ABBOTSFORD (CUP) — There’s a storm coming, and it’s been coming for months. In early June, while most students were absorbed in the beautiful dream of tennis, sorbet and summer romance, or — more likely — working their tails off, Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) was just wrapping up its annual general meeting in fine democratic style. One of this year’s big issues was the future of Canada West, which, having recently added the Grant MacEwan Griffins, will have 17 universities competing in one division by 2014-15.
Obviously, 17 universities stretched over the entirety of western Canada creates significant logistical and financial challenges for each university and for Canada West itself. Most agreed that a two-division system was needed, yet how to divvy up those 17 teams?
As unfairly as possible, of course. Actually, that’s a little disingenuous.
Not all the universities compete in every sport, and therefore some Canada West divisions will have only 13 or 14 teams instead of 17. For example, the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) fields CIS soccer and basketball teams, yet its volleyball teams play in the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA). In most sports, such as men’s and women’s soccer, the new divisions will follow geographic lines and hold comparable numbers of teams.
It’s only the new basketball divisions that seem to have been constructed around an entirely different set of concerns; keeping those scruffy new universities — like UFV — far away from the old boys’ club — schools like the University of Alberta, University of Calgary, UBC and UVic.
According to a June CIS press release, the 2014-15 men’s and women’s basketball Canada West conference will have two divisions, one with 11 teams and one with six. The former will consist of every team that was in the conference before 2005, while the latter will consist of all the ‘new’ CIS teams: Thompson Rivers University (TRU), UFV, the University of British Columbia-Okanagan (UBC-O), the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC), Mount Royal University and the fledgling Grant MacEwan University.
The split makes no geographic sense — UVic will face both the University of Manitoba and the University of Winnipeg — and will force each team in the second division to play each other four times to complete the 20-game schedule. Let me guess, the Toronto vote was 11–6? Actually, that would have been impossible, since four of the newer teams weren’t even allowed to vote because of their status as provisional members.
While nobody is calling it a “tiered” system, the intent is obvious. Canada West basketball has returned to pre-2005 form, relegating everyone else to a secondary league which, while it will continue to grow and mature, is not a suitable placement for an elite program like UFV’s. Perhaps the folks in Toronto didn’t remember, but in 2011–12 UFV men’s basketball finished fourth in Canada. The women are becoming a regular in the CIS final eight, and all signs point to better things to come. If the new divisions were tiered by any measure other than age, money and size, UFV would be an obvious inclusion, but apparently that’s too much to ask. Thankfully, there’s a storm coming. Let’s hope it’s strong enough to wash away this crap schedule.
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