A very interesting story came out yesterday that hasn't received a ton of coverage to date. Vancouver radio station CKNW reported that Simon Fraser University's athletic program has been placed on probation by Canada West for the 2009-10 season. Unlike NCAA probation, this move won't affect SFU teams and their quest for regional and national titles. However, it does remove SFU's vote on conference decisions. More importantly, it leaves them in limbo for next season (2010-11), the year before they're scheduled to join the NCAA's Division II (for the 2012 year).
Sandy Slavin, the president of Canada West and the director of athletics at the University of Lethbridge, told CKNW the decision was made thanks to SFU's plan to join the NCAA.
"We don't believe they have a vested interest in our business any more and they shouldn't be voting," she said.
She said they decided to avoid measures that would penalize SFU's teams this year, though.
"At this point, doing anything that would affect Simon Fraser's ability to fully compete in '09-10, we felt was very unfair to the student athletes," she said.
This seems pretty logical. SFU doesn't seem to have a vested interest in the future of Canada West beyond the 2010-11 season. When the original decision to join the NCAA was made, there was some speculation about splitting SFU's teams between the NCAA and CIS (as they currently do with CIS and the NAIA), but that seems to have withered; CKNW's piece says "Beginning with the 2011-12 season, all of the SFU varsity teams will compete in the NCAA's Division II Great Northwest Athletic Conference." Thus, if they're not going to have teams in CIS competition beyond 2011, it would seem to make sense to exclude them from voting on CIS decisions. It also appears logical to avoid competitive sanctions for this year; teams are already in action, athletes have chosen their schools and schedules have been set. Taking away SFU's ability to compete would have appeared a merely vindictive move, and one that would have hurt CIS.
Nothing's been decided on the eligibility of SFU's teams for next season, though, and that could be a very interesting debate. Would Canada West be willing to boot a prominent university like SFU from competition? If Canada West decides to kick them out, would they be able to join the NCAA early? What would happen to their teams and athletes? There are plenty of questions, but for now, the best answer comes from what SFU athletic director David Murphy told CKNW:
"Next year is rather up in the air right now."
[Cross-posted to The CIS Blog]