Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Solid Simon Fraser to D2 article in UNB's student newspaper

One gone, more to follow? Simon Fraser leaves CIS for NCAA starting 2011-2012 season

Tony Von Richter

FREDERICTON (CUP) – When the NCAA’s Division II approved a resolution in 2007 permitting the admission of schools from outside the United States, observers wondered if any members of Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) would soon jump to the more prestigious American organization.

This summer, the CIS fans got their answer when Simon Fraser University announced their intention to join Division II’s Great Northwest Athletic Conference as of the 2011-2012 season.

The move to the NCAA “just fit the long-term philosophy of Simon Fraser University,” said Dr. David Murphy, Director of Athletics at SFU. “The founding fathers, their philosophy and their intentions were always to play in a north-south direction, and the opportunity arose again for us to get back to our traditional rivals. As it stands now, we [13] have teams that still play in the [National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics] and only six that play in the CIS, so it was getting back to our roots.”

CIS Chief Executive Officer Marg McGregor said via email that while the CIS would have preferred SFU to stay with the organization, they wish their student athletes the best in returning to the school’s American sporting roots.

Since its inception in 1965, the SFU Clan have competed in the US-based NAIA and only placed teams in the CIS in 2002 when they were unable to follow many of their NAIA rivals to Division II. Dr. Murphy indicated that history of playing in the United States was a large reason why nearly all of the athletes and staff and the majority of supporters were in favor of the move to the NCAA.

Although SFU is moving to the NCAA, don’t expect to be seeing them on primetime TV anytime soon, as Division II receives far less media coverage and attention then Division I, which is comprised of much larger schools.
Despite not being on the same playing field as an Ohio State or Notre Dame, SFU’s CIS teams will gain a large advantage in the amount of scholarship money that they can offer to their student athletes.

Currently, CIS teams can only offer to pay for a student’s tuition and fees, but Division I and II teams can also cover an athlete’s room and board as well as textbook costs. McGregor noted, however, that the CIS has established a task force to examine this issue as part of a 10 point plan to improve the CIS, aiming to report back to the membership in 2010.

Some have suggested that the CIS’ plan – and their recent decision to not allow dual membership between the CIS and NCAA – is mostly a response to the NCAA opening its membership to Canadian schools.

McGregor says that was only one of many factors behind the CIS’ decision to develop their action plan.
“CIS has viewed the NCAA Division II decision to open their membership to Canadian universities as one of many catalysts for change within CIS. The environment has changed fairly dramatically in the past 24 months, and not just because of the NCAA decision. CIS is committed to continuous improvement.”

While SFU is set to become an NCAA member within two years, there are still a few issues to solve such as eligibility for each student athlete. The NCAA has had some issue with football players with previous junior football experience, for example. Murphy, though, said he expects that issue to be resolved without any problems.
A larger issue will be how to implement legislation – dubbed ‘Title IX’ – which states that athletic scholarships between men and women must be equal.

“Title IX will be new, and certainly it will cause of a little bit of a problem when we start out, but they don’t say from day one that you have to be compliant – you just have to be working towards compliancy,” said Murphy. He stated that the university is already addressing this issue and he has already spoken with a number of women’s club teams about becoming part of the varsity athletics program.

Regardless of any issues that may need to be resolved, Murphy is happy that SFU is once again able to play their traditional American rivals and feels for the most part that SFU will be very competitive in Division II from day one.

“I’d say all the NAIA teams are ready now. We’re playing Division II, Division I with our NAIA teams right now. On the CIS teams, I think that men’s basketball and football will be in for a tough few years. I think our women’s basketball is just fantastic. If they can keep everybody together they’ll be fine.”

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