Newspaper article The Canadian Press

NCAA Paves Way for B.C.'S Simon Fraser to Become 1st International Member

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

NCAA Paves Way for B.C.'S Simon Fraser to Become 1st International Member

Article excerpt

NCAA opens door for Canadian member


Simon Fraser University's days of being banned from NCAA championships may be coming to an end.

The NCAA is on the verge of going international. By supporting a change in constitutional language, the NCAA's Executive Committee paved the way for SFU, located in Burnaby, B.C., to become the first member from outside the U.S. to join the American college sports governing body.

"I'm absolutely ecstatic to be the first Canadian school to join the NCAA and to give our student-athletes the opportunity to compete against the best programs in the United States and Canada," said Milton Richards, Simon Fraser's senior director of athletics and recreation.

All it will take now is a vote from the Division II President's Council next Thursday. If approved, Simon Fraser could be playing games as of Sept. 1 as an NCAA member.

SFU has competed in NCAA for the past three years as part of a 10-year pilot program for Canadian schools, but the Clan was prohibited from competing for national championships because of its provisional status. SFU teams could only advance as far as conference championships.

It's the first time since the NCAA adopted the 10-year pilot program for Canadian schools that a university has moved this close to full NCAA membership.

"The biggest thing this means is that our student-athletes can have all the full rights and privileges of being a member of the NCAA," said Richards.

Last year, the Simon Fraser men's soccer team was ranked No. 1 in the NCAA, but it could not compete for a national title. Meanwhile, some SFU teams in other sports, like women's swimming squad, were not allowed to be ranked. The provisional status also denied athletes all-America awards.

Richards said the pending full status will greatly enhance recruiting efforts. NCAA student-athletes are eligible for athletic scholarships whereas Canadian student-athletes receive other, more limited forms of financial assistance.

"It means we can go out and get the best student-athletes in the world and offer them a scholarship," he said.

In the past, he said, some athletes chose CIS schools over Simon Fraser for the chance to compete for national titles. Simon Fraser, which has teams in 17 sports, will compete in Division II, because the NCAA will not allow it to enter teams in Division I.

But Richards said the university will not add new sports as a result of the decision. "We have 17 and you only need 10 to be a Division II member," he said. "I really don't see us adding any more programs."

Consequently, Simon Fraser will continue to go without a hockey program for the foreseeable future. Since Division II schools do not compete in hockey, Simon Fraser would have to petition the NCAA to gain entry to Division I, he said. Although Division III schools compete in hockey, Division II schools are not permitted to ice teams at the lower level.

"Hockey is a different issue," said Richards, adding Simon Fraser will gauge interest in setting up a hockey program.

The governing body's decision to go outside the U.S. promises to expand NCAA membership, provide more dues money to the NCAA, pave the way for more international schools to join the organization and allow the NCAA to extend its reach beyond the American borders -- as Major League Baseball, the NBA and NHL have already done.

SFU women's basketball coach Bruce Langford said his team, perennially one of the best in Canada, now has a chance to gain recognition for success that it has had in the U.S.

"Last year, being on probation, we had some pretty big wins and upset some highly-ranked teams," he said. "We never really had a sense of how that stood in comparison to all of the Division II leagues. We did make the playoffs locally, but then we couldn't move out of those playoffs. So that (NCAA decision) is going to give us the chance to do that this year."

Langford said his players will also benefit from increased competition. …

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