Simon Fraser University was officially admitted as the first Canadian member of the National Collegiate Athletics Association.
The NCAA President's Council made it official, approving the Burnaby Mountain university as the organization's first international member on Aug. 10.
The final vote makes Clan varsity teams eligible to compete for NCAA Division II regional and national championships, beginning Sept. 1. It also gives SFU voting privileges at future NCAA conventions.
Approval was granted after the organization passed a recommendation that amended the rules surrounding its Canadian pilot program. The new regulations allow non-U.S. schools to be accepted as full members if they gain acceptance by a U.S. crediting agency.
SFU was accepted as a candidate by the Northwest
Commission on Colleges and Universities.
At present, SFU competes in 17 NCAA varsity sports, including football, volleyball, softball and men's and women's basketball, soccer, cross-country, track and field, swimming and diving, golf and wrestling.
SFU also has almost as many sport clubs, most notably field lacrosse and ice hockey, which has been a dominant force in the B.C. intercollegiate Hockey League for the past nine years.
The Clan hockey group is currently pursuing a five-year plan that includes operating under a varsity model at SFU as a Div. I NCAA team.
"Our belief is that NCAA hockey would flourish in Burnaby, as well as the broader market, but we understand that it is imperative to first have strong community support for university hockey," said SFU head coach Mark Coletta in an email to the Burnaby NOW.
But SFU senior director of athletics and recreation Milt Richards said, "that presents unique challenges."
Not the least of those challenges would be a hefty price tag of a Div. I hockey program, which could run upwards of $2 million.
"We would need a substantial commitment from hockey," Richards said. "If a donor would step up, we'd be interested in it."
Because NCAA schools do not offer hockey in Div. II, SFU would have to go through an involved process to be allowed to compete in Div. I. There is also a time period in which the petition must be completed.
Adding additional programs requires budgeting for scholarship and operational costs.
Richards estimated that substantial private capital would be needed, including upwards of five to 10 years of guaranteed funding before the university could consider such a step.
A proposal for a women's rowing program has also being brought forward, said Richards.