CIS drops sit-out rule for returning university athletes

cis_logoThree major motions approved recently by the 55-member Canadian Interuniversity Sport has the potential to change collegiate athletics in the country for years to come.

At the top of the list is a brand new strategic plan for the next five years with a stated vision to “inspire Canada’s next generation of leaders through excellence in sport and academics”. Based on values such as student-athlete experience, excellence, team work and ethics, the strategic plan document will be available for download shortly at

“This strategic plan officially marks the start of a new era for CIS,” says chief executive officer Pierre Lafontaine. “A lot of work has gone into the plan over the last few months and we’re extremely proud of the result and excited about where it will take us over the next five years.”

Also a game-changer, the eligibility repatriation rule was passed with an outstanding 98 percent approval from the CIS membership. Beginning in September 2014, Canadian student-athletes competing in the United States at an National Collegiate Athletic Association institution wishing to return to Canada and play at a CIS member university will be able to start competing right away, instead of having to wait one year as was the case under the previous rule.

“This is a very progressive decision by CIS that puts the student-athletes first,” says Michele O’Keefe, executive director of Canada Basketball. “Graduating high school athletes make big decisions at a young age and this new policy allows them to make a change without penalty.”

“The change to the transfer rule in CIS is one that swimming coaches have been looking for for 15 years,” adds Mike Blondal, University of Calgary head coach and president of the CIS Swimming Coaches Association. “This will certainly help our Canadians in the NCAA system to come home to Canadian universities. Having our Canadians at home in the CIS system helps the national program and helps the depth and the competitiveness of the CIS circuit.”

Last but not least, the CIS membership approved a five-year women’s hockey pilot project, endorsed by university presidents and athletic directors. In addition to benefiting from eligibility repatriation rule, the pilot will allow CIS women’s hockey programs to offer athletic scholarships that extend beyond the current limits associated with tuition and compulsory fees to contribute to other costs including room, board, and books. Women’s hockey schools will now be able to assign scholarships in a much more flexible and robust fashion, provided they do not exceed the current cap that is applicable to every team. There will be strong monitoring and evaluation throughout the period of the pilot to determine its efficacy in developing and building the best university women’s hockey system in the world.

“The passing of the women’s hockey pilot proposal is a hugely significant development,” said Clint Hamilton, co-Chair of the Canada West Universities Athletic Association Task Force for Change in Structure of University Sport.

“Canada West has been a leader in CIS in advocating for change that will help create the conditions by which our top Canadian student-athletes will choose our institutions in pursuing their high performance athletic and academic careers. The passing of the women’s hockey pilot, combined with the new repatriation eligibility rule allowing Canadian student-athletes to return to Canada and CIS institution’s without penalty, are critically important changes and a positive signal to the Canadian Sport community that we want our top student-athletes staying in Canada.”

“Hockey Canada is pleased that CIS initiated this pilot project,” says Melody Davidson, head of women’s high performance, Hockey Canada. “These changes will create additional opportunities for female players to pursue high performance development in Canada.”