett Theberge, Peterborough (OHL) to Dal.
C Alexandre Leduc, Saint John / Gatineau (QMJHL) to Moncton

2010 Recruiting thread at HFBoards.
Chris Oliver coming home to McMaster makes too much sense not to happen.

It is as easy to say that today as it is for our esteemed and valued commenters to say Oliver has confirmed he's not leaving the Windsor Lancers to join the OUA West rival Marauders. That might remain the case for a week or two, since a hiring process takes time, formal interviews and what-not, but there's more of a logic to an Oliver move to Mac than with any of the other names that have bubbled to the surface.

(Update, May 13: Mac has denied a report Oliver's been hired, but this is an opinion piece.)

This is nothing more than a casual observation. McMaster athletic director Jeff Giles has some fence-mending to do in Hamilton basketball circles after the way Raso's release went over in the media, traditional, social and otherwise. It's also the middle of May, a couple weeks ahead of when a bumper recruiting class goes from being a provisional to being confirmed. It would be better to have a coach in place than not have one, especially with the players the departed Joe Raso lined up, Winnipeg whiz kid Keith Omoerah (who says he's coming even with a different coach) and the Hamilton tandem of big men Taylor Black and and Satar Wahidi. All of the stakeholders, along with the incoming and returning players, could use some reassurance.

Enter Oliver. He and his spouse have Hamilton ties. He followed a path not unlike Raso's in his coaching career, success at the OFSAA level with St. Mary's Secondary School, assistant at Mac. People presumed he would might up being Raso's successor -- and who's to say the events of the past couple weeks have just accelerated that process? Raso might have only coached so long as he had his son, second-year guard Victor Raso, on the team. It's also somewhat like a player transferring -- it's a double bonus of gaining an asset at the expense of a competitor.

It is reasonable to ask, why leave Windsor. Basketball is high-priority there and it's a hoops hotbed.

However, there are plenty of coaches in CIS, in the NCAA and at the major-league level who, even if they had a good situation, always had an eye toward a homecoming, coaching the team they once played for, or in their hometown. Greg Marshall built a terrific football team at McMaster before ending up back at his alma mater, Western, by way of the CFL. Not too far from Hamilton, there's Ken Murray, who coached at Regina before coming back to Brock. It's like what Bear Bryant said in the 1950s when he left Texas A&M for Alabama: "Mama called."

It would not come as a shock if Oliver stayed put. The reasons it would work for McMaster are just too many to ignore.

There could be some resentment toward the new guy since Giles' initial move upset the coaching fraternity, but that might happen no matter who is hired. It's not enough reason to not take a good job.

Meantime, while we're here, some readers have raised concerns about the advertised salary ($64,000-$83,000) and the hours (35 per week) in McMaster's job posting. For everyone's sake (including the guy saying this), please keep in mind a lot of those numbers are barely worth the bandwidth used to post them on the Internet.

Job hirings at a university involve a lot of rigmarole. The advertised salary is often artificially low, since posting a higher figure might run afoul of the university employees' collective agreement. Once the people hiring have their person, they can go to HR and make a case, based on market factors, to offer a higher salary. Mac's next coach probably will make a fair chunk of change of more than $83Gs per year.

This came up when Guelph was advertising for a football coach to replace Kyle Walters. Point being, those numbers are not to be taken too literally. (Thanks to a couple friends who work at different universities who explained this.)

Oliver new head coach at Mac? (Ted Michaels, AM900 CHML)
McMaster athletics looking for change (Larry Moko, Hamilton Spectator)
McMaster's posting for the men's basketball coach might have spelled out what they meant by new direction when they parted ways with Joe Raso 11 days ago.

It wouldn't do to post the entire thing verbatim, but there is some strong language about how the new coach "must also embrace a culture that ensures the academic success of all student-athletes."

Perhaps that is standard language. No one would hire a coach who would actively discourage academic success. However, it jumped out since more than a few of our readers have commented that Raso's exit was an indicator that Mac's administration is less athletics-friendly than in the past. Others made note of possible political fallout from highly touted Ryan Christie's half-season with the Marauders.

That must be qualified by saying in no way is it meant to single out Raso or level accusations of untoward behaviour. (It should also be pointed out there's a double standard in basketball: smaller rosters and the more individualized nature of the sport means it's easier to notice if a prominent player leaves, compared to football or hockey.)

Many teams which are perennially ranked in major CIS team sports have their ways of securing a player who might have trouble being admitted if he/she had applied straight from high school like most of us. They find a spot at a CCAA program and transfer in after a year or two. Or they enrol a few years later as a mature student. Some schools also seem to be better able to accommodate a NCAA Division I transfer.

Much of it is on the level and done in the interest of an athlete who wants to study and play a sport. It would be naive to think there aren't a few instances where you would cast a Spockian eyebrow, although it comes nowhere near some of the NCAA horror stories, like John Calipari with his one-and-done players at Kentucky this season and at Memphis in 2008.

By no means would we impugn any coach, athletic director or school. This site has been pretty consistent in debunking any notion there's a cause-and-effect between a school's academic prestige and its athletic reputation. The two goals are not in conflict. There are enough elite schools with winning teams and no-account schools with struggling teams to prove as much.

It's just that there's been a lot of hullabaloo about the ramifications and repercussions of Raso leaving.
Some interesting news [CanadaWest.org] came out of the Canada West annual general meeting in Victoria Thursday. The conference decided to admit UBC-Okanagan [Howard Tsumura, The Province] as a probationary member* starting in 2010, with the school's teams (the Heat) beginning conference play in men's and women's basketball and volleyball in 2011. However, the applications of Vancouver Island University and the University of Northern British Columbia didn't receive the required 75 per cent level of support, so those schools will not be heading into Canada West any time soon.

*Speaking of probationary status, the meeting also saw that tag lifted [Dan Kinvig, Abbotsford News] for the University of the Fraser Valley and Thompson Rivers University. This makes plenty of sense, as Thompson Rivers has been probationary for five years and UFV has had that designation for four years. In fact, it's a little surprising that hasn't been lifted sooner. UFV is still trying to make an impact at the CIS level, but Thompson Rivers has already found a lot of success, particularly in men's volleyball; they won bronze at the 2008 national championships, finished sixth in 2009 and did a great job of hosting the championships this year, where they also finished sixth.

The addition of UBC-O isn't quite a done deal, though. As that release points out, UBC-O's Canada West status is conditional upon CIS approval. That won't be discussed until the CIS annual general meeting in 2011. It seems unlikely that this would be shot down at that stage, though, considering that UBC-O will likely already be gearing up for CIS competition by that time, and there isn't really a compelling reason for universities from the rest of Canada to tell Canada West who would or wouldn't be a good member of their conference.

If there ever was going to be a case where other institutions might have concerns about a new member, this could be one, though. As I pointed out in my 2008 piece looking at the Canada West expansion candidates, UBC Okanagan is a rather unique school; it's essentially a regular college or small university that became a satellite campus of UBC in 2004 via "hostile takeover". UBC-O has a separate senate than UBC, but both share a common board of governors. That could lead to concerns about their athletic independence along the lines of the ones various people have raised around David Braley's involvement with [Sporting Madness] (and current ownership of [CBC.ca]) two CFL franchises, the Toronto Argonauts and the B.C. Lions.

As in the CFL case, there probably isn't too much to be worried about here. Common ownership does not equal collaboration between teams, especially because both CFL owners and university boards of governors usually don't have too much to do with on-field issues. The perception of a conflict of interest could be damaging, though, especially from a boardroom perspective; some might see this as giving UBC two voices and votes at the CIS table.

The other thing that could make this interesting is the ongoing debate at UBC around the NCAA. If the main campus athletics department decides to follow SFU south, that would leave the overall institution with one team in CIS and one in the NCAA. That might leave a bad taste in the mouths of some CIS schools, given the emotions that the NCAA debate has stirred up. It also could be seen as UBC trying to have its cake and eat it too, which might alienate some people.

On the other hand, there are many things to recommend UBC-Okanagan; they give Canada West a larger presence in the B.C. Interior, they already have a strong athletics tradition at the college level, and they'll have a great rivalry with Thompson Rivers University over in Kamloops. They also have the potential to perhaps eventually play football, possibly via an affiliation with the local junior team, the Okanagan Sun. Furthermore, the Kelowna area has almost 200,000 people, which is a pretty nice addition for CIS.

It is somewhat surprising to me that the other schools didn't make the cut, though. As I laid out in the 2008 piece, UNBC's bid looked like the most attractive one thanks to its long history at the university level, Prince George's existing support for university sports (the UNBC Cougars were regularly drawing 700 fans for women's basketball and 1,000 for men's back in 2008, way better than many CIS schools) and the advantages of a CIS presence in Northern B.C. However, they were probably hurt by their bid focusing on just two teams (men's and women's basketball) and by their geographic isolation, which would have resulted in significant travel costs. VIU, like UBC-O, applied for full membership, but they're a relatively recent university and may have faced some funding challenges. They would have given UVic a natural travel partner though, and expanded the CIS presence on Vancouver Island. All three bids had their own collections of strengths and weaknesses, so it is somewhat surprising to see UBC-O make the cut and the others be rejected.
Devoted Lakehead Thunderwolves fans might want to block out a few hours tonight and head down to the corner of Arthur and Waterloo (he said, as if he's ever been to Thunder Bay before):

Thunder Bay’s proposed new multi-million-dollar multiplex facility will be under taxpayer scrutiny on Thursday night at the DaVinci Centre, as the city begins the first of a planned series of public consultations on a building city higher-ups hope will eventually replace the aging Fort William Gardens.


Currently the Lakehead Thunderwolves men’s hockey team is the main tenant at Fort William Gardens, averaging about 3,000 fans a game. A source close to the team said that if an OHL or AHL team arrived in Thunder Bay, it would essentially mean the end of the not-for-profit university squad.

I suppose we'll know more after the city holds its "public consulations" with somewhere between eight and eleven members of the public tonight, but at first glance it's not great news for Lakehead, one of the top draws in OUA hockey, if the new multiplex has other targets in its sight. City manager Tim Commisso said, "this is not just a hockey arena. We’re really, truly looking to position this as a multi-purpose event centre, something that is more suited (to bigger events)." Apparently they've been missing out on "concerts, rodeos and trade shows" that go to Sault Ste. Marie now or something.

One can argue that the Thunderwolves and their opponents provide better hockey than the AHL and certainly the ECHL and OHL, but that's only considering the hockey angle for the multiplex, and a little cart-before-horse at this point: the city basically admits they have no idea what kind of complex they want, who will fund it, what will go in it, or when it would be built.

Early stages, to be sure. But there are always a dozen things behind these sorts of scenes at city hall, even in a town of 100,000. Worth keeping an eye on this one.

Multiplex questions [Leith Dunick, Tbnewswatch.com]
It's the beginning of a new feature, a series of interviews with coaches, as you might have guessed. Today, a conversation with the women's basketball coach at Waterloo.

Generally, when a team goes 4-18 and misses the playoffs, you don't rush to interview the coach. Unless he's a former assistant coach with NEDA who kept a blog to organize his thoughts on the game (see here or here). Or unless he brings to the interview a mix of new-to-this earnestness and the plain speech of a Maritimer, resulting in a few interesting answers. Tyler Slipp falls into both categories, and we sat down back in April.

For background on Slipp, see the news release from when he joined Waterloo, or read his old blog. And for the most part, I'll let his answers stand alone. If it's warranted, I'll comment, but to keep the flow of his answers, I'll respond in footnotes.

On the need to keep new ideas coming into CIS ball, and avoiding a "giant recycling system" like he feels exists in the NBA: "That was my biggest worry about taking a head coaching job at my age -- and there's a lot of worries out there because there's a lot of things I don't know how to do. But one of the biggest ones, in a basketball sense, was where am I going to keep learning and getting new ideas? [...] I mean, it's hard. It's friggin' hard to get new ideas out there."

Later, he expanded on this: "I like to switch things up. I like to think of different ways to do things. We haven't really shown that a lot yet. There have been little glimpses of us doing some neat different things offensively. I'd like to fully take credit for everyone in Ontario doing a dribble handoff into a ball screen. I think we started that, I think everybody does it now."

On his coaching influences or on whose philosophy he closely follows: "I tried to steal as much as I could from everybody. So out east, it was my mother, that was like a basketball education growing up. [...] I took a ton from her on the technical side of things. [And] NEDA was good, with Christine [Stapleton]." [1]

On NEDA: "Basically, the two of us had to get the program off our feet. So we get there and there's an empty office. We don't have pens. [...] We had one laptop, shared between the two of us. We're only allowed from six to eight in the morning for gym time. We don't have money to book the gym. We don't have money to book classrooms. We're sneaking into the dance studio to do our full-body workout. It was fun. It was a lot of fun. But it was tough."

He continued later: "You would think that a program like that, which is a great idea, and is so necessary, you'd think that they'd have some great funding. Make it like a top-notch world-class idea. Basketball Canada, god bless 'em, they just have no money to do anything. [...] It's too bad, because they did really good things for a bunch of players. You can kind of see it in our results with the age-group stuff, on the girls' side for sure."

His thoughts on being the third CIS coach for many of his players at Waterloo: "It was a nightmare, it was very difficult for them. Who knows if they would have wanted to come play for me? [...] It was hard for them to buy into everything, and just with the way the coach before me left, to go through that, it didn't exactly make for a team-building experience on the floor."

On graduating players who surprised him in his two years coaching them: "Reanne Holden and Steph Shea got miles better." By way of explanation, he asked me if I ran the numbers on turnover rate and said, "I think [Holden] led the country last year [2008-09] in turnovers per minute. Pretty sure she was up there." [2]

On the OUA West next year: "[The Mustangs are] going to be a powerhouse for years now. From what he [Western coach Steph Barrie] has done, the success they're having now is just going to turn into more success. He's got to be licking his chops for nationals next year. [...] Windsor-Western's going to be a dogfight. [The Lancers] return just about everybody, so they're going to be solid."

On recruiting: "I'm still adjusting to how to recruit in Ontario. It's very, very different from anywhere else in the country."

I asked how much "the scholarship thing" affected that, to which he said, it did at first, but now, "it's become a cultural and almost a pride thing [to go to the NCAA]. Your mom wants to be able to say 'my kid's got a full ride' to wherever. And then if you told your friends, 'I'm going to Waterloo,' you'd probably have to explain yourself." He then pointed out the geography: "From Hamilton, how many D1 schools within a five-hour drive? A shitload."

Moving more broadly to CIS issues...his response when I asked, in relation to Matteke Hutzler moving to Western, how a coach could successfully recruit someone from another CIS school like that: "I have no idea. The only official way to do it is the kid has to contact you, and then you have to tell your athletic director that this player from another school has contacted you, they tell that athletic director, that athletic director tells the coach. That whole process. But I mean, those kids, she's on Facebook, right? So I just send her a message, 'hey, how's the season going? How's this going?' with a couple of them just to see how they're doing." [3]

On the quality of CIS statistics: "It drives me nuts. [...] We have our coaches' meeting and I bring [the OUA website] up all the time, 'Our stats are terrible.' " [4]

On SFU's move (at one point, I said, "speaking of SFU," and he didn't even wait to hear the question): "Stupidest decision in the world for them to go D2. Just stupid. [...] I was there when they were having meetings about it, when they first started talking about it. [...] It was just weird. It was bizarre. The coaches in the room didn't want to be in CIS, really. Langford was the only guy who really wanted to stay in Canada. But I think it's bad, I think it just hurts basketball in Canada. I think it hurts the CIS big-time." We returned to the topic shortly after: "But I understand they're frustrated with the CIS. Honestly, the CIS does some frustrating things. There's this view that Canada West ... wants to have the kind of sports system that's close to [the U.S. system]. 'Let's just put money on the table and try and be good.' There's this view that Ontario specifically is always holding that back and saying no, we can't do scholarships."
How is this for a juxtaposition? Two former Brandon Bobcats teammates will be on opposite sidelines for Manitoba teams next season.

Brandon has tapped the B.C. college ranks for new men's basketball coach Gil Cheung, a former Bobcats guard who professes a deep admiration to former teammate Mike Raimbault, the new coach at Winnipeg.

Cheung coached Vancouver's Douglas College in the BCCAA the past two seasons. He was part of some strong Bobcats teams in the early 200s under the legendary Jerry Hemmings, earning academic all-Canadian honours in 2001-02.

One can only imagine the rivalry with the two former teammates coaching a few hours apart along the Trans-Canada Highway.

(Hat tip: Keith Borkowsky.)
Joe Raso is sticking to his guns: he does not know why he is no longer men's basketball coach at McMaster.

The coach's ouster, which has set an unofficial cisblog.ca record for our longest comment thread (155 and counting), has hit such a critical mass that Raso was on the FAN 590's Prime Time Sports on Monday.

"I got the corporate handshake," Raso told co-hosts Bob McCown and Stephen Brunt. "Eighteen minutes for 18 years. I was stunned ... they never ever told me I was in a trouble, I never had a performance appraisal during the season. I never had any reason to worry."

Raso added: "I never got anything other than, 'we're going in a new direction.' "

McCown called that, "Gobbledygook. So, 'just because.' " The host also observed that the way Raso sounded, this wasn't over.

This has a stickiness, and apologies that the transition from CIS blogger for fun to junior hockey blogger for fun and profit has taken my attention away. Raso noted he was at a loss to comprehend how he could have a personality conflict with McMaster athletic director Jeff Giles, saying the two never talked enough to develop any kind of relationship, good or bad.

This probably will be a CIS story of the summer. Our commenters say Windsor coach Chris Oliver, a former Marauders assistant, will interview for the job. People are bound to speculate.

A couple asides: One is that the interview did point out the need to pay proper respect to teams' records in all games, not just league contests. (McCown rattled off the 193-88 record some reports attributed to Raso; the man himself pointed out he had 17 20-win seasons, including 24-9 this season.)

The other is thank you for all the comments, but please be civil and be sure you're on firm ground. One e-mail from a reader saying they were wrongly accused of doing something is enough.

(Between Dave DeAveiro and Kelly Nobes going to McGill in hoops and hockey, Fred Parker leaving Carleton men's hockey, and Raso, it seems like all hell has broken loose since I began my career and blogging transition. DeAveiro still has to a sign his contact, according to one source.)
Shomari Williams is going from Queen's to the Queen's City: Arash Madani of sportsnet.ca is reporting there's a three-team deal that would see the Saskatchewan Roughriders have acquire the Nos. 1 and 8 choices, the Toronto Argonauts get the Nos. 2 and 3 selections and the B.C. Lions trade down to No. 4.
"It is believed the Argonauts will wait until they are on the clock Sunday to pull the trigger on the move with Saskatchewan. The Lions are set on taking (Bishop's wideout Shawn) Gore, so B.C. will likely sit until the top two picks move before agreeing to flip No. 3 and No. 4 with Toronto.

" ... By Friday, a deal was in place between Toronto and Saskatchewan, two sources confirmed, and the Argonauts were already negotiating with (Washington State O-lineman Joel) Eppele’s new agent, former CFL defensive lineman Tim Fleiszer, yesterday.

"Williams is expected to arrive in Regina Saturday, accompanied with his wife, to be unveiled as the newest Roughrider on Sunday afternoon."
In short, try not act surprised if you watch the TSN coverage.

Madani is also calling the Argonauts to take Concordia linebacker Cory Greenwood No. 3 (so they still get a Canadian linebacker who played some football in Kingston!), with the B.C. Lions taking Gore to add to a growing Bishop's contingent that includes running back Jamall Lee and linebacker James Yurichuk. Gore, of course, has a tryout with the NFL's Green Bay Packers.

Anyway, enjoy draft day. The Bucholtzian one (the man, the myth, the mustache), will cover it on Sunday.

(Meantime, read Duane Forde's best/worst of the CFL draft post. You will understand why there is no team in Ottawa these days.)

Argonauts trade No. 1 spot to Riders (Arash Madani, sportsnet.ca)
The best and worst of the CFL draft, 2000-09 (Duane Forde, TSN.ca)
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