By Ryan Cooke
Special to The Guardian
Jody O’Neill left Dublin, Ireland, and came to Prince Edward Island in September 2010 to study business at UPEI.
He had never been to Canada before and had no idea what to expect. He’d never felt the harsh winter, heard the different vocabulary or seen the game of hockey. He’d never driven a car on the right side of the road.
He was moving to a whole new world and didn’t know anybody in it.
What he did know, however, was that he wanted to play basketball for the UPEI Panthers.
O’Neill, 23, played in the Irish Superleague, the highest level of basketball in Ireland. He also played for the Irish national team.
He saw basketball as the perfect opportunity to get to know people and become accustomed to his new surroundings.
However, due to restrictions in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport on the number of international students allowed on a team in men’s basketball, O’Neill was left out.
“The only restriction the CIS has is within the sport of men’s basketball, where you’re only allowed three international students,” said UPEI athletic director Ron Annear.
The rule is similar to that of the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association, which allows one international student for every six
Canadian students in every sport.
The rule has come under fire as of late, with Holland College leading the way with other schools in the Atlantic region following close behind.
They say it is outdated and needs to be removed. The story was even picked up by the Globe and Mail in Toronto.
Michael O’Grady, Holland College’s vice-president of innovation, enterprise and strategic development, told the Globe the rule is discriminatory and affects his ability to recruit international students.
Annear said there should be some sort of rule in place to be fair to Canadian students, but understands where O’Grady is coming from.
“You want to be able to reach across international boundaries. And there’s nothing wrong with that.”
He said recruiting internationally helps field the best team possible and also helps the school.
“We all have to reach across the world community to recruit now, and with student athletes, that’s an opportunity to help with enrolment.”
UPEI men’s basketball coach Tim Kendrick also says he likes the idea of there being regulations in place, but said the CCAA regulations are a bit tight.
“I like the idea of a number but the number seems a bit low.”
He said it’s time for the CIS and CCAA to work together on these types of regulations.
“If there’s going to be a rule, it should be the same across the board. Just to make it more concrete and structured.”