July 10, 2009

Simon Fraser University
Public Affairs/Media Relations (PAMR)

SFU first Canadian school in NCAA

In a historic return to its athletic roots, Simon Fraser University was approved today as the first non-U.S. member of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the world’s largest college sports organization.

Beginning with the 2011-12 season, after a two-year transition period, all of SFU’s Clan varsity teams will compete in the NCAA’s Division II in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC).

The Division II membership committee approved SFU’s application at its meeting today (Friday, July 10) at NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis IN.

"This is a first for a Canadian university, and it reflects SFU's long history of competing in U.S. varsity associations and conferences,” said SFU President Michael Stevenson.

“It means a high level of competition and challenge for our athletes. As has always been the case, our primary concern is that our athletes succeed as students. The NCAA has strong academic requirements and we will maintain the high academic standards that SFU has always demanded from all Clan teams.”

SFU now has 19 Clan teams competing in the small-college National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) in the U.S. and Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS). One, men’s wrestling, now competes in both NAIA and CIS.

GNAC includes nine full-member schools in Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana, and four football-only members in Washington, California, Utah and Oregon.

When Simon Fraser opened its doors in 1965, the Clan began competing in the NAIA. In 1997, however, many of SFU’s traditional NAIA rivals began moving their programs into the larger NCAA.

SFU applied to gain admittance under an exception based on its history of competing in the NAIA but the NCAA simply tabled the application. The association reopened the issue in 2007, and in January 2008 moved to allow Canadian institutions to pursue membership in Division II. There are three Divisions in the NCAA (I, II and III).

"I am extremely pleased with today’s decision,” said SFU’s senior director of athletics, David Murphy.

“It’s humbling to know we have been chosen as the first foreign university to compete in the NCAA as a member. I believe we are reaching back to the original intentions and philosophy of the university’s founders: to offer a great Canadian education with the ability to compete athletically in the NCAA."

Added Lorne Davies, SFU's legendary first athletics director: "It is the most important step in SFU athletic history. The athletics department is keeping in step with the university's commitment to provide excellence in education and athletics and to challenge our students and student athletes to be the best."

Jay Triano, head coach of the NBA Toronto Raptors and a former Clan basketball star and coach, said: “Competing in the United States is what, in my mind, separated SFU from the rest of Canada when I chose to attend the school as a student-athlete as well as when I began my coaching career there.

“To be the best, athletes need to compete against the best and I believe that by joining the NCAA, Simon Fraser University is putting themselves in a position to do just that. On top of that, the student athletes who attend SFU will also benefit from the world-class education that the school provides. As a proud alumnus, I couldn’t be happier for everyone involved.”

BACKGROUNDER

SFU will now go through a two-year “candidacy” period, then would become fully active in the 2011-12 season. While SFU is in its candidacy period it can continue to compete in both the NAIA and CIS.

The end-goal, as described by David Murphy, SFU’s senior director of athletics, is this: “SFU wishes to place all of our varsity sports where we will achieve the highest level of competition for all teams. In our pursuit of excellence we seek the very best competitive opportunities for our student athletes.”

In the 1990s, when many of SFU’s NAIA competitors moved to the NCAA, SFU was left as an “unaffiliated” member of the NAIA. This created scheduling and other logistical problems for many SFU teams still playing in the NAIA. For those playing in the CIS, additional costs and time required for travel to and from play in the CIS Canada West division became what Murphy calls “formidable”.



SFU’s historic U.S. competition now is largely in the NCAA Division II Great Northwest Athletic Conference that SFU is joining.



“Division II suits SFU’s size and approach and philosophy,” said Murphy. ‘Division II is right for us.”



There are limits on financial-aid awards to Division II athletes. Said Murphy: “Many Division II student-athletes pay for school through a combination of scholarship money, grants, student loans and what they can earn from jobs—just like any other students.”



As well, the NCAA has high standards for academic performance by member-athletes. It requires each school to have a Faculty Athletic Representative who is a professor and who oversees the compliance with the rules on academic eligibility and athletic financial awards.



Other NCAA academic safeguards require that each school must publish the athletes’ progress toward degree requirements, must publish their graduation rates, must establish a Student Athlete Advising Committee, and must conduct a study of the intercollegiate athletics program at least once every five years. NCAA coaches must log all athletic-related activity (e.g. practices, weight training etc.) to safeguard against an imbalanced athletic regimen. There are also recruiting restrictions imposed by the NCAA which protect prospective athletes from harassment.



One difference between the NCAA and the CIS is that the NCAA permits only four years of eligibility vs. five years in the CIS. But if coaches “red-shirt” a player (remove him or her from active playing) for a year, the athlete can still compete in their fifth year. While red-shirted, players do not accumulate time towards eligibility.



Murphy also notes that Division II athletics programs are financed from the university’s budget like any other academic department on campus. “Our estimates indicate that the net costs of NCAA membership for SFU will be slightly less than, or about the same as, our current situation with NAIA and CIS conference membership.”



The NCAA Division II is governed by a council of university/college presidents. SFU President Michael Stevenson will thus be involved with the governance of the NCAA and will be the lead for policy and procedure.



SFU has 19 Clan teams. One, men’s wrestling, now competes in both the NAIA and CIS.



The teams:



1. Men's Basketball (CIS)

2. Women's Basketball (CIS)

3. Men's Cross Country (NAIA)

4. Women's Cross Country (NAIA)

5. Men's Golf (NAIA)

6. Women's Golf (NAIA)

7. Football (CIS)

8. Men's Soccer (NAIA)

9. Women's Soccer (NAIA)

10. Softball (NAIA)

11. Men's Swimming (NAIA)

12. Women's Swimming (NAIA)

13. Men's Indoor Track and Field (NAIA)

14. Women's Indoor Track and Field (NAIA)

15. Men's Outdoor Track and Field (NAIA)

16. Women's Outdoor Track and Field (NAIA)

17. Volleyball (CIS)

18. Men's Wrestling (NAIA and CIS)

19. Women's Wrestling (CIS)

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