Ken Olynyk, athletic director at Thompson Rivers University, is such a big fan of the CIS’s new repatriation rule that he thinks it should be expanded.
The CIS, the governing body for university athletics in Canada, decided last month to change its rule regarding players transferring in from the NCAA. In the past, players transferring from the U.S. had to sit out a year — the new rule allows athletes to play immediately.
“I’ve been in favour of this idea for a long time,” Olynyk said Wednesday. “I think eventually what we’ll see is a rule where a player can play at (a Canadian school) for a year . . . decide they made a mistake and transfer to another Canadian school.
“I think they should be allowed to play immediately . . . but only (transfer) once in their career.”
The rule was in place to keep Canadian athletes in Canada, essentially so players wouldn’t head south without being totally sure they wanted to be there. But players kept going south, and Olynyk said some of them got stuck in situations where they might have come back to a Canadian school, but didn’t want to skip a year.
“I don’t think we’re ever going to stop kids from going to the States, with the hype and watching on TV and everything,” Olynyk said. “But some kids don’t want to come back if they have to sit out a year and that shouldn’t happen.”
How much this will affect TRU directly — if at all — remains up in the air. Olynyk said it depends on each program, but added that some would be better suited to getting U.S. transfers than others.
Scott Reeves, head coach of the WolfPack women’s basketball team, said that the only players who would consider joining his program from the NCAA are ones he is actively recruiting out of high school.
“I’m not recruiting anyone who is considering the NCAA right now,” Reeves said.
Same goes for Pat Hennelly’s WolfPack men’s volleyball team. Because CIS volleyball is as strong as its NCAA counterpart, there aren’t a lot of Canadians playing on scholarships in the U.S.
“I don’t think this is going to affect us tremendously,” Hennelly said. “But it’s a good change — when (former WolfPack star) Kevin Tillie left (for the NCAA) he played the next year.”
Perhaps most likely to benefit from the change are the WolfPack men’s basketball team, which already has done well recruiting players from U.S. junior colleges, and the women’s volleyball team.
Women’s volleyball in the NCAA is different from men’s volleyball. While there are more than 300 women’s programs in the NCAA, there are fewer than 50 men’s programs.
“The best men’s volleyball players tend to stay in Canada,” Olynyk said. “Not all the best women stay here though.”
Of course, some women’s volleyball coaches are saying that this could create a problem.
Because the NCAA women’s season ends before Christmas, they fear that a player could transfer after her NCAA season ends and before the CIS’s second half starts.
“That’s just a discussion among the women’s volleyball coaches,” Olynyk said. “They haven’t put forth a motion on that.”
As for the WolfPack soccer teams, who are joining the CIS next summer, it won’t change a thing. TRU had been playing in the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association, which has no rule against an NCAA player transferring and playing right away.