The following is an open letter to the presidents of Canada West universities sent in October by UFV president Mark Evered, pertaining to the new unbalanced basketball divisions approved for 2014-15 by the conference.
UNIVERSITY OF THE FRASER VALLEY
OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT
I seek your help on a matter of fairness and sportsmanship. It involves a recent decision made by the delegates appointed by us as presidents to represent us as members of the Canada West Universities Athletic Association (the western division of Canadian Interuniversity Sport, CIS). It illustrates the problems that a decision made by CIS or one of its divisions can create for our universities and for the students and communities we serve.
There has been significant growth in the number of Canada West member universities, clearly a good thing for sport in Canada and the communities we serve. This growth has challenged the scheduling of competitions between universities, however. Our concern is with the solution chosen for basketball in the western Canadian division.
The format chosen splits the 17 competing institutions into two unequal divisions – a “Pioneer Division” consisting of the 11 schools who were full Canada West members before April 2010, and an “Explorer Division” consisting of the 6 newest members (Thompson Rivers University, University of the Fraser Valley, University of British Columbia Okanagan, University of Northern British Columbia, Mount Royal University, and MacEwan University).
To the best of my knowledge, such tiering within a division is a first for CIS. While the term “tiering” has been avoided, this is the outcome in all respects. It is certainly the way our current students, recruits, parents, coaches, and our community see this. Membership in either the “senior’’ or “junior” league is to be based not on academic or athletic ability but on the date of membership in Canada West.
Without doubt, this decision will impact student choices and our ability to recruit and retain young athletes, our reputation, and our contributions to the athletic development of our region. To say that members of our community are angry about this is an understatement.
I hope you also share my concern about process. Only two of the six members of the “Explorer Division” universities could vote on this matter directly affecting them (TRU and UFV); the others had no vote because of their probationary status in Canada West. The process and decision certainly seem at odds with the commitment by CIS to equity and equality of experience for member institutions and student athletes (Value 5 in CIS By-Laws, Policies and Procedures, 2009).
I note that a different solution to the same problem was chosen by Canada West for soccer competitions: two geographic divisions were created within the western provinces, with each subdivision representing similar numbers of schools. It is a solution that is far better in terms of scheduling efficiencies and travel cost management.
On behalf of UFV, our Board of Governors, and our community, my delegates are seeking reconsideration of this decision when Canada West meets later this month (shortly after our AUCC meeting). I would be grateful if you would discuss our concern with your delegates. I would be pleased to discuss this further with you when we meet next week in Ottawa.
Mark D. Evered, Ph.D. President and Vice-Chancellor