I have to admit that the news that our fair sport of college basketball was adding an additional (provisional) member from north of the border caught me off-guard (been too busy trying to figure out what the NCAA is going to do with Renardo Sidney or how many guys are going to try to dunk on Jordan Crawford). Before all of the “States’ Rights” people start flaming the comment section with xenophobic rants, you should check out the article, which lays out the reasoning behind Simon Fraser University‘s decision to compete with American schools (essentially that it’s cheaper to travel to play American schools along the Pacific Coast than fly from British Columbia to the East Coast where most of the Canadian college teams are located). The NCAA’s decision allows the Clan (let’s hope they don’t have home white jerseys) to compete with provisional status, but they can become a full member in Fall 2012. I’m assuming that their provisional status precludes them from competing in postseason play, but they will still compete in regular season games against other teams in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference.
While the article by Joe Lemire makes it clear that we shouldn’t expect a sudden flood of Canadian college teams into the NCAA (or whatever they will have to call it), I would suspect that several other schools will explore the option. Although the entry of Canadian teams into American college sports will have a bigger effect on some sports than others (say goodbye to that NCAA hockey title Boston University), it could have a noticeable impact on college basketball. Competing at the NCAA level would mean that Canadian schools could offer full scholarships, which is something they cannot do under current CIS guidelines. This might be enough to entice some of Canada’s elite talent such as Texas recruit Tristan Thompson to stay within the country instead of heading to the US. Even though most fans would only be able to name Steve Nash if they were asked to list Canadian basketball players, our northern neighbors have also produced some notable players such as Jamaal Magloire, Bill Wennington, Greg Newton, and Todd MacCullough (ok, maybe it’s not that impressive) that might not have left Canada to play college basketball if they did not have restrictions on athletic scholarships at the time.
The more interesting question is whether or not the top Canadian teams that Lemire claims to be “the equivalent of low- to mid-level Division I schools” would join the NCAA. As Steve Konchalski (the “Canadian Coach K”) notes it would only really make sense for the top Canadian teams to aspire to compete at the Division I level. Would it be possible for one of these teams to sneak into the NCAA tournament? Could one of those teams eventually develop into a Gonzaga-level power? It seems unlikely, but movement by Canadian colleges into the NCAA would inevitably lead to some shuffling within conferences with Northern schools and potentially create some interesting rivalries (can’t wait for the first international incident between the Cameron Crazies and a Canadian school). At the very least it is something to keep an eye on in the next few years.