OUA gives super seniors another chance
By John Intini
If eligibility changes are any indication, Ontario University Athletics executives seem to agree with the age-old adage, 'age ain't nothing but a number'.
In a decision made last spring, active since July 1, directors of the OUA decided that along with the merger of the Ontario University Athletic Association and the Ontario Women's Inter-Collegiate Athletic Association this season, a universal rule regarding player eligibility was needed.
"We felt it was time to liberalize sports in Ontario," OUA executive officer Peter Barnsley said. "We tried it two years ago but it fell through. This time everyone agreed."
Prior to the merger, only the OWIAA made eligibility open to all students regardless of their age or year in school, a rule in the women's league since the early 1970s. The new rule will allow any Ontario university student to take part in OUA sports as long as they are enrolled in a minimum of three courses and have satisfactory grades. The old rule only allowed students five years of eligibility.
"It all came down to who's paying the bills," said Darwin Semotiuk, Western's director of athletics. "The change definitely better serves the student population, allowing the students who are paying to be at school to also contribute in an athletic way."
The provincial move does not affect teams that are members of the CIAU. Some of the big university sports that will not be allowed to take advantage of this rule change include football, hockey, volleyball and basketball with the theory that teams may act in a corrupt way to benefit their schools big-money sports.
"There is the obvious potential of abuse," Semotiuk said, "but with the sports that are being affected the chance of students taking advantage of the system is minimal."
Semotiuk also added in defence of this argument that all one has to do is take a look at the records of women's sports in which the eligibility rule has had little impact.
Western men's rowing coach, Volker Nolte, feels that the new rule has the effect of a double-edged sword, stating it has both positive impacts on OUA sports as well as negative ones.
"In one sense it takes away from the youth of a sports program allowing veterans to hang on for an extra year resulting in a lower rate of turnover that young athletes take advantage of," Nolte said. "On the other hand, it raises the competition of the league due to more experience and depth within teams."
Barnsley also has little worry at all about the possibility OUA sports will be influenced by any type of corrupt behavior, citing the rising cost of school as his main defence against the stacking of older players.
"With the cost of school these days it is not feasible that students will be willing to pay the high costs of tuition to remain on university sports teams," he said. "There will not be widespread abuse to this rule because kids just can't afford it."