Canada West welcomes UBC Okanagan Heat

UBC's Okanagan campus has been officially accepted as a probationary member of the Canada West Universities Athletic Association (CWUAA). The decision came at Canada West's annual general meeting Thursday afternoon in Victoria.

"We are absolutely thrilled," says Rob Johnson, Director of Athletics at UBC Okanagan. "We've been working hard on this for two or three years. It is wonderful for our entire program and everyone who worked so hard on our application -- and it's a big group of people -- to see that work come to such a positive result."

In their announcement posted on Thursday afternoon, Canada West said the UBC Okanagan Heat will begin a three-year term as probationary members, effective September 2010, and will begin interuniversity athletic competition in the sports of men's and women's basketball and volleyball in the fall of 2011.

Canada West also noted that acceptance is dependent on Canadian Interuniversity Sport's (CIS) acceptance of UBC Okanagan's application for CIS membership. UBC Okanagan's application to the CIS will be reviewed at the CIS annual general meetings June 8 to 11 in Mont-Tremblant, Quebec.

The application for Canada West membership was made in early 2008, and last May a decision on all new membership applications was deferred for one year. Today's decision admitting UBC Okanagan to the highest level of Canadian varsity athletics now takes the UBC Okanagan Athletics program into new territory.

"We start competition in September 2011, so we have one more year in the Canadian Colleges Athletics Association, but obviously we have a lot to do in terms of preparation," says Johnson. That preparation will include hiring full-time coaches and filling several support positions required for Canada West member institutions.

Canada West membership gives UBC Okanagan a competitive advantage in student-athlete recruiting, Johnson says, noting that UBC Okanagan has been very successful in attracting top-level student athletes out of high school, but some outstanding student athletes have their hearts set on immediately playing in the CIS.

"We've never been able to offer that," he says. "We have great facilities, a small intimate learning community, excellent coaching staff, the UBC degree -- but we haven't been able to say 'come to UBC in the Okanagan, and you can compete at the CIS level.' Now, we can."

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