UBC Okanagan’s varsity athletics program has passed its final test.
After a process that spanned more than five years, the UBCO Heat Thursday received the votes necessary to become full members of the Canada West Universities Athletic Association.
Canada West policy requires a minimum three-quarters majority vote to grant full-member status.
“It is wonderful news for our institution and our athletics program and I would like to thank everyone who contributed to our application—and that’s a big group of people,” says Director of Athletics and Recreation Rob Johnson. “Back in 2007, full membership in Canada West and the Canadian Interuniversity Sports (CIS) was one of a number of institutional goals that were set, and it is very gratifying to see it achieved.”
UBC’s Okanagan campus becomes the 14th member of the Canada West conference, joining UBC Vancouver and universities from B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
Four Heat teams—men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball—have played the last two seasons in Canada West on probationary status.
“We’ve been working hard on this for five years. It is wonderful for our entire program and everyone who worked so hard on our application to see that work come to such a positive result,” says Johnson.
The positive membership vote also means that UBC Okanagan men’s and women’s soccer teams will start competing in Canada West in 2014. That application was submitted in 2012 and was conditionally accepted pending the successful vote on full membership.
With full-member status, UBCO can also apply Canada West to add new varsity teams.
For many years, the Okanagan Sun has expressed an interest in fielding a football team in Canada West under the banner of UBCO.
With Thursday’s news, general manager Jay Christensen said the Sun organization can take the next steps in formulating a long-term plan with the university.
“It’s a great step forward in our relationship with the university, and now we can get a little more serious about setting up a framework to work towards this move,” said Christensen. “Obviously, UBCO has a lot of exciting things on the go, but they do have an interest in football, so we’re headed in the right direction.”
In order to be properly prepared for such a transition, including recruiting the adequate number of student athletes, Christensen said the Sun would need a minimum of two full years.
If a formal application to Canada West for football is accepted, he said the earliest the Sun could expect to be ready for the shift from junior to university football would likely be the 2016 season.
Meanwhile, the next and final step for the Heat in the membership process will be acceptance as a full, rather than probationary, member of the CIS at its annual general meeting from June 4 to 7 in Toronto.