U Sports Ends Enhanced Women’s Hockey Scholarship Pilot Project – Red Deer Advocate
A university girls’ hockey pilot to test whether improved financial scholarships could stem the flow of athletic talent to the NCAA is ending without a definitive answer.
What started in 2014 as a five-year experiment with potential ramifications for other Canadian university sports was extended into 2019 due to a lack of rigor in reporting data.
A committee tasked with fixing the project was working on inserting KPIs into it when U Sports members voted this year to shut it down after the 2022-2023 season.
An Improved Financial Prize (AFA) influenced Audrey-Anne Veillette’s decision to pass a full scholarship to Clarkson and play for the University of Montreal instead.
The quality of the university and the Carabins, as well as the proximity to the 20-year-old’s hometown, Drummondville, were also other factors.
So when Veillette says an improved AFA “played a huge role. I’m sure how much exactly, ”this reflects U Sports’ difficulty in measuring its impact.
The 400 female hockey players on NCAA rosters in 2014 fell to 293 in 2020.
Proponents of the pilot admit that it is difficult to attribute the decrease entirely to improved AFMs when a myriad of factors are taken into account in a young woman’s choice of school.
With only one more year to use the enhanced AFAs as a recruiting tool, some coaches wanted more time for an enhanced pilot to produce more definitive results.
“Personally, I’m very disappointed that this is over,” said Ryerson head coach Lisa Haley.
“At first when it started, I didn’t think there was enough preparation and thought to really make the most of the opportunity. We’ve been on the water for several years without the right kind of know-how to promote it, even to educate people that it exists.
“As a member of a committee who spent a lot of hours dissecting how to go forward, how to evaluate, I am really disappointed with how the project ended.”
Participation was voluntary. The teams had to stay under a cap, so it didn’t cost more money.
Women’s hockey coaches had the flexibility, under this cap, to offer a player a package deal covering tuition, fees, and room and board, approaching the “full turn” of a Division 1 school. the NCAA.
A report from MacLeans.ca in 2018 estimated the average annual cost of attending a Canadian university for students who do not live at home at $ 19,500.
OAU rules on AFAs are more restrictive than those of other conferences. Ontario schools could only offer full tuition – it was partial before 2014 – but not accommodation and board like other conferences.
OAU member schools voted overwhelmingly to put the women’s hockey pilot on the back burner, even though 178 of the NCAA’s 293 women – 60 percent – are from Ontario.
Canada West and the Quebec RSEQ were more active in the pilot than the Ontario and Atlantic conferences.
“At the RSEQ, it worked,” said Université de Montréal head coach Isabelle LeClaire. “The first thing he did was get more attention to our program. It gave us credibility. It puts us at the same level to have discussions with these athletes.
“The biggest misconception in talking to coaches across the country and the athletic director of some of these schools, (they) believe this program has cost us more money. I was never given a dime more.
“It’s like a salary cap. We have 14 units that we can donate. It’s just that I can handle it the way I want to. If I want to give two to an athlete who deserves it, I have 12. “
A “full turn” in the pilot project was rare.
Instead of recruiting a national-caliber player to the NCAA, some coaches have used their freedom under the hat to split a little more money among rookies who could have stayed in Canada anyway.
University of Regina head coach Sarah Hodges used a “full round” once during the eight-year draft to successfully recruit a player otherwise destined for an NCAA Division 1 school.
The player has since graduated and plays professionally in Sweden.
“Our package was pretty much full for five years,” said Hodges, who felt that continuing the project would have been helpful if changes had been made.
“I think if you’re going to use it it should be a full purse rather than nickel and obfuscation,” she said. “That’s what he was supposed to do so that we could compete with American schools, not necessarily with each other. “
The Canadian Under-22 team, known as the National Development Team, remains dominated by NCAA players. Twenty of the 22 women on the 2014 squad were Division 1 players.