RICHMOND, BC – The Canada West Universities Athletic Association held its annual winter meeting this week, with all 17 member institutions in attendance to discuss association business and strategic planning. 


With the conference experiencing accelerated growth over the last five years, adding four new members and a total of 40 new teams (about a 30% growth in membership), Canada West has been met with the structural challenge of maintaining its historic rivalries while welcoming its new members, and at the same time managing the logistical challenges created by the wide geographical landscape of the association.


COMPETITIVE FORMAT REVIEW. In the fall of 2013, the Canada West Board of Directors initiated a strategic planning dialogue that led to significant ad hoc committee work over the last 12 months to review its competitive formats in volleyball, soccer and basketball.


At this week’s winter meeting, the conference leadership made the decision to keep the present single-division format for volleyball, and approved changes for soccer effective immediately for the 2015 season. 


Women’s soccer will see a new competitive format of two regions, four divisions and a 14-game regular season, with the top six teams from each region advancing to the playoffs that culminates in a Final Six.


Men’s soccer will keep the status quo of two divisions and a 12-game season, and implement a new postseason format with the top four teams from each division advancing to a first round crossover playoff.  Winners will then advance to a Final Four.  Dialogue continues on other possible changes to the competitive structure for men’s soccer.


The association continues to discuss and study competitive format models in basketball.  Further reporting will take place at the 2015 Annual General Meeting scheduled for the first week of May 2015.


“As part of our commitment to our member institutions and our student-athletes, we’re continuing to research on the different formats and models to ensure we offer the highest level of competition and student-athlete experience, while making the most efficient use of our resources,” explained Canada West Executive Director Diane St-Denis.


In addition, the conference voted to allow football programs to start their 2015 training camps 14 days prior to their first CIS game, which will see teams starting a week earlier from previous years.  The leadership also voted to allow travelling football teams to increase their roster size to 45 players, a change that is hoped to improve safety in the field of play.


The 2015-16 schedules were also received and will be announced at a later date.


NORTHERN 8 FOOTBALL SERIES PROPOSAL.  The leadership welcomed Krown Countdown U Executive Producer Jim Mullin for a presentation of the Northern 8 Football Series proposal, a CIS football interlock project that Mullin and Saskatchewan businessman and former Saskatchewan Huskies football player David Dube have been working on.  Mullin engaged in discussion with the Canada West Athletic Directors on a schedule that would feature Canada West teams against the best teams from the other conferences.


The association supports in principle the interlock schedule proposal that would create a national television schedule with the goal of growing Canadian university football.


“Our conference believes interlock play can add value to the student-athlete experience and provides an opportunity to create a meaningful product that can engage fans, alumni and media at the national level.  We will continue to work with Northern 8 Football Series project partners David Dube and Jim Mullin to move the project forward at the national level,” said St-Denis.


Canada West will also work with Dube and Mullin on an initiative to promote the conference across various media platforms beginning in the spring of 2015.