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CIS scholarships under review

By Rebecca LindelThe Ubyssey (University of British Columbia)

VANCOUVER (CUP) – Canada’s university sports league is looking to change its scholarship rules to allow full-ride awards for student athletes by next year.
“The principle is to keep the best student athletes in Canada,” said Clint Hamilton, president of Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) and University of Victoria’s director of athletics. “Currently, the scholarship situation is such that it’s limiting our ability to do that.
“Financially, we are not able to compete with our counterparts across the line in the NCAA.”
The maximum amount of award money CIS athletes are eligible for is the cost of tuition and ancillary fees. Meanwhile, the American NCAA league offers additional funding for residence and living expenses, making it an attractive option for talented Canadian athletes.
CIS is exploring what Hamilton calls “a flexible scholarship model.” This model would remove the per-student cap, which would allow Canadian universities to give free rides for key players. It would still limit the total amount of money available per sport, however.
For example, a basketball program could have a scholarship budget of $30,000 under the proposed model, and they would have to determine how many full-ride scholarships were offered out of that pot.
The University of British Columbia (UBC) has been one of the key players in initiating the review and have long considered making the jump into the NCAA because it would give the school more financial flexibility. UBC gave out over $500,000 in athletic scholarships this year, but have argued that they are unable to keep the best local athletes in Canada due to scholarship restrictions.
While it would help Canadian schools retain talent, UBC’s athletic director Bob Philip said flexibility isn’t enough – the league needs to rethink scholarship eligibility rules as well.
“We think they should adopt the NCAA rule and the NCAA rule says if you are eligible to play sports, you are eligible to receive an athletic award,” Philip said.
CIS student athletes need to keep a 60 per cent average, be enrolled in three classes during the season, and gain 18 credits each year to be eligible to play sports. To earn scholarships, athletes need an 80 per cent average out of high school and at least a 65 per cent average at the end of your first year. Students beyond their first year must keep a 65 per cent average, with the exception of Ontario, which requires a 70 per cent average.
Hamilton said any proposals to change the eligibility rules would doom any other changes to failure when the CIS membership votes on them in June.
“I don’t believe at this point that there is an appetite to want to lower the academic requirements that are on the books as part of a more expanded financial offering in terms of scholarship,” Hamilton said.
Philip said that even if scholarship rules do change, there’s no guarantee UBC would close the NCAA door.
The NCAA is an important brand for athletes and playing in the American league would help attract the best Canadian athletes to UBC, Philip said, adding that it would also raise the level of play.
“A Canadian student athlete should be able to study in Canada and have the same opportunities. Why should they have to go to the States?”
Still, UBC’s vice-president of students Brian Sullivan said it would be an important step towards resolving some of the issues pushing UBC towards the NCAA.
“One very important positive elements is the scholarship flexibility … If that report comes back and it’s a favourable action with respect to eligibility for scholarship and flexibility for scholarships … that would be a positive influence that UBC will take into account when deciding whether or not to apply for NCAA membership,” Sullivan said.

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