Simon Fraser University’s recent move to the NCAA reflects the school’s history of offering student-athletes a Canadian education with an American varsity athletics experience.
SFU teams competed in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics when they began play in 1965. The NAIA is a U.S.-based governing body that rivals the NCAA but is composed of smaller universities and colleges.
The migration of NAIA rivals to the larger NCAA led SFU to apply for membership in 1997. SFU’s bid was unsuccessful.
SFU joined Canadian Interuniversity Sport in 2001 as a new member of the Canada West Conference.
Some SFU teams continued to play a mix of Canadian and NAIA opponents despite being formal members in CIS.
SFU re-applied for NCAA membership in 2007 and became the first Canadian school to join Division II a year later.
The university announced its intention to leave CIS for the NCAA in July 2009, but its final season in Canadian play closed with controversy.
Canada West stripped the football team of two wins for using an ineligible player and the
conference hastened SFU’s departure when it placed the program on probation for the 2009-10 season.
The University of British Columbia followed SFU’s NCAA ambitions, but sought to join the higher-profile Division I. UBC’s Executive deferred a decision to join Division II in April 2009.
NCAA’s Division I is familiar to casual sports fans through high-profile events including the Final Four basketball tournament held every March and the well-publicized annual slate of football bowl games held early in the new year.