CIS: CIS Makes Big Eligibility and Scholarship Changes

The 26th of November may be forever ingrained in Canadian sports history. Yes, we all heard about the gigantic deal between Rogers and the NHL, and while that may have some repercussions in volleyball, another announcement was made that could potentially be a game changer in not only volleyball, but Canadian athletics as a whole.

Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS), announced yesterday a “trio” of motions approved by the 55 member institutions.

Those who want to read the CIS’ press release can do so here.

The first is the announcement of a brand new strategic plan, which is “based on values such as student-athlete experience, excellence, team work and ethics”.

This vague announcement, paired with how excited the CIS seems to be to present it, is really peaking our interest. It’s no secret that the CIS has forever been in the shadows to our brothers of the south and the endlessly funded NCAA. Men’s volleyball is probably one of the few, if not the only, sport where the level of play in the CIS and NCAA is more or less at par. While in women’s volleyball, there’s no doubt that our best athletes are leaving the country to go play in a league revered around the world. Is the CIS going to start trying to compete with the giant that is the NCAA?

Which brings us to their next announcement, the Eligibility Repatriation Rule. Canadians athletes who ventured to the US and didn’t enjoy the experience have always had to sit a year out before joining a new team in the CIS. Well this is no longer the case. Coming into effect in September of 2014, athletes wishing to return to Canada and compete at a CIS school will no longer have to sit out an entire year.

There’s no doubt we’re going to see an increase of athletes coming back to the CIS; there are bound to be a few athletes wishing to play in Canada and the only thing that’s stopping them is having no desire to take a step back form competition for year.

But knowing they have something to fall back on now with no consequence, are we going to see more athletes test the waters of the NCAA? In my opinion, the men are the one who may use this to their advantage. We may see a slight increase of women heading south, but that path is already well trodden, while the men might dip a toe of the waters just to see what it’s like. In 2012 we saw two top recruits Dany Demyanenko and Stephen turn down UCLA and Hawai’i respectively at the last minute in favour of McMaster, would their decision have been different if they knew they could come back a year later with no consequence?

Finally, the third, and one that could potentially change the entire attitude of the CIS is the Women’s Hockey Pilot Project. This is a five-year project that removes current restrictions associated with CIS athletic scholarships. Schools sporting a women’s hockey will be able to offer those athletes with additional money to cover room and board, as well as school books. All other sports will remain under the old system, and will only be able to provide scholarships that cover uniquely tuition and compulsory fees.

While it may still be a while off, but is the CIS taking its first full steps in fully supporting its athletes and allowing athletic departments to offer full-rides? It’s looking promising.

This trial period will be closely monitored for five-years, so it will be at least a half-decade until we see a another step being taken, but still, it is a start.