What's that all about?

Posted on Fri 23 February 2007 in misc

In a post on the priorities of Canadian academic insitutions on academics vs. sport, Ted Schmidt wrote a number of words that I agreed with, among which were:

200 spectators watching a beautifully coached University of Toronto team take on the Laurentian Voyagers in the biggest city in Canada. 200 spectators.And therein lies the difference between Canada and the USA.

However, I objected to the following statement:

What was more impressive was to see 13 of the 15 players on the U of T team were from the Metro Toronto area. No embarrassing recruiting here. You need real marks to attend this school. Sadly the Laurentian team had three players from Saginaw, Michigan.What's that about? We have to go to Michigan for scholar-athletes?

Unfortunately, I was unable to post a comment on his blog due to some requirement to log in to wordpress.com, so I have to post my reply here.

Let's see. Metro Toronto has a population of approximately 3 million (based on the 2001 census). The Greater Sudbury Area has a population of around 200,000. "That" is probably about wanting to field a competitive team (which is one of the ways universities get brand recognition, and which is arguably more important to smaller universities than to massive research universities), which means that smaller universities have to expand their recruiting efforts outside of their given geographical boundaries if they want to avoid a continuous run of embarrassing losses... with perhaps an occasional miracle thrown in.

You seem to be suggesting that students shouldn't go to a university that's not the closest one to their home town. Perhaps the Saginaw students were attracted to Laurentian's Sports Administration program, or the Kinesiology program, or want to specialize in mining-related research. Maybe the possibility of attending lectures by TVO's 2007 Best Lecturer Competition winner was a draw. Or perhaps they are interested in participating in a bilingual university. Maybe the ruggedness of the Sudbury landscape draws them. Sure, it's probable that they were recruited -- but it's also probable that they had other choices of universities that they could attend. They chose Laurentian, and they chose Sudbury. We're happy to have them.

I'm a big fan of CIAU basketball (ah, dating myself there, I guess it's CIS now); I used to cover it for the student newspaper when I was a student myself, and went all the way to Thunder Bay to cover the CIAU finals. And yes, it is good fun if it is relatively competitive. Back when the women's basketball team at LU was continuously headed to national finals, it was _not_ fun when teams suffered horribly one-sided losses to them. That wasn't really fun for anyone. So, yes... let's keep it competitive, let's encourage the exchange of ideas and the movement of students between academic institutions and cities, and let's celebrate the Canadian academic culture without slighting people and institutions that contribute to that culture.