The rich get richer in the CIS

Adam Williams, Contributor  Ω

Like the provinces it governs, the Canada West Universities Athletic Association has always had its share of haves and have-nots; such is the nature of university athletics. Certain institutions will always have more money and resources to contribute to varsity sports. But will a recent proposal from the Canada West Task Force make university athletics even tougher for small institutions?

According to an article written on Mar. 7 by Kevin Menz, Canada West administration will consider introducing a “sport by sport high performance division,” which would require participating institutions to guarantee significant financial commitments to their programs.

It’s an idea that certainly has the potential to raise the level of competition at larger institutions, and schools will find themselves playing more against rivals of similar size and athletic prowess on a more regular basis. But programs in smaller schools around Canada West won’t have the same financial resources available to them. Making competing against the West’s big schools even more difficult than it already is.

It’s hard to imagine a situation where an athlete would choose to go to a smaller institution, maybe one that is closer to family and friends, over one that can offer full-ride scholarships and the opportunity to compete in a high performance division. Athletes will always be drawn to institutions that seem to value athletics more; a high performance division will give such an impression.

Smaller institutions will struggle to obtain the same high-level talent and while certain athletes may choose to defy the norm, schools like our very own will not be able to make the same recruiting offers as their larger counterparts.

It’s a problem that could not only lead to less entertaining sporting events but also prevent institutions from growing and improving their athletics programs.

As a sports fan I struggle with the concept of a high performance division.

As a spectator I love the idea — I’ve seen far too many varsity hockey games end with a score of 7-2 to believe that Canada West is perfectly fine the way it is. It’s clear that league administration needs to do something to increase the level of competition and curb an exodus of athletes to the NCAA, but is a high performance division the solution?

Personally, I would rather see Canada West take a more hands-on approach and work with smaller institutions to help them to bring the prestige and performance of their programs up to a level that can better compete with schools like UBC.

The alternative is competing in what will inevitably be colloquially refered to as the “low performance division,” where the performances may be more akin to a weekly recreational league than a high-level spectator sport.

The full details of the report have not yet been released, so it’s altogether possible that I’ve misjudged the impacts of this proposal and will change my tune in a matter of weeks.

As Menz mentioned in his article, all the schools involved in these discussions have “embraced” the approach, which would include the administration here at TRU.

I’ve been around university politics for long enough to know that an institution is always going to have its own interests at the forefront, and ours is no different.

My only hope is that the impacts of this proposal will indeed turn out to be positive for athletics here at TRU.

Unfortunately, it will be hard to predict the full effects before they have been implemented, and I for one fear for the future of the small institutions’ athletics programs should it go ahead.