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CIS gets name change

author: john loeppky | sports editor

U Sports
Look, a snazzy new website!/Screen shot of U Sports landing page

But is U Sports a good choice?

The CIS has a new name.

Starting immediately, Canadian Interuniversity Sport will be transitioning into their new brand. The new name is an attempt at simplification and distilling why university sport in Canada is so vital to the country’s athletic landscape.

The branding was handled by Vancouver-based company Hulse & Durrell. A release on their landing page – a precursor the new website’s full launch – highlights the reason for the new direction.

“Canadian university sports have come of age over the past 110 storied years. Now, we track the future under a bold new name: U Sports. One title, instantly recognizable and identical in both French and English, with one goal: To give our student-athletes and national championships the visibility, appreciation and reward they deserve.”

But, is the new brand needed? The CIS has been rather stagnant, certainly not drawing interest on par with the NCAA south of the border, and it remains to be seen whether a shift in name will mean positive returns for the organization. The encouragement given on their website seems to be aimed at the web-based consumer.

“Like CIAU and CIS, U Sports will continue its role as the leader of university sports in Canada. But we are becoming much more. The U Sports brand aims to create a massive change in the way Canadians see university sports in the digital era. Our commitment is to revitalize our place in the national sport conversation by using every technology possible to highlight, celebrate, and present the accomplishments of these remarkable young individuals who pursue the toughest double major of all. Full-time scholar and full-time athlete.”

Is this re-up of their identity possible? Probably not. The country is too large and the resources too thin. The team that most consistently defeats superior competition, Carleton University’s men’s basketball team, trains in conditions that are more “Rocky” and less “Like Mike.” Most U Sports teams have to fundraise on their own to cover extra expenses and athletic departments are severely underfunded.

What’s more, the name U Sports, while claiming to accentuate the organization’s role in the Canadian sporting world, does away with the one defining characteristic of the CIS moniker: its distinct connection with Canada.

This is one person’s opinion, but U Sports sounds like a bad syndication network for lowly sports leagues.

We know that the rebranding process took over a year and one has to wonder how much money was spent trying to create a new name, logo, and website. These things don’t come cheap and don’t serve the athletes all that well.

What positive feedback will the athletes get from a name change? Names in sports, if they’re not controversial or downright offensive, rarely matter. Rider fans would still fill stadiums and buy copious amounts of branded materials even if the team’s title was changed to Those Guys in Green Who Play Football Sometimes.

What matters is substance over sizzle and we’re just not seeing that here.

About John Loeppky

I am an athlete with a writing problem, or a writer with a sports problem, you decide. When I’m not editing, playing wheelchair sports, or advocating for the disabled, you can find me de-stressing with friends.