The CIS needs the Carleton Ravens

(Photo by Elli Garlin)

(Photo by Elli Garlin)

The Ontario University Athletics (OUA) Final Four Wilson Cup at the beginning of March displayed some of the best men’s basketball in the province, and arguably in the country.

The Carleton Ravens came out on top, and went on to the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) men’s basketball championship to defeat fellow OUA team, the Lakehead Thunderwolves in the final.

The last OUA-qualifying team — the Ottawa Gee-Gees — captured the national bronze medal.

And now that the men’s basketball season has come to an end in a way that nearly everyone predicted, the same argument becomes more prevalent around the university basketball world.

Should the Carleton Ravens leave the Canadian university ranks and join the NCAA?

It’s not the first time this argument has been thrown around. It’s been on the discussion table for a few years now. But with Carleton’s men’s basketball team winning their record-setting ninth national championship this year, it’s hard not to add in an opinion.

First let me start off by saying that the Carleton Ravens are by far the best men’s basketball team that has touched the OUA – and evidently the CIS – in modern-day history. They have done everything possible to make their mark in Canada, and rightfully deserve the credit they have been given.

But do I think they should join the NCAA? Probably not.

It’s not that I don’t think they’d compete. In 2011, Simon Fraser University in B.C, became the first institution outside of the United States to be officially admitted into the program. Their soccer team has always excelled, and this year, SFU’s women’s swimming team, women’s indoor track and field team and men’s wrestling team won national championships. Despite what many likely think, Canadian institutions can compete with their southern partners.

But the issue goes far beyond whether or not the Ravens would actually be able to excel. It comes down to what they do for Canadian sport.

The CIS has had enough trouble keeping Canadian student athletes in Canada. There have been endless amounts of athletes recruited to schools down south because of the reputation given to the NCAA. Consequently, you see much of Canada’s talent run away as well.

With a team like the Ravens’ men’s basketball team, Canadian institutions can be seen as competitive at a high calibre of sport. Recruitment becomes easier and it can mirror the facets that the CIS has to offer.

Put simply, Canadian university sport needs the Carleton Ravens.

Canadian sport needs more teams like the Ravens. The more institutions that fund more programs and put the effort into becoming more competitive, the more reputable sport will become and therefore can give Canada more credit for its emphasis on university sport.

Take this year, for instance. There was growing competition across the country in multiple sports. The Atlantic University Sport (AUS) conference swept the national men’s hockey final, with the University of  New Brunswick Varsity Reds defeating the Saint Mary’s Huskies to take home their fourth University Cup in seven years.

In women’s hockey, the OUA final featured the Queen’s Gaels and the Western Mustangs — a growing competition against the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks, who, before this year, had won the provincial championship eight times in nine years. Out west, the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds shocked the Calgary Dinos in the Canada West final to be named champions. And Québec’s own, Montréal Carabins, shocked the nation when they won their first national title since the resurgence of their program in 1995.

Pierre Lafontaine was named the new CEO of the CIS in January. The first thing placed on his to-do list was addressing the growing merge of the CIS and the NCAA. He says there needs to be emphasis on the building of the CIS brand before considering any moves of mixing the CIS and NCAA.

Teams like the Carleton men’s basketball help the CIS grow a solid foundation where Canadian university sport has a strong, reputable program throughout the nation. Teams like the Ravens help prove that Canadian institutions are equally capable of producing top tier athletes.

If we keep sending our best teams to the NCAA, how will we ever be proud to be part of Canadian sport?

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