Sunday, June 21, 2009

More from the CIS AGM

The Coles notes version of this post was already published: CIS restricts dual membership with NCAA.


Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS), the organization that governs high-performance sport at the post-secondary level, held its Annual General Meeting from June 8-12 in Gatineau, Quebec.

When UBC decided to defer its decision on NCAA membership until at least 2010, one of the reasons cited was unresolved issues reagarding CIS. In the context of potential NCAA membership, the three main issues identified were (1) Dual membership rules, (2) Athletic Financial Aid rules and (3) Quality of competition within Canada West. The CIS AGM is the only time of year where these issues can be dealt with formally by the CIS membership.

Due to my inordinate interest in athletics at UBC, and the NCAA isssue, I went to check it out.

FYI, the 90-page agenda package is here, including all of the committee reports and background documentation for the few of you who might care. I will pull out things that are more pertinent. Also, the CIS put up their own summary of happenings at the AGM. Their summary is very incomplete, so keep reading.


Day 1 started with some of the more preliminary activities: approval of minutes, and reports from individuals and committees.

Dick White, Athletic Director at the University of Regina and outgoing CIS president, and Marg McGregor, CIS CEO, gave opening remarks. Both of their speeches addressed many of the points contained in the CIS's Ten Point Plan (TPP). This is a collection of priorities which are designed to help the CIS achieve its vision of being the "destination of choice for Canadian student-athletes." It is essentially their version of a strategic planning document and was a very central theme throughout the meeting.

Both speeches were based around the idea that the CIS is not meeting its potential and that changes must be made to help the CIS improve. Dick White spoke mostly about the future and about the need for member buy-in to make change happen while Marg McGregor, who at times was extremely quotable, summarized the CIS's recent activities. In reference to the TPP, she said she wants it to be "CIS's elevator music: it's always playing in the background." When addressing the issue of the NCAA she portrayed them as Wal-Mart, with CIS being the mom and pop corner store.

For the most part, committee reports did not deviate significantly from the written reports in the agenda package. A quick wrap-up of some of the developments from the speeches and reports:

  • Edmonton's bid for the 2015 Universiade lost out to Gwangju, South Korea
  • The CIS launched new logos (top) to replace their previous one (bottom)

  • A planned expansion of the Women's Basketball championship to 16 teams was pushed back for another year. The stated reason was prudence due to the current economic situation.
  • CIS secured a major sponsorship deal with Research in Motion
  • They are trying to catch up to new media with a Facebook page, a Twitter feed, a Flickr page and a channel on Youtube.

A few things that are on the horizon for the upcoming year:

  • Clint Hamilton, UVic's athletic director, taking over as CIS president.
  • Conduct a thorough exploration of how the CIS can partner with the CCAA (Canadian Colleges Athletic Association). This is awaiting government funding.
  • Continue trying to adapt how the CIS deals with media. With many writers now doing blogs (holla!), press releases may not be the best way anymore.
  • Leverage big national championships (basketball, football) in order to ensure a minimum level of service to national championships across all sports.
  • Continue looking at governance reform and financial aid rules in the CIS.

The afternoon of Day 1 was then devoted to discussion sessions. The structure of the AGM is a little curious, since there is a lot of time devoted to these sessions, but at the same time, there are very few bona fide motions coming to the floor to deal with those issues. Lots of interesting ideas regarding eligibility, CIS championships, branding and governance were expressed, but whether any follow-up will occur on these ideas is anyone's guess.


Day 2 started off with a presentation from UWO's football coach Larry Haylor, on Canada's participation in the 2011 World Football Championship, which would in all likelihood involve CIS football players. After that, there was a presentation on a new system for locating football and hockey players in order to administer drug tests.

On a side note, the stats surrounding drug testing in the CIS really surprised me. Last year, four players were caught doping: one for steroids, three for marijuana use. My initial reaction was that university sport in Canada must be very clean, since there was only one violation (I disregard the pot violations since I'm sure it was not used for the purpose of boosting athletic performance). A closer look at the numbers seems to point in a different direction: the CIS boasts having over 10,000 student-athletes across Canada, but only 269 drug tests were administered last year. I realize administering these tests is probably costly, but it strikes me as being extremely low! Is the lack of violations really because the players are clean, or might it have to do with inadequate testing?

At long last, the discussion turned toward my raison d'ĂȘtre, the NCAA.

Background: A motion was brought to the 2008 CIS AGM which would have prohibited all dual membership. This would have been a very problematic policy not just for UBC, but for a number of schools in Canada. Ultimately, this motion was laid on the table while more discussion on the issue could occur. In the year since, during the entire process of examining the NCAA issue, UBC has been waiting patiently to find out what, if anything, the CIS would say about dual membership restrictions. In the last year, the CIS commissioned a report about the NCAA which was based upon both research and feedback received from members (I haven't read it). The NCAA was also discussed in depth at an April 2009 members meeting. The results of that meeting, in the eyes of the CIS board, was a call to action. Theresa Hanson (director of varsity sports at UBC) told me that in her opinion, the results of the April members meeting were inconclusive at best, only reaffirming that the NCAA was a divisive subject. Nevertheless, the motion that finally came from the CIS is board was:

CIS members are not permitted to play in the NCAA in sports that are offered by CIS.

The first speaker was Dr. David Murphy, athletic Director of SFU. He said that the posturing coming from the CIS was that they are trying to go forward with strength and boldness, but when he looks at the motion it reeks of insecurity and protectionism. In sports, all the schools in the room are in the business of competition. Why, then, should the CIS be afraid of competition, rather than using it as a catalyst to step up their own game? He also brought up that in the academic realm, being worldly and looking globally is considered a virtue. It's recognized as a good thing to broaden people's education and this motion flies in the face of that idea. He added that he doesn't think the NCAA will ever result in a mass migration of schools and that SFU is a very special case. To him, this motion is simply a knee-jerk reaction to a perceived threat.

The response from Katie Sheahan (Concordia) was that she didn't think this motion was borne out of a defensive reaction, but instead that it is the responsible thing to do since the NCAA has the potential to seriously damage the financial health of the CIS. She also held the view that Dr. Murphy had oversimplified the issue and that the CIS board truly feels that the motion reflects the feelings of members at the April 2009 meeting.

Ivan Joseph (Ryerson) then expressed his view that the CIS's "destination of choice" mantra was more about keeping Canadian student athletes in Canada, not necessarily in the CIS. In that sense, this motion would not help that goal. To him, allowing institutions to have more options would also give Canadian student-athletes more options, hopefully keeping more of them in Canada.

Gord Grace (Windsor) brought up an interesting point that CIS membership is separate from membership in the regional associations (AUS, QSSF, OUA and Canada West). His example was thus: supposing Windsor joined the NCAA and were prohibited from being CIS members, they would still be allowed to do all their league play in the OUA. In theory, Windsor's football team could end up winning the OUA championship, but be ineligible to play in the Vanier Cup because Windsor was not in the CIS. If something like that were to ever occur, it would be embarrassing.

Ken Schildroth (York) asked why this motion applied only to the NCAA and not the NAIA.

Dick White responded that the CIS board felt there was a clear distinction between the NCAA and the NAIA in terms of how powerful their brands are. The NAIA does not pose a big threat to the CIS, but the NCAA does due to their extremely high level of recognition. As a result they didn't think it was appropriate to lump them together.

Theresa Hanson (UBC) had the floor next and acknowledged that the NCAA issue is extremely complex, but that one of the great things about the CIS has been its respect for the autonomy of the individual institutions. If UBC ultimately decides that the NCAA is best, UBC's autonomy should be respected.

Clint Hamilton (UVic, incoming CIS president) wanted to make it clear that the CIS board has been devoting a lot of time to this issue and has been taking it quite seriously. Through the entire process, he has repeatedly heard how it's good for institutions, but has never heard any argument about why it's good for the CIS. The board wants to do what's best for the CIS, and the evidence seems to show it would be damaging to CIS from a number of angles (ex. sponsorship, marketing, recruiting) by allowing a stronger brand to get a foothold here.

Dick White (Regina, outgoing CIS president) then acknowledged that the motion may appear to be protectionist, but in his opinion that would only be true if this was done in isolation. To him, it's just one part of a bigger campaign to strengthen the CIS. Allowing the NCAA to enter Canada would put the CIS in a position of weakness and the fact that schools want to put some of their sports in the NCAA and some in the CIS says to him that the CIS is viewed merely a league of convenience. He also stated that he didn't think this is an issue of autonomy since there are many instances where people give up autonomy. He encouraged everyone to support the motion and thought it was one of the most important motions in a number of years

Pat Murray (CIS VP Marketing) pointed out that they just want schools to show commitment to the CIS; that you're either in or you're out.

David Murphy (SFU) took the floor again to express his worry that there may be a lot of misinformation out there and that SFU's move to the NCAA won't be painless for anyone involved, including SFU. They just support the ability to choose. Rather than trying to shut out competition, the CIS just needs to learn to adapt and will ultimately be successful.

Marg McGregor (CIS CEO) then took the opportunity to respond to a number of point that had been raised. She acknowledged that the CIS was being protective of their interests and that they were doing so in the best interests of the CIS, stating unequivocally, "I make no apologies for trying to protect the CIS." She also acknowledged that choice is important at the institutional level, but that everyone also needs to take the national interests into account. On the topic of looking globally, she said that the CIS already has rules in place about foreign players, so recognizing and protecting Canadian interests is nothing new. She ended by warning that if the motion was defeated, it would make the CIS a weak and vulnerable organization.

The last word went to Leo MacPherson (St. FX) who said that his institution, and all those Atlantic Canada, were largely ambivalent about this issue since there was no threat of losing AUS members to the NCAA. He urged every school who felt ambivalent about this motion to show their support to the CIS board and vote in favour.

Phew. So there you have it. I was quite surprised that UBC did not speak up more, or offer a more compelling argument than the need for institutional autonomy. (Bob Philip was not present to give his take: he had to fly back to Vancouver earlier in the day.) However, at the same time, I kinda doubt it would have made any difference. It really seemed like everyone had made up their mind beforehand; no one was about to be swayed either way by the arguments put forth. That comes as no surprise. That's the pattern you see whenever you talk about the NCAA in Canada.

The two discussion periods that followed were about Athletic Financial Aid (AFA) and partnering with the CCAA. I won't go into to much detail, suffice it to say that it seems unlikely that there will be any significant movement on the AFA front in the near future. They are going to 'explore' a flexible scholarship model, but the AFA committee did a survey of schools and found that there is little traction for major changes to AFA policy.

In the afternoon of day 2 is when the voting finally occurred (like I said, AGM structure is a bit odd where discussion and voting happen separately). For the record:
CIS members are not permitted to play in the NCAA in sports that are offered by CIS.

For: 55 Against: 20
CIS members are not permitted to play in the NAIA in sports that are offered by CIS, unless they also compete in that sport within CIS, effective September 2011.

For: 64 Against: 19
CIS support in principle the exploration of a flexible scholarship model in concert with striking a Board Task Force to do further study and review to address the challenges and issues that CIS members have identified.


The AFA motion is pretty toothless, but the NAIA motion has the potential to further complicate things for UBC. Theresa Hanson identified Cross Country as the sport it would affect most.

So what's next for UBC on the NCAA front? As far as I can tell, not much. Trying to get some clarity on accreditation seems to be the only major outstanding issue that needs to be addressed. (Of course, I still consider the distribution of funds from the athletic fee, and the structure and transparency of UBC Athletics major outstanding issues that need to be addressed - but I am probably alone on that.)

What will be helpful over the next year is that SFU, apparently completely undeterred by the accreditation requirement, already submitted their application. Over the next year, UBC will be able to simply watch from the sidelines to see how the application process unfolds. During that time, it may be possible to reach the point where nothing except careful deliberation is standing in the way of hearing the outcome. However, I'm not sure anyone is in a hurry to get there quite yet.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

AMS Council: June 17, 2009

AMS council tonight. Highlights:

  • Provincial Elections campaign budget revealed
  • Executive quarterly reports released
  • Student Court appointments

It's a proxy party tonight. Low turnout, lots of substitutes. Leftover food also means a weird dinner combination: Pi-R-Squared with smoked salmon appetizers.

CASA Conference Recap

First up was a presentation to recap the recent CASA policy conference in Calgary. However, the presentation by Blake and Tim, which lasted just shy of forever, spent a lot of time outlining a laundry list of complaints about CASA, all of which have been brought up before. Less time was devoted to what actually occurred at the conference. Summary: Tim and Blake don't like CASA. I would also suspect CASA doesn't like Tim and Blake.

Some division within the executive was made apparent immediately when Tom Dvorak stated that CASA sent a letter addressing the AMS's concerns in late April and that this letter was not shared with other executives or council. Hmmm.

Plenty of boring discussion (if you really care, I can send you notes), but the quote of the night came from Bijan:

"When students go to conferences, they like to have sex. There's something about having sex with someone you'll never see again that's exciting.”

I could put it in context, but it's so much better without it. Another great quote came from Jeremy McElroy, who noticed Blake's constant negativity about CASA and asked: Did you have any fun in Ottawa?

In a show of more executive division, Johannes questioned where the numbers came from which outlined the cost of being CASA members, saying that the actual cost is much lower than claimed by Blake and Tim.

Lots of discussion; not much concrete came out of it, other than that documents need to be made available to everyone, and not hoarded. Also, this will continue to be an issue this year.

Provincial Election Campaign Presentation

Tim got up and gave a recap of the provincial election campaign that he ran. While there were successes including lot of work put into awareness and over 500 voters registered by the AMS, the most hotly anticipated part of this presentation was the budget for this campaign.

For background, I'll refer you again to this Ubyssey editorial as well as a related radical beer tribune post. You can also read the recap from two council meetings ago about how part of this campaign was botched. And, as was confirmed tonight, it was at no small expense.

Without further ado, here is the budget breakdown:

[no idea why the huge gap is here]

Printing Costs3,652.92
Ads in 24 Hrs18,484.28
Bus Ads3, 715.25
Design Services445.70
Hand Stamps33.89

The ads in 24 Hrs (the newspaper) are absolutely mind-blowing. Geoff Costeloe was particularly enraged over this, calling it a crazy waste of money. I... concur.

Personally I also took issue with the fact that it took $2,600 to build this webiste. Andrew Carne pointed out that it was based on Wordpress. I just buried my head in my hands at that point. Still, nothing compared to the money wasted on ads in 24 Hrs.

The budget is the subject of a Ubyssey article, but here's the bottom line: it was a waste of money.

Executive Remarks

  • Blake's Broadcast: 1st Quarterly Report available here; everything is in there.

  • VP External: 1st Quarterly Report available here; went to CASA conference; over 300 applications received for U-Pass subsidy; Translink is running "Be Part of the Plan", encourage everyone to participate; looking forward to external policy committee meeting

  • VP Academic: 1st Quarterly Report available here; met with residence coordinator at UWaterloo, want to not only increase residence space but also its relevance; met with Michelle Aucoin about Olympics issues; hired student court; remodeled offices; working on TA training, university has allocated funding for it; met with fraternity and sorority representatives; reinstated University Commission

  • VP Finance: 1st Quarterly Report available here; AVP Catherine Metrycki did a lot of work to get a lot of stuff online; orientation for clubs with how to navigate AMS finance; looking at marketing for the upcoming year; attended alumni association retreat regarding alumni centre; looking at online payment systems to enable clubs to process credit card payments for memberships or events; Business Operations Committee is looking at Point-Of-Sale options, and AMS businesses contributed $1,114,981 to the AMS last year; preliminary budget prepped, found deficit, looking at budget reductions; budget will be presented next council meeting.

  • VP Admin: 1st Quarterly Report available here; met with student development about proposed renovations to Brock Hall; hired assistant

  • ECSS: missed this, but 1st Quarterly Report available here

Some Appointments-review stuff about salaries passed

Student Court Appointments

  • Emmanuelle Frederic – Chief Justice
  • Sara Askari – Judge
  • Feruza Abdajalieva – Judge
  • Alexander Cooke – Judge
  • Wilfred Chan – Judge
  • Adam Flanders – Alternate Judge
  • Jordan Snel – Alternate Judge
  • Constance Chan - Clerk

Conflict of Interest Motion

A motion came to council which would have required any member of council who also serves as a director of an organization which the AMS conducts business with to remove themselves from any In Camera sessions of council dealing with the other organization.

The goal appears to be the exclusion of UBC BoG reps, specifically Bijan, from In Camera sessions. However, while BoG is the most obvious example, there are probably other people on council who would also be affected by this and would also be required to sit out of In Camera sessions from time to time.

This was a Matt Naylor motion, who was not present tonight. His proxy, Alex Lougheed, did not feel comfortable motivating the motion since it was not his. It was eventually sent to Code and Policy. Should be interesting to see if this comes back to council sometime in the future.

Olympics Motion

Bijan brought a motion to invite Michelle Aucoin, who is in charge of Olympics stuff at UBC to present at the next council meeting for an hour. There should have been no discussion about this, but there was some. This also should have never been a motion in the first place, but it was. (Council doesn't need to pass motions to invite people to present to council.) Anyways, next meeting, look forward to an hour of Olympics presentation/discussion.

Committee Appointments

  • Fundraising and Sponsorship Committee: John MacLean

Dave Tompkins: "Like the guy from Die Hard?" (Different speling, unfortunately. Dave looked it up on IMDB as a distraction from council.)

  • External Policy Committee: Dusty C.

Next meeting: July 8.


Friday, June 12, 2009

CIS restricts dual membership with NCAA

The Ubyssey-edited version of this can be found at

Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS), the organization which governs high-performance athletics at Canadian universities, sent a bold message to schools looking to join the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) at their annual general meeting on Thursday. Voting 55-20 in favour, CIS members instituted a policy which places stringent restrictions on schools who pursue membership in both the CIS and the NCAA. Under the new rule, member schools are only allowed to play in the NCAA in sports not offered by the CIS.

“The NCAA is a gigantic, multi-sport business entity and quite frankly the CIS is not. So we believe that it could be a threat to the existence of CIS and we reacted accordingly,” said Dick White, University of Regina athletic director and outgoing CIS president. “I hope it at least creates some pause for thought, but I also understand that the school and its athletic director and its president will ultimately make a decision which they think is best.”

The two schools in question are UBC and SFU, the only CIS members who have openly expressed interest in the NCAA. SFU's senior athletic director Dr. David Murphy spoke passionately against the membership restrictions during the meeting, arguing that it “reeks of insecurity and protectionism,” and that the CIS shouldn't shy away from competition, but rather use it as an opportunity to better itself and grow stronger. Dr. Murphy expressed his regret that the new rule was adopted, but that SFU's plans are already in motion:“The [NCAA] application form is in. We wait, and we find out in July whether or not we have been accepted.”

For UBC, which deferred its decision regarding NCAA application until at least 2010, this provides one more piece of the puzzle. Uncertainty over what action, if any, the CIS would take regarding dual membership has long been one of the sticking points in the university's consideration of NCAA membership. While the new rule is not an outright ban on dual membership, it essentially makes the pursuit of the NCAA an all-or-nothing proposal since the pool of sports offered by the NCAA but not by the CIS is very narrow.

“We're not saying 'you can't join',” explained CIS CEO Marg McGregor. “UBC and SFU and any university that wants to can join. But as a result of that, we will not be the league of convenience. We want to be the league of choice.”

The issue of personal choice was indeed one of the key reasons UBC opposed the new rule. “I speak in favour of dual membership because I believe it does provide universities choices,” said Theresa Hanson, director of varsity athletics at UBC. “From a dual membership perspective, we could still make a commitment to CIS sport, continue some sports in Canada as well as move a considerable number of sports to the NCAA.”

UBC and SFU were not the only schools to oppose the new rule, with a handful of other schools also expressing their disapproval. Ivan Joseph of Ryerson opposed the change because he thought allowing dual membership would enable more Canadian athletes to stay at Canadian schools. Jennifer Brenning from Carleton was also opposed, pointing to the fact that the CIS now has three different sets of dual membership rules depending on whether you want to play in the NCAA, the NAIA, or the CCAA. Before this year, the CIS had no policy at all on dual membership.

While uncertainty surrounding dual membership has finally come to an end, the result doesn't make UBC's NCAA decision any easier. One of the biggest issues, academic accreditation, remains unresolved and Theresa Hanson acknowledges that the closer you examine the issue of NCAA membership, the more complex it becomes.“I think it provides more challenges, the outcome, but I really think that [Toope] will make a decision that's in the best interests of the university and of our student athletes.”