Full-ride athletic scholarships still on hold - Macleans.ca

Full-ride athletic scholarships still on hold

In the face of constantly losing athletes to American schools, CIS continues to spin its wheels on scholarship reform


The other day, I looked at how Canadian universities are just starting to come to grips that some of their student-athletes just may be taking performance-enhancing drugs. Today, I’ll look at another issue which Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) has been unable to come to a consensus on: Athletic scholarships.

Should Canadian universities be able to give full ride scholarships to student-athletes? It’s a lightning rod question—at least by the standards of post-secondary education—because currently, athletic scholarships can only cover tuition and associated fees. Not room, not board, nothing else. You also have to keep up a 65% average (70% if you’re in Ontario).

Needless to say, the incentive for top athletes to stay in Canada aren’t exactly stunning. To take but one example: There are 99 players on the men’s and women’s national soccer teams. Fourteen went to university in Canada.

Last summer, Simon Fraser University decided to join the NCAA last summer, allowing the school to offer full-ride scholarships (though due to their limited athletic budget, the number they will give out is expected to be quite small. The University of British Columbia is still considering moving to the NCAA in order to attract the best athletes possible.

Given all of that, the CIS last year announced a task force to look at enhancing athletic scholarships. The model that was decided after internal consultations was a “salary cap” system, in which a total financial cap would remain in place at universities, but the individual limit would be waived. In theory, this would allow schools to spend more money on one or two local high-school athletes to keep them from  bolting to an American college. CIS President Clint Hamilton has championed the proposal throughout the year.

And, after a year of debate and deliberation of the model, the CIS has decided…nothing.

The organization’s AGM is next week, and while the issue of scholarships will be debated, there’s no motion on the table to change the status quo. According to the report prepared for delegates:

Although the Flexible Model that was proposed…received some support …it did not garner significant support in its current format: (too conservative, too progressive, too complicated, more research is needed, more progress on compliance is required, tip of the iceberg and before long the cap will be raised, some ADs stated that the decision for policy reform must be made at the Presidential level etc.)

Well then. That’s certainly a lot of miscellaneous reasons. On the other hand, Hamilton said in his report that “the reality is that people do know we fall short of  the NCAA Division 1 standard of athletic scholarship,” and “current policy continues to divide and polarize our organization.” So what’s going on here?

The reality is that while a few larger schools (notably many in Western Canada) would like to increase scholarships, other schools are either firmly for the status quo—smaller schools, who don’t have the financial resources. Then there are other universities that are unsure what is the best method of giving greater opportunities for student-athletes without diverting  money from slightly more important matters than who can put a ball in a net best.

Regardless of where you stand, this is another case of the CIS spinning its wheels on an issue, unable to decisively move one way or the other. We don’t need (and can’t afford) a NCAA-style league, but it’s not unrealistic to hope that a stadium with a couple thousand students cheering on their school can be the rule, not the exception in this country.

That requires national leadership though. And when you look at how the CIS is unable to move in any real direction on drugs and scholarships, it doesn’t inspire much confidence.


Full-ride athletic scholarships still on hold

  1. “Spin its heels”? What does that even mean? Is it some illiterate’s version of “spin its wheels”?

  2. I’d rather see Canadian universities invest in more academic scholarships than following the lead of the Americans and piling more money into athletics. Ever heard of academic scholarship that offers tuition + fees + room and board? Of course not. With a 99% average and some extracurriculars, you might be able to get enough scholarships to cover full tuition, although you might also need to maintain an 85% average in university to keep it. But fees/living expenses as well? I’d doubt it. Student athletes already have a ridiculously good deal.

  3. Universities are places of learning, not places to cultivate athletes. That some American private universities pay its football coaches more than 10x the faculty average salary is shameful. Why would we want to follow this model?
    Canada is better off spending the money on academics. If someone wants to kick a ball around a field and get paid for that, let them go elsewhere.

  4. I think that enabling top athletes to perform at their highest levels, and stay in Canada is well worth the price to the taxpayer.

    After all, it is only at universities where star basketball players can find cures for cancer, top hockey players can solve global ecology problems, or exceptional football players can learn the best skills for managing international crisis.

    Oh, wait a second, with a 65% average (without even touching the issue of “rocks for jocks” classes, or the prevalence of cheating), top athletes are probably spending more time in the gym or on the field than in the lab or classroom.

    Sarcasm aside, I think that universities should be places for learning. Top athletes can make enough money (yes, by moving to the US, just like our health care professionals, educators, and businesspeople) during their professional careers. Then let them come back to university and pay their OWN way (assuming they managed their money well) after they blow out their knees (when they’re 26 years old), and get their education when they can actually focus on the topic, and not have to miss classes because of an out-of-town game.

  5. hmmm…well of the university is able to find private athletic sponsors to pay for these scholarships that a totally different story right? lol

  6. students who get these scholarships are required to keep the GPA high so they can recieve these scholarships so no there not jst jocks they study just has hard as everyone else while playing sports and training.

  7. How about introducing a scaled athletic scholarship system for students who also perform better academically. Something like… 65-79% (tuition + fees max); 80%-89% (75% of full ride max) and 90%+ (possible full ride). This would encourage our Canadian athletes to shoot for more than the 65% minimum and our universities big and small would benefit from raised academic performances.