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A Full Athletic Scholarship to the CIS School of My Choice?

Canadian universities may be giving out full athletic scholarships in the near future? Could this be true? It may be possible. The debate has been raging for some time and now the doors may be opening for it to finally happen. The Can Ball Report takes a look at what this potentially landscape altering discussion would do for the Canadian student athlete.

So with the NCAA season just getting out of the starting block, I think now is a good time to look into an issue that has long plagued the CIS – athletic scholarships.

Now it has been long debated whether Canadian institutions of higher learning should be able to dole out athletic scholarships in the same way that their American counterparts do in the NCAA. And we may be a step closer in that direction, maybe even as early as next year.

Spearheaded by among the likes of the University of British Columbia, there is presently a review going on regarding the current CIS scholarship system in Canada that would allow for more flexibility for schools to allocate more funding to student-athletes. The schools presently are only allowed to give financial aid to students-athletes for tuition and supplementary costs such as fees. In the NCAA model, that would allow for aid to go to housing and living expenses which are also a part of the college student’s life.

Now I’m all for this model. The full ride scholarship would help to address two very important things in my opinion: it would help to keep Canadian athletes in Canada to play and train and help with evening out the decision making field a little for athletes who are thinking of going to the NCAA.

There has always been a knock on the Canadian track and field community that the best Canuck track athletes are for the most part never training in the country. They head to the States to do the bulk of their training while representing Canada and events. The same can be argued in the case of basketball in this country. The best young talent, and by young I mean high school and college age talent, tend to flock to the US to go to school, train in US facilities, learn a US game that for the most part is only played in the US. There is nothing wrong with that, but there is an inherent problem with it – with the best talent in a grand exodus the game here at home suffers. The full ride scholarship would help to keep the talent playing and training locally in turn helping to build a foundation for future development. A trickle-down effect if you will. Keeping the best in town, or country, to help the others play against the best will lead to everyone getting better thus making the overall game better for it. Makes sense, right?

The second and probably more important aspect to me is that this would help our student athletes who choose to stay in country are often being forced into a tough decision: play or work. Like many students who went to York University when I was young, ok a lot younger, I had to supplement my income in some way so that I could be able to by my books, pay for parking, occasionally hang with my friends at the campus hot spot and share a pitcher. Working the 20 plus hour weeks I did at my various jobs over the years to sustain a reasonable student lifestyle, it would be tough to split the time to study and play for a team if I’d done so. And that did not include having to worry about rent.

I know what you’re thinking, what about a student loan? I had one. And the student loan gods found it fitting to give me the same amount of money every year at university despite the rising tuition costs at a 20% clip annually. Student loans are always based on some form of need X household income X whatever and there always seems to be a shortage in amount that almost never accounts for cost of living and tuition increases.

Now I’m not here to bitch about that but I merely want to illustrate the student life. For a student-athlete to be expected to go to class, study and find time to commit to a sports team and then find their own living and housing money I think is a little bit on the presumptuous side. Some students, not including the athlete part, struggle with this reality so it would be safe to assume that the ballers, golfers and other jocks could as well.

This wouldn’t mean that schools will start stacking their rosters with full ride athletes. In a perfect world, there would be no cost to post secondary school education to go along with our 40 inch hops and money jumpers from the three. The proposed model, though opening up the scholarship flexibility for schools, would still be subject to the budgets of the athletic departments and these would vary. This would at least give the schools the ability to give full ride athletic scholarships to the players the schools feel are worthy. So what would happen is those star players would be able to get the full ride while others only partial or none at all. (That may open up a can of worms right there with budgets varying in size but I’ll leave that for if this model is passed.) This would actually hark back to a book by John Feinstein that I’ve trying to finish for months titled The Last Amateurs. It’s about the D1 Patriot League and there is a mention of how the league functioned by only giving out need based scholarships to its athletes. That is the direction I think this will eventually all pan out down the road and it would be a vast improvement, though maybe not as fair.

There are other details in the proposal that center around eligibility requirements and the changes being proposed but those are not important here. The important thing is that the dialogue is now open. The idea is finally on the table and there is a platform that is taking shape. Maybe soon we’ll see our elite ballers opting to stay home and accept the chance to play in country on a full ride. The sound of national letter of intent to play at York University on a full athletic scholarship would have been music to my ears.

R Bala