OUA votes in favour of financial awards

First-year athletes will receive up to $3,500

In a press release on May 10, Ontario University Athletics announced that, starting in 2007, all Ontario universities will be able to give financial awards to first year-student athletes with averages of 80 percent or better. Ontario is the last province in Canada to allow the awards.

“We wanted to bring ourselves more closely in line [with the rest of Canada] in terms of entering first-year awards,” said incoming OUA president, Dr. Lorne Adams.

In January of this year, the OUA commissioned a task force made up of the athletic directors from five Ontario schools: Dr. Lorne Adams of Brock, Therese Quigley of McMaster, Luc Jelineau of the University of Ottawa, Gord Grace of Windsor, and John McFarlane of Queen’s.

The mandate of the task force is to survey Ontario schools to discover what are the most pressing issues regarding financial awards. The greatest concern was that of first-year scholarships, Dr. Adams said.

“This task force is really an ongoing project,” he added, saying that gender equity and award amounts are still to be discussed.

Currently the limit set for first-year athletic scholarships in Ontario is $3,500. Adams said that the committee is still looking into whether or not that number should be altered.

He said he believes that this decision will level the playing field for coaches trying to recruit top athletes from across the country.

“We can make offers we couldn’t before,” he said. Ontario coaches often complain that they are at a disadvantage when trying to entice prospective students.

The decision was made by a vote of 16-3 in favour of the motion. Only Trent, Waterloo and Windsor were opposed.

Adams said that since the announcement he has received very little negative feedback.

“The press that we’ve received from that point on has been very positive,” he said.

However, despite the fact that Ontario has joined the other provinces in its ability to give money to first-year athletes, there are still some significant discrepancies between Ontario and the rest of the country.

Schools outside Ontario are permitted to offer incoming student athletes the full value of tuition as well as selected expenses paid.

Adams said that even within Ontario the size of athletics budgets can vary dramatically from school to school.

He said that over the past year the University of Ottawa awarded over $200,000 in upper-year athletic scholarships where most other schools could not come anywhere close to that number.

What does this mean for Queen’s athletics? The coaches of two of Queen’s’ most prominent varsity teams have different views.

“This has been a long time coming,” said football coach Pat Sheahan.

He said he believes that student athletes make tremendous sacrifices to compete for their schools and they deserve some financial help.

Many varsity teams require their athletes to train year-round, and often return to Queen’s for training camps weeks before the beginning of the academic year. He said that they should be able to receive awards to compensate for lost summer earnings.

Sheahan said he feels that athletes make a major contribution to the university community and should be rewarded for that.

“Athletic excellence getting to the winner’s circle, is obviously something important to universities,” he said.

He also cited the substantial cost players must pay in order to compete at the varsity level.

“It shouldn’t cost them money to compete for Queen’s,” he said.

He said he feels that this decision is a positive step for athletics in Ontario and that Queen’s can only benefit from it.

Men’s basketball coach Rob Smart has a very different take on the issue.

“In the short term [the decision] makes things a bit harder,” he said.

He said there will still be significant discrepancies between universities with regards to how much money each one can afford to give athletes.

Smart said that he feels the inequality of the types of awards each province is permitted to give is a problem, but doesn’t feel that this decision is the solution.

He said that schools throughout the rest of the country, especially the Canada West division of the CIS, can still offer much more tempting scholarships to prospective students.

He added that every scholarship of $3,500 must be endowed by the university. This means that the amount of the award to be given needs to be only 10-15 percent of the school’s awards budget so that each award can be paid out of the interest of the principal amount. This is to ensure that the awards can continue from year to year.

“If we want to give $3,500 we must have $70,000 in the bank,” Smart said.

He said it would be unrealistic to expect Queen’s to give out even a few of these awards at this time.

Even so, he said he hopes that, in the long run, it will be a positive thing for Queen’s and for the rest of Ontario.

Adams said that the OUA task force will continue to address the issues that affect Ontario student athletes and their schools.

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