Basketball teams in eastern and western Ontario will finally get to square off against one another thanks to a new interlocking basketball schedule. On the downside, the change to Ontario University Athletics (OUA) means Quebec players will be left completely in the cold.
Nevertheless, Ontario athletes are praising the changes, which succeed where 30 years of previous attempts have failed.
“Travelling eight hours to get to a game really throws you off,” said senior Varsity Blues Basketball player Matt Sturgeon.
“The new schedule allows us to play the Western teams and meet them before we get to face them in the nationals. If you’ve never played a team before, you can watch game tape all you want but you’ll never have that tangible experience of playing with the team and you won’t know everything about them So we have to play these teams so that you don’t go into the games blind.”
“It is going to be better competition. A lot of the teams are ranked higher in the West but we’re going to end up playing them anyway.”
Ken Olynyk, the Varsity Blues men’s basketball coach, says it is simply impossible to include Quebec in the mix.
“Now we obviously have 22 games with teams just from Ontario and it would be difficult to expand that to include the teams from Quebec, that means we would be playing 30 games without ever playing a non-conference game.”
Five years ago the OUA entered an agreement with the Quebec teams to play them for five years on a trial basis.
Ward Dilse, the Executive Director of the OUA says the decision also had nothing to do with not wanting to play with Quebec teams.
“In December 1999 in the semi-annual meeting, the schools wanted to develop a fully interlocking schedule with OUA East and OUA West. So with that interlocking schedule they wouldn’t have time to play the Quebec schools,” says Dilse.
The problem now for Quebec schools is that they now need competition.
Dilse says that a task force has been formed between the OUA and the Quebec Student Sports Federation (QSSF) looking at the matter.
“These are members of the Canadian Interuniversity Athletic Union (CIAU) and we don’t want to see those sports disappear in those schools so we will definitely try to find solutions that are viable to OUA schools and to accommodate them as well.”
Other OUA sports teams that play Quebec teams will continue to do so.
The Quebec conference had approached the Atlantic Coast about forming an interlocking schedule similar to the one they had with Ontario East but the Atlantic Coast wasn’t interested.
With eight teams apiece, OUA East will play the teams in the West on a home and home series but over a two year period. This year the Blues will go to McMaster, Lakehead, Guelph and Brock who will come to Toronto next year. They will host Western, Windsor, Laurier and Waterloo this year, and go their next year.
Coach Olynyk sees no drawbacks and that the competition will be the same.
“The Quebec schools were as tough as the West schools. Historically over the last 10 years, Western and McGill have been good teams on a regular basis and the other teams, like most, have had up and down years,” says Olynyk.
“I think it is a positive thing—from a financial aspect, travel time, from time away from school, from a competitive basis, we’re going to play 15 different teams which is a better thing for us and in conference play we’ll probably still get to play the Quebec teams.”
Division champions will still meet in the playoffs this year, “for the next year anyway. I’m sure that if this interlock maintains itself that down the road the playoff structure will be altered.”
Ontario East championships will be hosted in Toronto for men and women this upcoming season.