Move to CIS means rise in tuition
$12-fee to be added to full-time students’ bill
The Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) is changing. College teams across Alberta are fist-bumping because the powerhouse program of Mount Royal are gone; off to a new pond with bigger fish – the Canadian Interuniversity Sport, or CIS for short.
The ACAC is not the only thing changing with Mount Royal’s ascension to the CIS. The Cougars teams will have to adapt to the new league as well, which has some of its own heavy-hitters.
Kyle Henry, spokesperson for Cougar Athletics, said the transition could be tough.
“It’s certainly going to be a challenge,” said Henry. “There will be growing pains, but we’re looking to gradually build programs and position ourselves to be competitive.”
Competitive challenge aside, Mount Royal also faces a change in its funding. A bigger pond means a bigger budget. To handle the increased costs-mainly for team travel-Mount Royal is adding an athletic fee to next semester’s tuition.
“The fee is comparable to other athletic institutions,” said Henry. “It will be $12 for full time students and six dollars for part time students.”
Henry said that adding a student fee is an unfortunate situation, but is a small price to pay for a big reward. He noted that strong performances by the school’s athletic teams could also translate to better nation-wide recognition of the school itself. He also said that many schools charge their students to attend games, whereas at Cougar games, Mount Royal students get in free.
With the change in structure, one might look to the new cross-town rival for a comparison. However, the University of Calgary athletic program isn’t the same.
The Dinos’ Assistant Athletic Director Ben Matchett said that programs vary among schools.
“The level of funding is based on the individual institution,” said Matchett. “We are the only school in the Canada West division of the CIS to offer every sport, so we are different than Mount Royal in that regard.”
Despite having a successful Dinos program, Matchett said the university is always re-evaluating its funding model.
He said both the men’s soccer team and the women’s field hockey team were recently changed to be responsible for their own funding. He noted that each program has seen success with this model and it has reinvigorated the alumni in the program.
With Mount Royal’s entrance into the CIS, many are excited at the thought of new teams and programs that could be offered – the most common subject is the creation of a football program.
Henry notes, however, that adding another program may not be the best thing for a university that has yet to even play a CIS league game.
“Our main focus is to make sure our current teams are competitive,” said Henry. “There is no football in the works right now.”
“It’s easy to stretch yourself thin with too many programs so we just want to make sure our teams are well-represented.”
Matchett knows the pressure that can come with a football program.
“If you’re going to do football, you have to really do football,” said Matchett. “It’s totally different than hockey at the Flames Community Arenas. We play at McMahon Stadium. We have travel and equipment costs for a roster between 85 and 90 people.”
Along with the increased costs, there is an expectation that if an institution creates a male-only program like football, they balance it by creating another program for females only, and vice versa.
“There’s a stern direction from the CIS to add programs for both genders,” said Matchett. “All football schools offer women-only sports like rugby or field hockey.
“It’s usually a scheduling nightmare with one-gendered teams because schedules are often paired with other sports.”
Without the apparent implementing of a new program, the Cougars will have to rely on their current teams to adapt to a more competitive league. This will challenge even MRU’s most distinguished programs, but there may be a separate hurdle that limits their chances.
Like many professional sports leagues, the team with the most gets to boast. The Los Angeles Lakers, New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox are examples of teams in leagues with flexible budgets that can recruit the best players. Matchett said that the CIS is similar.
“Generally speaking, the teams with the most scholarship money do the best. They can attract the best athletes,” said Matchett. “There are exceptions, of course.”
Henry noted that while this is usually the case, he thought Mount Royal could be an exception.
“We have other things to offer students. We’re a unique university with smaller classes. I think some people would prefer that.”