Cougars move to Canada West
Recruitment a long trip ahead for Cougars
The belief is simple — with the move to Canada West upcoming, the Mount Royal University Cougars will be able to recruit the best and the brightest student athletes from across the country.
It’s not a shot at current players, but the Cougars will now need the best of the best to compete at the highest stage.
They will be in tough competition fighting over the same athletes as the University of Calgary and University of Alberta’s of the world.
Karla Karch, Cougars’ athletic director, explained when the school was still a college, the athletics department couldn’t compete with Alberta’s other three universities for players because they just didn’t have the same strengths to offer.
Instead, Karch said they had to go for the next tier of players.
“There are only so many spots you can fill with the top athletes,” Karch said. “It’s the next level, it’s the next group that might not even get recruited at a U of A or a U of C and so we were typically in the next kind of group.”
They’ll now be challenging the big three for recruits.
“We will be able to look at this top recruit and say we can offer degrees, so you can get a great academic experience and now we are playing at the highest level athletically,” Karch said.
For men’s hockey, it likely means finding players who recently graduated from the Western Hockey League and are trying to earn their college degrees while still receiving benefits from the WHL. (Every year of WHL services equals one year of a scholarship).
When it comes to women’s basketball, it means finding more size to compete in the paint.
“The ACAC is a very guard-orientated league,” said head coach Joe Enevoldson.
He said, in theory, a centre in the ACAC will now be placed in the power forward position. It’s similar circumstance all the way down the roster.
“We are recruiting bigger student athletes,” Enevoldson said.
“It’s kinda a catch-22,” he added. “It should be easier to recruit, but the athletes who can play at that level are fewer and further between.”
One of the things that will be common for most teams will be a wider recruiting spectrum. Instead of focusing on players in the Calgary and southern Alberta areas for the most part, coaches might start looking across western Canada for talent as well as the northwestern United States and eastern Canada.
“I’ve tried to stay as local as possible with our program, but now — needing the depth of talent we are going to need — we are going to broaden our recruiting area and look at Western Canada and the States a bit and even into Eastern Canada,” said Marc Dobell, men’s basketball head coach.
“See what we can find to help strengthen our program.”
But Dobell said he believes it will be a gradual change until the team starts showing an extended run of success.
Right now, he said he actively recruits CIS-level talent, getting the odd top notch recruit once in a while, but losing out more often than not.
“We will do the same thing as right now until we have success,” he said. “We will continue to recruit the same players and once in a while we will get them.
“Once we start showing some success, we will get some more of those (CIS level) guys, but in the meantime we have to develop the guys we do get.
“As I said, show some success, show some movement in the right direction and that will entice some others players to come to Mount Royal.”
With four new freshman straight from high school, the team may be finding CIS-level talent.
“The guys who are recruited right out of high school are recruited with the expectation that they will be with us at the CIS,” he said.
Either way, it’s not going to be something that changes over night. It might be a while before Mount Royal shows the success they’ve previously had with the ACAC.
“It’s going to be challenge, no question, but it’s an exciting challenge,” Dobell said.
Check back next issue for part three where we look at how MRU fared against CIS competition in the exhibition schedule.