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July 7, 2000

Canadian universities will offer full-tuition athletics scholarships in a move that shifts them closer to their US neighbours.

The Canadian Interuniversity Athletic Union has found a compromise over the issue, which has divided athletics departments. Some wanted to increase financial incentives to stem the loss of promising athletic students to US colleges. Others felt that putting money into student athletes' pockets was a vain attempt to copy the US system.

The CIAU, a body of 48 member universities, decided to vote on the issue and came up with a plan that seemed utterly Canadian. They decided on a compromise that raises the financial offering as well as increasing academic standards for athletics scholarships.

The earlier maximum of C$1,500 (Pounds 670) per award will now be a full scholarship, with the figure varying from province to province but averaging just over C$3,000 a year. The union decided that first-year students will need an 80 per cent average to qualify, up from 70 per cent.

The CIAU says this plan will give more opportunities to pupils who are torn over whether to stay in Canada. US recruitment has been swift. An estimated 2,000 Canadians accept scholarships every year to play with US college teams, a relatively high number considering that about the same number receive Canadian financial awards.

Bob Philip, director of the University of British Columbia's department of athletics and recreation, said the plan will help Canadian coaches give promising athletes a clear idea of the financial rewards of signing for one of the country's college sports teams.

CIAU president Wendy Bedingfield said the rise in the academic qualifications helped differentiate Canadian universities from their US counterparts.

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