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Nationality limits on way for university volleyball teams

Only two non-Canadians allowed in 2014

The new rules allow for Canadians, such as Brandon University's Shanlee McLennan, to get on the court.

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The new rules allow for Canadians, such as Brandon University's Shanlee McLennan, to get on the court. (BRUCE BUMSTEAD / BRANDON SUN ARCHIVES )

Manitoba's universities will be limited to two non-Canadians on their men's and women's varsity volleyball teams when play starts in the fall of 2014.

They're already limited to three non-Canadians on their men's and women's basketball teams.

And nationality limits could be coming for university soccer.

"It will have an effect on us," Brandon University athletic director Russ Paddock said Thursday. "The men's volleyball team in Brandon has had a number of international players."

BU has been putting as many as four men's volleyball players on the floor who are from Australia or New Zealand.

The quota system, reported earlier this week by the Toronto Star, applies only to basketball and volleyball in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport leagues.

The goal is to provide spots for Canadian athletes at Canadian universities.

Volleyball nationality eligibility has been unlimited and some universities have looked to Europe to recruit players, University of Manitoba athletic director Coleen Dufresne said.

With six players on a volleyball court at one time, "allowing one-third of those people to be non-Canadian was enough," Dufresne said.

Paddock said there has been a quota on international men's basketball players for at least 25 years, prior to which it was anything goes.

In basketball, said Paddock, BU has always looked to the U.S. for players. "Certainly, there were some players who really assisted their programs and elevated them."

Paddock said he was surprised the CIS limited volleyball to two players who are not Canadian citizens or who are not landed immigrants, when three of five basketball players on the court can be non-Canadian.

Technically, said Dufresne, the rules limit how many foreign students can be listed on a scoresheet in any game -- more international players could be on the roster, but there are practical limits to how large a roster can be.

Paddock said Canada is able to attract international male volleyball players because there is not the same competition from the U.S. as there is for highly skilled female volleyball players.

The U.S. legislates that universities spend equal amounts of money on both genders. Because football skews the male share so significantly, women's volleyball programs often have far more full scholarships to offer than men's volleyball programs.

Athletic directors said it's rare that students just walk into the office seeking to try out for a team -- universities either recruit athletes or athletes find schools by sending video packages and other material while they're still in high school.

"We're not turning away international students," Dufresne said.

Nevertheless, Canadian Federation of Students Manitoba representative Bilan Arte said the rule creates a perception of exclusion that may sour foreign students from staying here after graduation. There could be international students arriving with varsity skills, she said.

"It's important for us to see equal access for students. We would generally disapprove of any policy that would exclude," Arte said.

Nationality is not an issue in most sports, Dufresne said, although Paddock said the CIS is looking at quotas in soccer.

In football, said Dufresne, "We can't offer them a full ride," which U.S. colleges can. "We're not going to be able to compete with any NCAA Division I or even Division II schools."

A University of Winnipeg official said the Wesmen have eight international students out of 126 varsity athletes.

"As a publicly funded institution with deep roots in Manitoba, our top priority is to attract and develop local, provincial and Canadian talent within the Wesmen family so our athletes may be competitive at home and on the international stage," said an official, who pointed out the CIS limits are in line with the percentage of international students in Canadian universities.

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

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