Simon Fraser University’s athletic teams have created a debate about the future and competitive level of Canadian university sports, by becoming the first foreign member to join the U.S.’ National Collegiate Athletic Association.
The move from CIS now allows Simon Fraser University’s athletic department, the Clan, to offer more money for athletic scholarships, and also helps spend less on travel costs and member fees, explains Dr. David Murphy, the Director of Athletics at SFU.
The move also lets the Clan return to their original roots of competing in a north-south format.
“In 1965, Dr. [Gordon] Shrum said that we would be unique by competing in a orth-south competitive group,” Murphy says. “In a sense, we are just going back to our roots.”
The university has had a long history of competing against American schools, playing as a member of the NAIA before joining CIS in 2000-01.
The NCAA accepted the Clan’s bid to become an NCAA member last summer, slating them in to begin play in the 2011-12 season. After Canada West put SFU teams on a probationary period, however, Simon Fraser was issued membership a year early, beginning this season.
Murphy believes that the move will help young Canadian athletes, by allowing them to get a Canadian education while competing on the American level.
“There are over 3000 Canadian student-athletes competing in the US, and that’s because of the level of competition, not scholarships,” Murphy says. “I think that athletically, lots of [Canadian] schools would like to make the jump.”
Marg McGregor, CEO of CIS, begs to differ, stating that the majority of schools prefer to play in Canada.
“The vast majority of schools prefer to play in Canada against other Canadian schools,” McGregor says. “It’s a part of the Canadian experience. In fact, there are a lot of schools out there who would like to join CIS.”
McGregor also thinks that Simon Fraser’s move is good for CIS in that it reminds the organization that they need to be on the top of their game.
“It serves to remind us that we need to provide excellent competitions and championship events,��� McGregor says. “It lets us know that there is that competition out there, but competition is a good thing.”
Murphy remains confident that the move will do nothing but good for the university.
“People are falling out of the trees they are so excited,” Murphy continues. “We are a destination for teams, because we’re in Canada and because of Vancouver.”
“The move to NCAA is not just an athletics move, but a university move,” he says. “We are where we belong. Division Two is excellent, and we like the philosophy of it. We are playing the same teams again from 1965.”
McGregor stated that the move from SFU did not come as a big surprise.
“They’ve always had desire for Canadian academics and American athletic competition, so it wasn’t a big surprise,” McGregor says.
She also challenged the idea that Simon Fraser’s move will help increase their level of competition.
“The level of competition in CIS is on-par or better than that of NCAA Division 2, but that’s their decision,” she says.
With the move, the Clan now plays in the Divison II Great Northwest Atlantic Conference, with teams from Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Montana & Idaho.
In their first ever NCAA football game, they fell to the Western Oregon Wolves by a score of 38-0.