Cougars move to Canada West
Historic process a long time coming, says team admin
Since Mount Royal College started down the long, hard road to becoming a university, the athletics department also focused on moving on to bigger things.
After 47 years in the Alberta Collegiate Athletic Conference, the Cougars set their sights on entering the Canada West and the CIS.
Simply put, Canada West is the conference and the Canadian Interuniversity Sport is the governing league.
It’s stronger competition. It’s more prestigious. It’s better play.
“It’s a process that’s truly exhausting,” said Karla Karch, MRU athletic director. “But I understand and I respect why it’s that extensive.”
Teams must be emotionally, economically, financially and physically ready, she said.
In other words, “What you are bringing to the table enhances Canada West,” Karch added.
The process started about 10 years ago, when Mount Royal started pushing to become university.
“When they started talking about transitioning our institution to a university, they started talking about what that would mean,” said Karch, who joined the department six years ago. “And one of the effects of that was that Cougar athletics playing Canada West.”
For Mount Royal to be accepted, they had to meet 17 requirements ranging from a support letter from the president to making sure the facilities matched up.
When the new recreation centre was built eight years ago, the triple gym had to hold at least 1,000 people, with the roof high enough to hold certain events.
“That was a thought, a dream is to be able to eventually apply and compete in Canada West,” Karch said.
She slowly moved forward to fulfill the dream by bringing on four more full-time coaches into the main office. She also started divvying up their responsibilities as half coaching and half co-ordinators.
However, the biggest hurdle was waiting for the school to receive their accreditation from the AUCC, which allowed Mount Royal to officially become a university.
“Without it, which we didn’t have until three years ago, I couldn’t even put an application in,” she said.
Finally, after 10 years and 17 regulations, Karch received special permission to apply to become Canada West’s 15th member.
“We had things in place and we were in a little bit of a holding pattern waiting for the opportunity because we were ready,” she said.
Last December, Karch sent in the application, which was followed by three athletic directors coming in for a site visit the next month.
It was a meet-and-greet with the directors talking with the president, coaches and many others to ensure Mount Royal was ready.
“They just wanted to know if the application didn’t address the issues they saw arise,” Karch said.
In May, the Cougars were granted probationary status for three years, with them still competing in the old ACAC this year before joining the Canada West starting in fall 2012.
It’s a widely celebrated move for the school.
New MRU president David Docherty said he’s hoping the move will help recruit athletes and also help draw higher attendance numbers.
“It would be nice to compete on a national stage with other universities because we are a university,” Docherty said.
Mount Royal is now applying for the CIS in December, which is a similar application process. A school visit is set for January and vote at its AGM.
Karch has never heard of a school allowed into the Canada West and not the CIS “but I’m not assuming anything,” she said.
“We will cross our Ts and dot our Is. We will be extremely ready.”
The Reflector walks you through the historic move. Check back next issue for a story on improved recruiting options for Cougars Athletics.