CIS repatriation rule designed to keep top athletes in Canada

Are the UVic Vikes a destination for disgruntled Canadians playing in the NCAA?

As a desirable school with plenty of successful sports teams the University of Victoria could see a bump in NCAA student-athletes transferring here for the 2014 fall season.

This week the Canadian Interuniversity Sport axed one of its strictest rules and removed the one-year penalty for Canadian athletes who transfer to a Canadian university from the NCAA.

The one-year sit out penalty was originally put in place to prevent Canadians from taking the risk and going to the NCAA. But it isn’t effective, said UVic Vikes director of athletics and recreation Clint Hamilton, a former CIS president.

The CIS also opened the door this week to increased scholarship packages for student-athletes, which will be explored through a pilot project that allows CIS women’s ice hockey programs to offer greater athletic scholarship packages. Instead of being limited to tuition and compulsory fees, as all CIS athletes are, women’s hockey programs can offer to cover room, board and books, as the NCAA does.

The pilot goes hand in hand with the repatriation rule, and both were a long time coming, Hamilton said.

“These rules send a strong signal to Canadians who’ve chosen to attend U.S. destinations. Canada West and UVic are strong supporters to create conditions for top Canadian athletes to pursue their post-secondary at Canadian institutions.”

Hamilton was a co-chair of the Canada West task force that was created a few years ago for this purpose. While he admits it’s ironic UVic doesn’t have a women’s hockey team – and no, there are no plans for UVic varsity expansion, he affirmed – Hamilton says the women’s hockey situation was an obvious choice because so many of its players went to U.S. schools.

As for the increased scholarship packages, they will be limited in that the team will still be under the same cap, though it will have flexibility in how it allocates its money to players. Canadians can finally get a “full ride” scholarship here in their own country.

The task force is not done yet, either, said Hamilton.

“We’re moving towards other types of things we can do to ensure Canadian student athletes want to attend Canadian schools.”

As for the potential bumper crop of Canadians transferring from the NCAA this year, Vikes men’s basketball coach Craig Beaucamp is unsure.

“It’s a double-edged sword, I’m not opposed to (the repatriation) as the hope is you get a few kids back,” Beaucamp said.

Beaucamp won’t recruit Canadians already enrolled at NCAA schools though If they contact him he is open to the possibility.

“There’s a high percentage of students who don’t have a successful career down there, so we may see a bit of a bump back.”

There will likely be a few Vikes athletes who lose their spot either next year or in the coming years because of the changes. Hamilton understands, but it’s a casualty of the process.

“Our coaches are held accountable to recruit (top student athletes). When it comes to our rosters were looking to sport the best student-athletes we can,” Hamilton said.

Beaucamp isn’t against the repatriation but he is realistic that it doesn’t fix the original problem.

“Will there be an annual flow of Canadians coming back? Not necessarily. You’ve got a few factors. Students can now go down (to the NCAA) without worry about wasting a year.”

sports@vicnews.com

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