Wednesday, 9 September 2009

SAIT continues to pursue CIS membership

Thanks to our fine Western correspondent, we have more on a SAIT-driven "blended Canadian post-secondary sport system".

Trojans continue knocking on Canadian Interuniversity Sport’s door

CALGARY — Eight years after first beginning the push for membership in Canadian Interuniversity Sport, the SAIT Trojans are finally feeling some forward momentum.

As the Trojans prepare for the 2009-10 Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) to shift into gear over the next month, SAIT Trojans Athletics Director Ken Babey is excited about decisions made in June by the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association (CCAA) and the CIS, during their annual general meetings, to “actively pursue discussions” for a “blended Canadian post-secondary sport system.”
Three Trojan teams — women’s hockey, women’s soccer and men’s soccer — will be playing pre-season exhibition games against their University of Calgary counterparts on Thursday, September 3.

“We want the best competitive opportunities for our student athletes,” says Babey. “The ACAC is a great conference, but we think the blended system would offer more opportunity.

“We think times have changed since the post-secondary sports system in Canada was created 30, 40 years ago. It’s a new era,” adds Babey. “Nowadays, large non-universities such as SAIT (which sports an equivalent of about 12,000 full-time students) have the facilities, the wherewithal and the strong athletic programs to compete at the CIS level.

“I’m encouraged that they’re discussing it. Non-university schools, the larger ones, are a good place to start looking at this.”

In July, Simon Fraser University of Burnaby, B.C., became the first Canadian member of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), as part of a 10-year NCAA pilot program adopted in January 2008 to allow Canadian schools to apply for Division 2 membership. University of British Columbia officials have also indicated an interest in NCAA membership.

“CIS schools are starting to seriously look at the American option, and that’s going to have some impact on the CIS, especially in (the) Canada West (conference),” says Babey, whose department has made inquiries itself into possible NCAA membership. “Our primary objective is still Canadian (membership).”

The Trojans’ attempts to gain CIS entry have been refused over the years because SAIT Polytechnic is not primarily a degree-granting institute. But Babey notes that a CIS-CCAA crossover is nothing new.

The U of C women’s hockey program will be moving back up to the CIS this season after competing in the ACAC since 2002-03. Sports such as golf and cross-country skiing hold a joint CIS-CCAA national championship. And a handful of Maritime schools, such as St. Thomas University of Fredericton, N.B., see some of their teams compete in CIS, and others in CCAA.

“We think the blended system would allow Canadian kids to stay home, and not necessarily go down to the United States, to (NCAA) Division 1, 2 and 3 schools on partial-ride scholarships,” says Babey.

SAIT’s Cohos Field, complete with an artificial turf surface, will be ready for action to begin the 2010-11 scholastic season, and allows the Trojans to deal from a position of strength.

“We feel SAIT, and schools like it, have something to offer in the traditional sports, but also in the non-traditional sports,” says SAIT Trojans Athletics Manager Mark Pretzlaff. “With our artificial field coming online, we could have our own lacrosse or field hockey team — even football.”

The Trojan women’s hockey team tangles with the U of C Dinos on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at the Olympic Oval. The SAIT and U of C soccer squads meet Thursday at the Dinos’ home pitch — women at 6 p.m., men at 6:30 p.m.

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