Should CIS schools offer full athletic scholarships?

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Journal File Photo

 Yes: Adam Laskaris


As the great football coach Vince Lombardi once said: “If winning isn’t everything, why do they keep score?”

Sports are meant to be competitive, but restrictions on the amount Canadian schools can spend on their athletes hinders competition. 

For any top-end Canadian talent looking to play at the university level, the dream is almost always the same: that an American school offers them a chance to play their sport for free under a scholarship.

For many, this can even mean moving down south for a year or two of high school to play their sport there, just for the chance to get noticed.

There’s a major reason why this phenomena occurs: full-ride scholarships (complete coverage of all university and living fees) aren’t a reality in the Canadian athletic culture, and that’s a shame.

It’s a major story when talents like Kingston-based basketball player Bridget Mulholland turn down American offers to come to a school like Queen’s, because in truth the quality of competition is much higher in the US. 

While it’s true that partial scholarships and academic incentives exist, if playing in Canada is going to be considered an acceptable option for top-end university athletes, the option of offering full scholarships must be actualized. 

Canadian fans can support the NHL, MLS, NBA and the MLB, even if the latter two have just a single team in each league. So why can’t we try harder to build a more competitive universityathletic culture?

It’s not a be-all, end-all solution, but if there’s money to be spent to improve the quality of players, spend it in hopes of creating a higher-quality league.

Few CIS teams, in any sport, find themselves able to compete with their American university counterparts. 

Of course, there’s a larger population to go to the highest-quality athletic programs, but when top Canadian athletes are always looking to emigrate away from home, it’s further proof that the CIS is a step behind.

With Queen’s funding over $20 million to the revitalization of Richardson Stadium, it would be a wonder to see what kind of talent they’d snag if they were allowed to spend that on their athletes.

Not every athlete’s going to get a full-ride scholarship, of course, but the option should be there for the athletic departments willing to pay.

The CIS may never be the NCAA, but it should at least do its best to get as close as possible.

No: Joseph "Journal Joe" Cattana 

In an ideal world, offering full scholarships sounds great, but it’s just not feasible.

One of my biggest complaints about trying to fund scholarships is that the economic standing for full scholarships in Canada is simply not there.

In 2013, the CIS signed a six-year agreement with Sportsnet for the multiplatform rights to an all-encompassing portfolio of university sports across television, online and mobile.

With this deal, the goal was to air as many as 27 CIS events annually. For the 2015 Vanier Cup, only 301,000 people tuned in to watch the biggest spectacle in Canadian university sports, a 64 per cent decline from the year before.

In the NCAA — where full scholarships are offered — the College Football Playoff National Championship garnered just about 30 million viewers at home, with 545,000 streaming at home.

The general lack of interest in university sports will keep Canadian schools from offering full scholarships.

Though we’re dealing with completely different markets, college sports on campuses across Canada mostly come off as a novelty, rather than the obsession they cause south of the border.

At Queen’s alone, the only game of the year that sells out is Homecoming. Students are willing to sleep outside the ARC to get free tickets to watch the Gaels play. But at Duke University, for example, students will line up for days and will pay for one single ticket to watch the Blue Devils play anyone on the schedule.

This year, The Journal had the pleasure of covering the CIS Women’s Rugby National Championship. Even though the Gaels were going to make a deep run in the tournament, it wasn’t until they reached the final that students finally showed up. With the games played on Nixon Field, you would think that the stands would be packed, but instead, because of the $8 admission fee, most students stayed away.

Michigan University, meanwhile, sold out the away students section against Penn State at $100 a ticket for a football game last season.

For schools to start funding these athletes, they will need more lucrative contract deals. Ohio State recently signed a 15-year, $262-million deal with Nike. Here in Kingston, we can’t even get fans to pay $25 a year for football season tickets.

The athletic talent is coming to Canada, but the following is still behind.

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