International crossing borders on a challenge: The Simon Fraser University athletics program may face a multitude of challenges as it moves toward becoming the NCAA’s first international member, but the Canadian institution may be advantaged in one area: border crossings. Read more »
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Editor's note: Western Oregon defeated Simon Fraser University 38-0 on September 4 in the Great Northwest Athletics Conference football game between the two teams.
By David Pickle
A bit of NCAA history will move closer to reality this weekend – and it will not occur within the United States.
Soccer, women’s volleyball and football teams from Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia, begin the 2010 season in their second year of Division II candidacy. When the process is complete at least two years from now, Simon Fraser will be the first institution from outside the U.S. and its territories to complete as a full-fledged NCAA member.
Simon Fraser wide receiver Mathis Baumbach Photo by Ron Hole
Most of the attention this weekend will focus on Saturday’s Great Northwest Athletic Conference football game with Western Oregon on SFU’s campus in Burnaby, British Columbia, where the transition continues to be a big deal.
Athletics Director David Murphy said Simon Fraser’s move has been chronicled in Sports Illustrated, described by the Associated Press and featured on TSN, the Canadian equivalent of ESPN. The local newspapers are writing it up, and the Burnaby Sports Hall of Fame has gotten in the spirit, having requested memorabilia from the Western Oregon game.
“We’ve really got a lot of mileage out of this for sure,” said Murphy, who looks forward to contributing to an important chapter in Simon Fraser history.
“It means a heck of a lot, actually,” Murphy said. “We’re actually going back to our founders’ dream of playing in the NCAA like they always expected us to do. So it’s a dream realized.”
Although competition begins this week, the football experience will not take on a more American feel until September 11. That’s because this Saturday’s games will precede the return of the Simon Fraser student body for the 2010-11 school year. So, most of the hoopla will be reserved for the second game against Eastern Oregon.
“We’re planning an American type of rally,” Murphy said. “We have a big what we call Convo Mall and we’ll have a pep rally – things that we haven’t done before with the Canadian competitions. We’ll make a very special event out of it.”
“One thing I’ve been trying to trumpet with our conference,” said Western Oregon Athletics Director Daniel Hare, “is that we’re able to provide our student-athletes with an experience where they get to travel to Alaska, Washington, Montana, Idaho and now up into Canada and how important it is for a collegiate experience to be able to see the different kinds of cultures. Things like that are really, really exciting for us.”
Daniel Hare Western Oregon
Back at Burnaby, the transition has Simon Fraser’s Murphy looking at the big picture and details alike almost non-stop.
“We really got stung badly on the recruiting side because we got jerked out of the Canadian league a year early,” he said. “But on the other hand, it made us become administratively compliant (with Division II) quicker, and it really worked out very, very well.”
Perhaps the bigger challenge in the near term is dealing with the details of matching up with the NCAA on matters such as officiating. It doesn’t always go smoothly.
“There have been some hiccups, there’s no question,” he said. “We just had the volleyball group up here to introduce the differences in some rules and the calls and the scoring and everything with the officials here, which went extremely well. But there are a lot of little things that you don’t think about.
David Murphy Simon Fraser
“Just before you called, I came in from the football field. We had to move our goalpost back to reconfigure back to the Americans dimensions. Things like that you just never think of…all the minutiae where you have to make sure of game-day protocol and make sure it’s up to scratch.”
With all of the challenges, Murphy occasionally must remind himself to enjoy the experience.
“It is a very special time in our lives up here,” he said. “We’re really right in the middle of the forest right now with everything that’s associated with being in the NCAA as a newbie, and sometimes you forget what a big deal it is.”