“Two different beasts” The overwhelming difference between university sports in Canada compared to America

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While one constant has remained, both USports and the NCAA have taken drastically different approaches towards competition in their leagues. 

As we are still in the midst of a pandemic and COVID-19 cases continue to rise, reaching record high numbers in several states across America as well as provinces across Canada, USports has cancelled their championships and their conferences have halted play. 

The NCAA on the other hand has pushed through with their football leagues and will enter week 12 this weekend in what has been a rocky season. In addition, NCAA basketball is set to begin play next week barring any last-minute changes, which many experts and some coaches are calling for. 

There are a variety of elements that benefit the NCAA over USports. The cancellation by the OUA in Ontario and USports across Canada was expected while the issue surrounding university sports, specifically football and basketball in America was much more complex. 

As Laurier men’s basketball coach, Justin Serresse says, the OUA and NCAA are simply “two different beasts.” 

The NCAA is a billion-dollar sports enterprise much different than that of the OUA or USports. A variety of factors can be pointed to in explaining the massive difference between university sports across Canada and America, however it really comes down to money and interest. 

The NCAA is much more lucrative than USports in the sense that millions of people watch college football or basketball in the United States. 

It is important to note that America is a much larger country, however the support for university sports is much larger as thousands of people, especially in southern states are deeply connected to college football. Millions of people across the globe tune into the annual March Madness basketball tournament, which generates billions of dollars in revenue for the league. 

While university sports in Canada has made great strides in developing talent and putting money into the production of their leagues over the past few decades it still falls gravely in comparison to the NCAA. 

“The NCAA, we know how big that business is and how much money there is on the back[end]. The OUA is not quite there yet and I don’t know if they will ever get there,” Serresse said. 

Serresse points to the number of sponsors that the NCAA deals, the revenue that the league brings in and the massive television contracts which makes the OUA lack in comparison. 

Head football coach Michael Faulds agrees with his fellow coach, as he believes money was the sole reason that university athletics are still competing in America. 

“I would argue that if there weren’t for TV deals for NCAA programs, that they wouldn’t be able to have a season.” 

In 2016, the NCAA signed an $8.8 billion TV deal with CBS and Turner to extend the broadcasting partnership until 2032. That contract alone strikingly tells the difference between university sports here compared to south of the border. 

In addition to revenue and sponsorships, the NCAA is also awarded with a plethora of resources and can implement stringent protocols, while the OUA would not have the capacity to do the same. 

“The college football teams down there; their players are getting tested every single day. All 100 players. I just do not foresee that as very doable at this point for the OUA,” Faulds said. 

While the robust testing and enhanced protocols have helped the NCAA compete and play through their schedule, they, like many other sectors of society, have not been able to avoid this pandemic. 

College football this year has dealt with an unprecedented amount of cancellations. This past week, the NCAA cancelled about 30 per cent of the games scheduled to be played, which moves their tally to 73 postponements or cancellations over the past two months. 

Notable players and coaches including hall of fame Crimson Tide coach, Nick Saban and projected first overall pick, Trevor Lawrence to name a couple, have tested positive for COVID-19 throughout the course of this season. While many teams were allowing a partial capacity at their games, a lot of the school’s departments have reversed course given the spike in cases. 

There is still a substantial number of teams who have had multiple of their games postponed and a handful of teams who are still dealing with coronavirus outbreaks. 

These are some of the risks that the NCAA took when they decided to conduct a shortened football season this fall. These incidents will surely occur with college basketball teams as well, which is why hall of fame coach, Rick Pitino sounded the alarm last week. 

“Save the Season. Move the start back… Spiking and protocols make it impossible to play right now,” Pitino tweeted out over the weekend. 

“We’ve seen major college football games being cancelled and it’s kind of become the norm,” Faulds echoed. 

The NCAA knowingly undertook these health and safety risks, and although 73 games have been postponed, fans have watched with excitement from home and live from the stands. We have seen sports leagues struggle but also persevere through this unusual pandemic-riddled year and the NCAA is hoping that many of these schools can control the outbreaks. 

The OUA on the other hand decided to avoid these inevitable risks and bite the bullet, outright cancelling the 2020-21 season. While this avoids the cancellations and risk of cases spreading across campus, it also has adverse effects on the student-athletes across Ontario and individuals working around each school department. 

The OUA knows that they will need to return to competition next year and for them it is a matter of drafting a plan to execute these games in a safe and competitive manner. 

While the NCAA continues to adapt on the fly to ensure a completion to their football season and a promising start to their basketball season, the OUA is exploring the possibility of exhibition games for the winter term. 

Comparing the two leagues is almost not fair, it is essentially a David versus Goliath comparison, as the NCAA is afforded much more resources and sits light years above the OUA financially. However, one thing remains constant as Serresse echoed and Faulds said, “no amount of money can stop this pandemic.”


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