Thursday, 24 September 2009

More Simon Fraser News

A couple of things jump out in the following well-done piece by Jim Morris of Canadian Press including the CIS fee structure which according to SFU AD David Murphy is considerably higher than in the NCAA. Further, CIS Executive Director Marg McGregor, commenting on SFU's move, is well quoted below describing the move as a "catalyst for postive change" and talking about an "aggressive plan" designed to "deliver value" to CIS members. The quotes sound promising and it will be interesting to understand the new plan in detail including objectives, areas of focus and how the plan will be implemented, tracked and judged for success. All the right things have been said; now the trick is to deliver. Many look forward to hearing about this plan.

Howard Tsumura also recaps yesterday's official announcement in Burnaby that SFU will be joining NCAA Division II including quotes from Clan men's basketball coach Scott Clark.

SFU joining NCAA gives students unique opportunity, says athletic director
By Jim Morris (CP)

BURNABY, B.C. — Simon Fraser University will begin play in the NCAA Division II in the fall of 2010, one year earlier than originally planned, in a move that will save the school money while offering athletes a unique opportunity, athletic director David Murphy said Tuesday.

"We have the ability to provide a great Canadian education and we can also combine that with an NCAA athletic experience," Murphy told a news conference.

"No one else can do that."

SFU is the first non-U.S. member of the National Collegiate Athletic Association. The school's varsity teams will become the 10th member of the NCAA's Division II Great Northwest Athletic Conference.

Richard Hannan, the conference's commissioner, said SFU was a logical choice.

The conference has institutions in five states, including Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Alaska.

"They are a prestigious, quality institution, academically and athletically, " said Hannan. "Geographically they are a great location for us.

"We needed another member. We need to get to 10, then hopefully we can get to 12."

SFU currently has 19 teams competing in the small-college National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics in the U.S. and Canadian Interuniversity Sports.

Murphy said joining the NCAA will save SFU money in travel and membership fees.

It costs about $500 to belong to the NCAA, while CIS fees are "quite a bit more," he said.

"The savings in memberships will be over $40,000."

SFU currently plays in the CIS's Canada West conference, where they sometimes must travel as far as Winipeg for games - a trip of about 1,870 kilometers by air.

Another major difference is the NCAA pays to travel to any championship. In the CIS and NAIA, individual schools pay the travel costs.

Under CIS rules, scholarships can only cover tuition and school fees. An NCAA scholarship covers tuition, room and board, which could give SFU an edge when recruiting athletes.

Originally, SFU had planned to compete in the CIS next season and move on the NCAA in 2011-12.

That plan was changed when Canada West, the CIS conference which SFU is a member, announced the university's athletic programs had been placed on probation for the 2009-10 season. The move doesn't affect sports teams this season, but left in doubt the school's status for next year.

"It certainly made us look at things differently," Murphy said.

Sean Burke, the captain of the SFU basketball team, said playing in the NCAA gives athletes more exposure than the CIS.

"I don't think one league is better than the other," said Burke. "I do think the NCAA is a more prestigious league and there is more opportunity that can come out of it."

Marg McGregor, the CIS's chief executive officer, said SFU's departure isn't a threat to Canadian university sport.

"CIS is disappointed that SFU has decided to join the NCAA, but they have indicated they want to return to their American roots so we wish their student athletes well," McGregor said in an email to The Canadian Press.

"CIS has viewed the NCAA's decision to open their membership to Canadian schools as a catalyst for positive change within CIS. We have approved an aggressive plan to make CIS better and ensure we deliver value to CIS member universities."

McGregor also dismissed fears SFU's NCAA membership could drain top athletes away from other Canadian university programs.

"Competition in the marketplace is a good thing and CIS has a unique offering of a quality Canadian athletic and academic experience," she said. "We will focus our efforts on building on our strengths."

Earlier this year the University of British Columbia, located in Vancouver, decided to wait until at least next year before deciding if it will the NCAA Division II.

David Farrar, UBC's vice-president academic, said there was insufficient information to allow the university to determine NCAA suitability before a June 2009 window for application.

Hannan said he isn't aware of any other Canadian universities interested in joining the GNAC.

"Should any of them be interested, we would react to that as the time comes," he said.

Under NCAA rules, SFU must complete one year of provisional status before being accepted as a full-time member. That means SFU might not be eligible for post-season play until the fall of 2012.

Hannan has asked the NCAA for a waiver to allow SFU to compete for championships next year. If the waiver is not approved, SFU can still be part of the GNAC regular season, then compete for a championship in the NAIA.

Most of SFU's varsity programs have played in the NAIA since the school's inception in 1965.

Athletes attending SFU include CFL greats like Lui Passaglia and Dave Cutler; Olympic gold medallist wrestlers Daniel Igali and Carol Hyunh; and Jay Triano, the university's former basketball head coach who now coaches the NBA Toronto Raptors.

"I went there . . . (because) I wanted to compete against the Americans and still get a scholarship," said Triano.

"I think it's great. It's a step that I think some of the other Canadian universities are going to start to follow."

SFU's main buildings are located in Burnaby, B.C. It also has campuses in Vancouver and Surrey. The university has over 28,000 registered students.

Other schools in the GNAC include the University of Alaska Anchorage; the University of Alaska Fairbanks; Central Washington University; Montana State University Billings; Northwest Nazarene University (Idaho); Saint Martin's University (Wash.); Seattle Pacific University (Wash.); Western Oregon University; and Western Washington University.

Also, Humboldt State University (Calif.) and Dixie State College (Utah) are affiliate members in football.


Clan's official entry to NCAA Div. 2 could include post-season play in 2010-11
By Howard Tsumura

BURNABY -- Simon Fraser University's original athletic director took to the podium Wednesday afternoon atop the school's Burnaby Mountain campus and had a message for Clan athletes gathered for one of the most significant announcements in the school's 44-year history.

"You'll not only be representing SFU, and you'll not only be representing B.C.," remarked Lorne Davies, who oversaw every aspect of Clan sports from its birth in 1965. "You will be representing Canada. Your opponents will say 'We're playing the Canadians.' And that is a great honour."

The Clan officially became the first non-U.S. school to join the National Collegiate Athletic Association, gaining membership in the NCAA's Div. 2 Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC), a 10-team loop with members in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Alaska. The Clan, beginning in the 2010-11 season, will compete as a full GNAC member in football, basketball, cross-country, indoor and outdoor track and field, volleyball, soccer, softball and golf. Currently the Clan competes as an NAIA school in 14 different sports, but plays its basketball, football and volleyball in Canadian Interuniversity Sport.

While initial indications were that the Clan would not be eligible to compete in either GNAC or NCAA championship playoffs next season, SFU's current athletic director Dr. David Murphy, who met with GNAC commisioner Richard Hannan before a Wednesday's press conference, said that GNAC is set to apply to the NCAA for a waiver that would make the Clan eligible as full members next season. Barring that, Murphy said SFU would apply for membership in the NAIA for one season (2010-11) in its current CIS sports with the hope that it could be post-season eligible by 2011-12.
Clan men's basketball coach Scott Clark felt the move to NCAA Div. 2 would return the Clan back to the unique position it enjoyed prior to joining the CIS in 2000-01, when it competed as the only Canadian school in the NAIA. Clark especially felt the move would help in his recruiting efforts.

"A lot of kids want to play south of the border and a lot of kids want a Canadian education," said Clark. "This affords them the opportunity to get an education at a place where maybe they are planning to make a living or raise a family. But it also gives them the chance to chase an athletic dream south of the border. So it puts us in a unique position."

Murphy reiterated that the main impetus for joining the NCAA was for SFU to fulfill its original mandate of being the Canadian school that played against U.S. competition.

"It has always been about the unique north-south competition," said Murphy. "So when we were making this move, it had nothing to do with the CIS. We had a wonderful experience with them and we think the world of them. But this is the journey that has been destined for us since 1965."

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