VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- The possibility of joining the NCAA for the first time has Canadian colleges looking south of the border with mixed emotions.
Schools such as the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University see the full scholarships that would come with NCAA membership as a boon to Canadian residents who currently come to the U.S. to pursue their athletic dreams.
Other schools and officials in Canadian Interuniversity Sport, the country's governing body for athletics, see a ploy for publicity that will end up with the schools being unable to compete financially and returning to their roots.
The process will likely begin in January, when Division II is expected to approve a 10-year pilot program that would allow a limited number of international schools - most expected to be Canadian - to become NCAA members.
Six Canadian schools have discussed NCAA membership and four have shown interest. Only UBC, SFU and the University of Alberta in Edmonton have gone public about their interest, with UBC and SFU primed to become NCAA members as early as 2009.
The move to allow schools outside the U.S. the right to apply for NCAA membership for the first time came about from a chance meeting a few years ago between UBC athletic director Bob Philip and NCAA vice president Bernard Franklin at a conference for athletic administrators.
Noticing Franklin worked for the NCAA, Philip asked if he could sit in on panel discussion. Afterward, he pulled Franklin aside and popped the question: "Could there ever be a circumstance where UBC could compete athletically in the NCAA?"
Turns out the answer is yes.
"We still have some unanswered questions," Franklin said. "But the value of having international members of the NCAA outweighs them."
The NCAA believes it will benefit from the cultural experience of athletes traveling internationally, and adding schools to help buoy a fluctuating membership base in Division II.
"There aren't a lot of schools left in the United States to add that are big schools," Philip said. "You don't have a school out there that has 45,000 students that's not playing but wants to join.
"But you do in Canada."
Until now, NCAA bylaws have limited membership to United States schools and those schools in a territory controlled by the U.S. The NCAA has long cast an eye northward, but never pursued a potential expansion.