We’ve always liked Canada. It’s always reminded us a little like a colder, parallel-universe version of Minnesota, a place of which we have many fond childhood memories. It’s almost like being in the USA, but as Vincent Vega once said of Europe, it’s “the little things” that are different. Their football (or “football” as it’s called there) has three downs instead of four, for heaven’s sake - that’s crazy! They play a strange sport called iced-hockey, but allegedly have (an) NBA and MLB team of their own. They’re sports fans up there, just like us.
(Team name could use a little work.)
However, one thing that’s always been drastically different about the sporting cultures of the two countries is college sports. NCAA athletics are uniquely American in that they - at least in football and basketball - serve as revenue generators and pro sports feeder leagues as opposed to serving strictly as an arm of the universities they represent. That could all be starting to change, though, as Simon Fraser University in British Columbia is the first Canadian school to join the NCAA. S-E-C…Curling?
Well no, not exactly. According to SPORTS ILLUSTRATED:
A new option emerged on July 10, when the NCAA’s Division II admitted its first non-U.S. school, Simon Fraser in Burnaby, B.C., for a transitional period with the ability to become a full member in 2012-13. Division II made the decision to geographically balance its membership, particularly in the West generally and in the Northwest for football. For now, neither Division I nor Division III is considering opening its membership internationally, and with only a handful of Canadian schools considering Division II, the concept of a North American Collegiate Athletic Association is far-fetched.
OK, the PAC-10 this is not. As the article points out, the move makes sense from a geographic perspective; it’s a lot easier to get to Seattle from B.C. than it is to get to Montreal. And Simon Fraser has been competing internationally for years; we were once on a flight to Chicago with the SFU softball team. Globalization ain’t just for multinational corporations anymore!
However, from an academics issue - and we’re talking Division II so we can still talk academics with a straight face - it raises a couple of interesting questions. The NCAA is notoriously draconian when it comes to approving incoming freshmen’s transcripts. More than one Division I athlete’s career has been derailed because of a high school course not fitting the very narrow guidelines for admission. If the NCAA requires, say, a certain number of American history classes in high school, how will this affect Canadian athletes?
Undoubtedly, these issues will be worked out as Simon Fraser winds its way through the NCAA’s provisions for membership. We just hope they hurry; the NCAA needs to find someone that the Big Ten can beat in a bowl game.