Is the NCAA Expanding into Canada?

Last Updated on June 5, 2014

According to the latest reports, Simon Fraser University, located in British Columbia, Canada may be the first full-fledged international member of the NCAA. After participating in the pilot-program for Canadian schools for the past several years, SFU is now the first university to come this close to full NCAA membership. If approved by the Division II President’s Council on August 9, SFU’s 17 sports could be competing in the NCAA within the month.

By becoming full members, SFU sports teams will be able to compete for regional and national titles and the school’s student-athletes will be eligible for athletic scholarships and all-America awards. This move will be used to pave the way for more international membership, both from Canadian and Mexican schools.

The only thing initially currently in between SFU and NCAA membership is accreditation status, as the NCAA currently requires that all member schools be accredited by a U.S. agency. At present, both the NCAA membership committee and its executive committee have voted to support a change in the constitutional language, which would allow SFU to become a member of the NCAA as long as it is actively seeking accreditation by one of the six accreditation programs in the U.S., and is in good standing in their own nations’s accreditation program.

An application for accreditation has been filed with the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCUU). The NWCUU is an accrediting agency for the Northwest U.S. region – mainly Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington.  Last fall, following the formal results from the NWCCU visit, Simon Fraser University had been cleared for Candidacy for Academic Accreditation status. This status indicates that the university has achieved initial recognition and is progressing towards accreditation. The process will be complete by 2017 at the earliest. Now, once the NCAA’s President Council approves the revised legislation, which it originally recommended, Simon Fraser University will be competing in the NCAA.

Simon Fraser has a history of playing against United States universities. From 1965-2001, it played in the small-college National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). However, when many of its opponents started leaving for the NCAA in the 1990s, SFU was left as an “unaffiliated” member of the NAIA. This then prompted Simon Fraser’s first attempt to join the NCAA, but it was turned down.

Consequently, Simon Fraser partially move to the Canadian Interuniversity Sport Canada West conference to avoid the scheduling and logistical problems created for the teams competing in the NAIA. However, depending on the sport, SFU has either continued playing in the NAIA or moved to CIS. As a part of the NCAA, Simon Fraser has been competing in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC) as a provisional member for the past two years. It has been eligible for GNAC championships for the past year. To better understand its progression from CIS to NCAA over the last few years, see this: NCAA Transition Timeline

In the GNAC, the distance between Simon Fraser and its furthest opponent, University of Alaska-Fairbanks is roughly 1400 miles, but the distance between Simon Fraser and its furthest opponent in Canada West, University of Manitoba, was only 1155 miles. In Football, the overall distance between SFU and its four opponents (Humboldt State, Western Oregon, Central Washington, Dixie State) is about 2040 miles, while in the Canada West, the overall distance between SFU and its four closest opponents out of the total six (UBC, University of Alberta, University of Calgary, University of Saskatchewan), was 1678 miles. When you added the two remaining schools (University of Manitoba and University of Regina), the distance totaled about 3656. This distances were acquired by adding up the approximate distance between Simon Fraser and each individual university, as determined by

This move to the NCAA, will allow greater exposure for SFU’s student-athletes, especially within the United States. The NCAA is regarded as a much more competitive conference than both the NAIA and CIS, and will allow SFU’s sports teams to elevate their play to a higher level.

What do you think of this move? Is it a good idea to expand NCAA membership north and south of the border — in similar fashion to the MLB, NHL, and NBA? Will Simon Fraser benefit from going back to its roots and competing against American schools once again? Leave us your comments below.


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  • Certainly VERY interesting transition. I myself ,if in a position to do so, would jump at a chance to contract a game with them. Heck I’d be overjoyed to play in one.Best of fortune wished to all participating.

  • eric
    August 6, 2012

    I think it is a move that will benefit the Canada schools greater
    then it will benefit the NCAA. for one I do not see a swarm of Canada
    schools hopping on the NCAA bandwagon. some might join others might not just
    like here in the States. have them follow the rules that are in place. just like every other school.