Scott at Timed Finals has the story of the University of British Columbia's application to become the first Canadian member of the NCAA. Josh at the Double-A Zone addressed the idea last spring; reports suggest that UBC expects an answer any day now.
I think that UBC could be competitive if it's selective in the choice of sports it plays. If approved, UBC will participate in at least seven men's and women's sports. They have indicated that they feel that they could be immediately competitive in golf, baseball, volleyball, soccer, swimming, and rowing. That seems like a pretty sensible list.
I'd be curious to learn more about the financial implications of the move, though. In particular, what will be the impact on tuition and fees for the general student population?
The numbers show clearly that athletic departments at state-funded universities in NCAA Division I lose money:
Athletic departments at taxpayer-funded universities nationwide receive more than $1 billion in student fees and general school funds and services, according to an Indianapolis Star analysis of the 2004-05 athletic budgets of 164 of the nation's 215 biggest public schools. Without such outside funding, fewer than 10 percent of athletic departments would have been able to support themselves with ticket sales, television contracts and other revenue-generating sports sources. Most would have lost more than $5 million.
Undoubtedly UBC's athletic department costs students money in the same way right now, and it isn't clear whether the move will make the situation better or worse. What is clear is that NCAA Division I will offer UBC's student athletes a higher level of competition, and that would be good news for Canadian athletes in a number of Olympic sports.