CIS eliminates sit-out penalty for athletes returning home

Halifax athletes see new rule as forgiving of a young student's mistakes

Dalhousie’s Shane de Rooy returned to Canada to play university volleyball after sustaining an ACL injury. He has since alleviated his tear and remains on the sidelines. (Photo: Ian Froese)

Revoking the one-year penalty for student-athletes returning to Canada from a United States institution will provide a second chance for individuals who made a mistake, said a former Dalhousie athlete.

Volleyball graduate Louise Facca would know. The year she spent at Bowling Green State University in Ohio — the first on a full-ride scholarship — was not as attractive as she expected.

“I always tell people that I was young and stupid,” said the Dal recreation therapy student from Texas, where she is completing an internship.

“When I got there it wasn’t exactly what I imagined it to be,” she said. “I had problems with my coach and my team. They weren’t supportive and it was a really negative environment.”

Canadian Interuniversity Sport eliminated one of its harshest rules when the governing body removed the one-year sit-out penalty, which prevents athletes from playing for a full calendar year in the CIS following a stint in the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

The rule, described by the CIS as a “game-changer,” was initially put in place to prevent athletes like Facca from heading south in the first place.

Facca thinks last week’s decision, supported by 98 per cent of CIS member schools, was the right move.

“I think a lot of people get caught up in the same trap,” she said. “You go down to the States (for a recruiting trip) and you see that it’s all glamorous but then when you get there for good you realize it isn’t.”

Facca picked Dal to continue her schooling, where her mother and father were varsity athletes.

As a women’s volleyball athlete, Facca was luckier than most transfers. The NCAA women’s volleyball season ends in November while, uniquely, the CIS season is only in its second month by that time, meaning Facca only sat out a few games in her sophomore season. In Canada, the women’s volleyball season concludes in February.

Saint Mary’s women’s basketball coach Scott Munro supports the rule change, but imagines it will have greater impact in Ontario due to its proximity to a country where college athletics matters more.

“A lot of kids are on the bubble and they’re not really sure: am I an NCAA kid or a CIS kid? It happens a lot to the kids in Ontario, they’re just on the cusp,” he said.

Shane de Rooy didn’t have much choice to return north of the border after playing for University of the Pacific in California. He lost his scholarship after an ACL injury.

But de Rooy, now playing volleyball for Dalhousie, considered transferring even before his injury.

“It’s amazing for experience, amazing for getting to play against really good guy. But it’s super hard to get playing time,” he said.