Simon Fraser’s NCAA entry is much ado about nothing

SFU was never anything more than a temporary visitor to the CIS


The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) approving Simon Fraser University as its first ever non-American member may make for a flashy headline, and the story got picked up far and wide (never thought I would see the day where SFU made the home page of Sports Illustrated’s website), but it’s not being greeted with much more than a bat of the eye by fans of the NCAA’s Canadian counterpart, the CIS (Canadian Inter-university Sport).

That’s because SFU was never anything more than a temporary visitor to the CIS. When SFU was founded in 1965, it intended to always play against American schools, and they immediately joined the small-college National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), a smaller rival of the NCAA. When most of SFU’s rivals left for the NCAA in the mid 90’s, they were caught in a bind—the NCAA didn’t allow for international members. Ergo, SFU joined the CIS in 2002. But after the NCAA opened up a 10-year pilot program in 2007, SFU made clear where they were headed.

Of course, chances are the only thing you really care about is whether (insert your current school/alumni here) is going to join the NCAA anytime soon, and whether the CIS is under any real sort of threat. And the answer is pretty much assuredly no. UBC, whose Athletic Director has been a proponent of joining the NCAA for years and years, is still reviewing the idea, and will make a decision on whether to apply next year, but otherwise, Canadian universities aren’t exactly clamping at the bit to join the American league, despite their invitation. Most schools are quite content with the CIS’ long-standing philosophic decision against athletics scholarships, for starters. Second, for smaller and medium sized schools, the travel/scholarship/accreditation costs, not to mention academic issues, are too great to really afford the change—not to mention the fact a school like Western would get way less local interest playing against a Div. II college like Grand Valley State University than they would say against say, Queens.

While no other schools have expressed interest in moving, for another school to apply for the NCAA, it probably has to be like UBC—close to the border, with a big endowment, and with plenty of international ambition. Of course, they would also need to have a decent athletic program already in place.


Simon Fraser’s NCAA entry is much ado about nothing

  1. I think despite SFU being a member of the NAIAs in the past and only a temporary visitor to the CIS, the fact that the SFU athletic program is successful enough to qualify for the NCAA today and SFU athletes can compete at that level is a big deal.

    I also support athletic programs that foster healthy competition and support their athletes with scholarships. I do not understand why the CIS has a philosophical position against athletics scholarships.

    Proud Clan Alumni

  2. It’s only a matter of time before UBC makes the leap as well…and when that time comes, SFU better watch out because the Thunderbirds will crush the kilt-wearing Clan!

    By offering athletic scholarships, Canadian schools can vastly improve their athletic programs and create more excitement on campus. It’s unfortunate that we lose so many great Canadian athletes to US schools every year.

    Proud T-Bird alumni