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We’re too good for this scene: Why no CIS?

The UFV women’s volleyball team’s success raises the question of why this team is not competing at the top level. How good are the Cascades really? Can they compete in the CIS and if so why haven’t they made the jump?

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By Emad Agahi (Contributor) – Email

Print Edition: February 20, 2013

In 2011-12 the UFV women’s volleyball team finished 20-4 in the regular season, won a silver medal in the provincial championships, and followed up with bronze at the national championships.

This year, they have just capped off not only a better regular season, but a historic one as well. The Cascades achieved a record of 22-2, placed first in the PACWEST division, and sat at number one in the CCAA national rankings for most the campaign. Those 22 victories also set a new team record for most wins in a season. Undoubtedly they have earned the right to be considered a heavy favourite for both the provincial and national championships in 2013.

Yet, unlike UFV’s basketball and soccer teams, UFV volleyball doesn’t participate in the CIS (Canadian Interuniversity Sport), the top league in the nation. The CIS is home to most major Canadian universities such as UBC, UA, UT, etc. Now, in no way does this dismiss the accomplishments by the side; yet it does raise the question of why this team is not competing at the top level. How good are the Cascades really? Can they compete in the CIS and if so why haven’t they made the jump?

Cascades head coach Dennis Bokenfohr is confident that competing wouldn’t be an issue: “We would be competitive. I think it’s one of those things where it takes a while to build up a program where you’re one of the top teams in the country. We would like to think we’d be in the middle of the pack in the CIS right now.”

While Bokenfohr’s assessment is humble, judging by his team’s recent dominance in the BCCAA, it’s hard to imagine it taking too long for him and his staff to turn UFV into a power in the CIS. While additional player development would become a staple to achieving CIS success, UFV would also benefit from the ability to recruit higher prospects.

“In the CIS,” Bokenfohr said, “you get upgraded recruiting power, you don’t lose players who go to play with CIS programs.”

Fittingly, the top two ranked CIS women’s volleyball teams reside in the lower mainland – UBC (Vancouver) followed by Trinity Western (Langley). You can imagine the frustration in having to compete with those two schools in the battle for recruitment when you cannot offer recruits CIS enrollment, at least not right away.

So if competing is not an issue now and certainly wouldn’t be an issue once in the CIS, then why hasn’t this move been made? UFV currently is represented in the CIS with four teams, men’s/women’s basketball and soccer. The addition of women’s volleyball in 2012/13 would have cost an additional fee of $763.00 to be paid to the CIS; however, according to UFV athletic director Rocky Olfert, it wouldn’t be that simple.

“There are a lot of factors to consider, things like full time coaches, significant increase in operating cost with a travel budget, managing gym time with our current basketball team, facilities such as a team rooms and equipment upgrades in the fitness centre,” Olfert explained. Add those costs into the equation and you got yourself a hefty bill.

So is it essentially funding that’s holding volleyball back?

It appears to be so, for the most part at least. Olfert also mentioned that “[the] first thing we’re trying to do is bring some stability to our programs and put our best foot forward with programs that are currently in place.”

The school would like to maintain and improve its current CIS programs and continue in the success they have been having in those sports. The length of this assessment is unknown, but what is certain at this point is the notion of moving volleyball to the CIS will have to wait in line.

Here at UFV, we like to equate ourselves to other big Canadian universities in aspects such as academics, student life and student experience. Athletics is another tool that UFV has and can continue to use in putting itself on the map.

“Would it be easier if we were all in one conference? Yes. Would it be ideal? Yes.  But it is not a current reality,” Olfert stated. Notably, neither he nor Bokenfohr have any timeline for when the change to CIS could be made.

Cascades women’s volleyball will continue succeed in the CCAA but it’s only a matter of time before the university of the Fraser Valley will need to leave the college league. For now we patiently await the day when this institution’s rapidly-growing athletic program is represented with a new sport on Canada’s biggest varsity stage.

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