OUA passes on scholarship game

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By Steve Petrick

Ontario student athletes, keep saving your money. It’s going to be a while before you get a free ride on tuition.

Although the Canadian Interuniversity Athletic Union (CIAU) passed new guidelines on athletic scholarships this summer, Ontario schools haven’t budged on their awards policies yet.

At a meeting in June, athletic directors from universities across Canada voted to limit the maximum award a student athlete would receive to full tuition and compulsory fees. For incoming students, they limited the awards to those who graduated high school with an 80 per cent or higher average. Old CIAU rules had stated a student athlete could earn no more than $1,500 from a single award, but some schools got around the limit by dishing out several different bursaries.

Universities in Western Canada, Quebec and the Maritimes can take advantage of the CIAU’s new rules this season. But members of Ontario University Athletics (OUA) aren’t immediately adopting them. They plan to meet in December to discuss whether to abide by the new guidelines for the next school year.

That means OUA schools won’t offer bursaries to incoming athletes this year, nor will they offer more than $1,500 to returning athletes.

Like many athletic directors in Ontario, Ryerson’s assistant director of athletics, Chuck Mathies, spent his summer telling his coaches rumours that Ontario athletes can now earn full scholarships are false. The rumours began spreading after a press release sent out by the CIAU in June was misinterpreted by several media sources.

“If people read the news release or the newspaper, they had the impression that all of a sudden they could go to a Canadian school and get free tuition,” Mathies said. “That was misread and we want to clarify that.

“In Ontario, the entry [scholarship] is gone; it’s not happening. And the amount we have available in awards [at Ryerson] remains exactly the same.”

Mathies said his budget for dishing out athletic and academic awards is about $35,000 a year.

Last year, when Ryerson opened its wallet to support returning student athletes for the first time, 55 athletes met the OUA’s academic requirement to apply for bursaries.

But to save money for this year, Ryerson gave out only 21 Blue and Gold awards, worth $1,000 each, for students in financial need, and four Rams awards, worth $1,500, to students with grade point averages above 3.5.

Mathies, who abstained in the June vote, said he wouldn’t support the new CIAU guidelines until he has more money allotted for athletic awards.

“As much as I support raising the bar, we don’t have the finances right now,” he said. “Maybe we will and at that particular time, I don’t mind moving forward.”

If the OUA changes its constitution for next year, it’s still unlikely Ryerson athletes will have their full tuition paid for.

Mathies said he’d rather give out several $1,000 bursaries than give full tuition to a selected few.

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