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UBC passes on the NCAA

Thunderbirds will stay in CIS after league reforms promised

Justin McElroy
The Ubyssey (University of British Columbia)

VANCOUVER (CUP) — It’s official, the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds will be staying put on this side of the border.

UBC president Stephen Toope announced at the end of last semester that the university’s Vancouver campus will remain in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport and will not seek membership in the National Collegiate Athletic Association, better known as the NCAA.

The announcement comes after three years of consultations, negotiations and forestalled decisions.

Toope cited the CIS’s willingness to reform on a variety of fronts, including proposed changes to governance and tiering, as a reason to stay within the organization.

“A re-invigorated CIS is in UBC’s interest … I believe change is possible,” he said at a press conference Tuesday morning. “This is the first time in five years that I’ve seen any engagement (by the CIS) at all.”

He acknowledged however that there were no guarantees for scholarship reform – a major sticking point between UBC and the CIS and one of the primary draws for joining the NCAA – but said that he is optimistic that the conditions for change are now in place.

Burnaby, B.C.’s, Simon Fraser University, which joined Division II of the NCAA last year, will remain the only Canadian school in the American league.

The decision goes against years of lobbying by the university’s athletic department, which had argued that greater competition in the NCAA and larger scholarships present the best long-term fit for the department.

“A lot of times you see in the paper student athletes from high school are looking at the NCAA, and a lot of them are going there,” athletic director Bob Philip said. “We just felt it was time that somebody stepped up in Canada and offered that opportunity to Canadian students.”

Toope, however, said that since UBC would only have been eligible for Division II membership – Division I is not presently open for international schools to join – “the fundamental issue of (keeping athletes in Canada) was not going to be solved.”

Critics of the proposed move had criticized the culture of sports and academics within the NCAA, along with the financial cost of being accredited by an American institution – a requirement for all NCAA institutions.

However, the ultimate decision has always resided with the university administration, which they finally made today.

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