Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Next week, administrators from athletics departments across Canada will convene at Mont-Tremblant for the CIS Annual General Meeting. The 108-page package has been released for the meeting, and while it's as meandering and jargony as you'd expect, there are a number of interesting tidbits:

Scholarships

At the 2009 AGM, the CIS passed a motion to explore a "flexible scholarship model", which would allow schools to give as much money as they wanted to top athletes, while still maintaining an overall limit they could spend on athletic scholarships.

And a year later...nothing has happened. Well, that's not exactly true: a task force was struck, they talked to members, and found that "that there is more work to be done to find new common ground. Some respondents felt the proposed flexible model was too progressive while others expressed a contrary view." Meaning, the fundamental argument over giving NCAA-style scholarships to athletes still exists.

The only real recommendation of the task force was that university presidents get involved in the discussion to find "common ground" on the topic, and that work take place to ensure some sort of decision is made at the 2011 AGM. Given that university presidents will likely have the same broad spectrum of opinion on scholarships as their athletic directors, it's difficult to have much optimism in their resolving the stalemate on this issue.

Talent Drain to the US

The report also contained research done by Ken Shields, former Canadian men's national basketball team coach, on the amount of top Canadian talent heading south. To no one's surprise, the numbers aren't pretty:

- There are 99 members of the national men's and women's soccer teams. 56 are NCAA-trained. 14 are CIS-trained.

- There are 74 Canadian women and 70 men playing Div. 1 NCAA basketball.

- There are currently 99 top young Canadian men at basketball prep schools in the USA who will most likely go on to attend American universities.

More power to big universities?

Part of the reason for never-ending gridlock with CIS internal politics is the split in priorities between big and small schools. There are a couple motions on the table at the AGM that deal with the issue.

Motion 9 would see the requirements raised for being a CIS member. Currently, a school only has to participate in one male and one female sport. The proposal on the table would force schools to field teams in a minimum of two sports per gender. Currently, Winnipeg, Fraser Valley, Thompson Rivers, Brandon, the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, UQAM and St. Thomas field four teams or fewer.

Motion 10 would allow schools that field 12 or more CIS teams to have an extra vote at meetings. Currently, universities have two votes each, contingent on bringing two delegates to the meeting. If this motion passes, universities with 12+ teams would have three votes.

Chasing the TV Holy Grail

A good portion of the document focuses on the CIS' much debated TV strategy. Unsurprisingly, the CIS frames the changes of the past year in a positive light. Total viewership on nationally televised games increased from 1.34 million to 2.09 million from 2008/2009 to 2009/2010. The vast majority of the increase comes from football-the Uteck Bowl (271,000), Mitchell Bowl (596,000), and Vanier Cup (710,000) brought in massive increases in viewing. The men's hockey semifinals and final drew 247,000, compared to 156,000 the year before.

Basketball? Not so much. The men's tournament only increased from 163,000 to 176,000 for the five games televised, and viewership for the women's final was cut by half and then some (31,000 down to 14,000).

However, there's still no guarantee that TSN will televise more games in the upcoming year. There's still no guarantee that men's basketball won't be shipped to TSN2. And while they applaud themselves for planning to spend $320,000 of production costs next year, compared to $580,000 in 2007/2008, it underlines the work still needed to be done.


There are many more interesting bits in the report, including a full budget, and motions to create greater accountability on the drug testing front, so I'd encourage anyone interested to take the time to sift through it.

10 comments:

  1. Evan has men's hockey-related thoughts here.

    On behalf of mathematics graduates and analysts everywhere, I'd like to put forth my own motion to make the football players' "physical evaluation data" referred to in Motion 22 fully accessible to the public.

    I'm not holding my breath for it to happen, but if they did that (properly), it would be an excellent illustration of how they are committed to improving their accountability in this area.

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  2. Capping CIS team-sport athletes at 26 (40.10.4.3 on page 61) could be problematic for hockey. Most CIS hockey recruits play their overage year in Junior, so they arrive on campus when they are 21. If they play a year of pro after Junior, or are injured for a year, that student-athlete would age out at 26 (can't play at 27) before they use their five years of eligibility. And while the report states that most former Junior A players graduate before they use all of their eligibility, that isn't the case for a lot of the veteran CIS players who often end up being captains - they play their five years.

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  3. Rob, I wouldn't hold my breath. I've asked the CIS to get the AFA breakdown (i.e. per school, per sport) and been told they don't make that public. They only publish the top level values, such as what all schools give out in hockey AFA's, not what UNB, STU, SMU, etc., are EACH giving out in hockey AFA's for a comparison.

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  4. Me again. I laughed out loud last night when I read the bit about how the CIS is proposing to reduce the 2/3 majority needed to pass some motions to 60%, to counter the "urban legend" that regional voting blocs prevent some stuff getting passed. Well it is no "urban legend" that for years the OUA bloc prevented the introduction of athletic scholarships that the AUS and CanWest were pushing for, until the relatively recent introduction of the AFA's.

    Of course Ontario's 35-37% of the votes at the AGM has nothing to do with the proposed ceiling to block a vote being raised to 40% ...

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  5. I wonder if this "26 year old cut off" proposal is a direct reaction
    to the Mike Danton situation at SMU?

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  6. How many of those CIS trained soccer players are on the women's team as opposed to the men?

    The CIS is a breeding ground for the top female athletes in the country...not so much for the men

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  7. I believe the age cap is a knee-jerk reaction by some in the CIS to Mike Danton, influenced by the Toronto media at the time who raised such a stink (and misled readers to think there were 17 and 18 year olds playing CIS hockey).

    But perhaps the rumbling about the age of some of the football players is also affecting this.

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  8. former athlete6/02/2010 1:19 pm

    Speaking as a former CIS athlete, I have no problem with an age cap. Choosing a firm age is obviously going to illicit differences of opinions but 26 isn't far off. Yes, perhaps that will negatively affect some athletes who play five years of junior AND then some sort of pro/are injured (or high school then a full CJFL career), but anyone that spends 7-8 years competing in high level sport before settling on the CIS shouldn't be the no. 1 concern when it comes to age capping.

    I believe CIS should try to put the best product possible out on the ice, field, or court, but that doesn't mean capitulating to athletes who pass on university multiple times before settling once they decide there is no more value in pursuing their pro dreams. Further more, this is not just a hockey and football issue and it negatively impacts a number of sports where the majority of the athletes do come directly out of high school (swimming, field hockey, track are some quick ones that come to mind).

    Another example of older athletes joining CIS is in the case of foreign (or Canadian) athletes who come to schools at a later stage in life (22, let's say) and have yet to use eligibility either through pro (as CIS rules on pro years can be pretty flexible) or university/college. Allowing them to then compete for a full five years gives a pretty unfair advantage to them in their given sport, in most cases. This also occurs with athletes who decide to pass on school to play for a national team, only to return later in life with full-time eligibility.

    To reiterate, I completely support those athletes talented enough to pursue sports beyond the CIS level but that doesn't mean they should also retain full rights to a five-year CIS career.

    In the case of hockey players, the majority of major junior players do not get drafted. Some quick math from 2009 WHL and NHL draft entry draft saw 31 of at least 500+ WHL players get taken - a 6% rate, with only a handful of those going to meaningful pro careers in North America. On top of that, the majority of the players likely to make it in the NHL had only been in the W for a few years, as the top talents are usually gone as soon as possible.

    Any player that slogs it out for five years in the W and then chooses to pursue some out of the way pro league should, in my opinion, suffer eligibility loss in the CIS. Sad as it is, chances are those players ARE NOT going to make it as high level pros and by forcing them to become accountable for their future, i.e. choosing education over a far flung pro dream, is a valid position for the CIS to take. In addition, any player that forgoes university for pro or national team opportunities is usually making enough in scholarships/salaries to take care of their own university expenses later. Major junior hockey players have a pretty padded ride through high school and canadian university in the current system and giving up a year or two of your CIS career because they decide to try to go pro seems like a fair trade off.

    To David's point, yes some captains are in their fifth-year but I also know a lot of teams that have captains in year 2 or 3 due to the fact that those players are already mature enough to be leaders at the age of 22-23. Further, a number of players do graduate before their five-years which means pushing back the age cap would be for an even smaller number of players.

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  9. Former Athlete, you make a very convincing argument. Selfishly the fan in me wants to see hockey players balance their academics and hockey so that they can play and SUCCESSFULLY graduate in five years, but I see your points. I guess I'm still pushing back at those who thought 29 year old Mike Danton would be playing against 19 year olds ...

    For the hockey players in particular, you're right, it is a pretty good system now (Of course the CHL wants in that way so they can compete with the NCAA for players ...). Play all your Junior eligibility. Perhaps try the minor pros, and then go to CIS hockey (and only sit a year if you're over 21). Play your five years, and then if you have the talent, transition to the minor pros in North America or Europe. Maybe it wouldn't be such a bad consequence to favour, in eligibility terms, those kids who go straight from junior to the CIS.

    That being said, outside of cases like Mike Danton, there may not be very many players 27 or older in CIS hockey and it might be a bit of a moot point.

    As for other sports, you make another very good point vis-a-vis professionalism. For example, by CIS rules there is no "professional" women's volleyball, so a former pro in say, France, could decide to attend a CIS school in say, Montreal, in her 20s and be playing against kids just out of high school. And that same former pro player might be, due to her pro experience, a dominant player and win a ton of awards ...

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  10. former athlete6/02/2010 4:37 pm

    The biggest issue for me would be:

    How does the CIS come to a fair conclusion about an appropriate age for a cut off point? Do they pick a hard and fast age (cannot be 26 prior to the start of a CIS season) or do they do adopt a moving limit based on perhaps high school graduation?

    From that decision, what (if any) exceptions are there to the rule and how are they going to be enforced/judged?

    The tough part for CIS is coming up with a rule that fits student-athletes from coast-to-coast in sports that vary greatly in terms of competitiveness and talent. For example, would anyone really object if a 28 year-old student decides to take up curling and joins the varsity with limited experience? Probably not but how the CIS handles cases such as that one would certainly be a delicate matter.

    ps. having re-read my original post, I seemed a bit harsh on hockey players. Not my goal - I know a lot of truly awesome CIS hockey players who have worked as hard as any other CIS athletes and the fact they benefit from playing our country's top sport is not entirely their doing.

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