Vancouver, BC – The struggles continue for the Réseau du Sport Etudiant du Québec (RSEQ) Quebec conference at the CIS Final 8 National Championships.
With the No. 5 McGill Redmen dropping a 72-69 nail bitter to the No. 4 seed Calgary Dinos it has now been eleven years (2005) since an RSEQ team has won a quarter-final game at Nationals, and over 18 years since the 1998 Bishop Gaiters lifted the WP. McGee trophy, claiming bragging rights as the best conference in the country.
A lot has changed between 1998 and 2005 when the Concordia Stingers knocked off the St. Mary’s Huskies 87-57 to advance to the national semi-finals. The University game as a whole has improved by leaps and bounds, we’ve seen realignment changes across two conferences, both in the OUA and CanWest divisions, CIS transfer rules have opened up the floodgates for NCAA transfers to return home without being forced to sit out a mandatory one year, and much more.
But outside of RSEQ teams competing during preseason exhibition against top NCAA teams during August and early September things have been pretty much status quo, for a conference that routinely challenged the rest of the country during the 1990s.
Majority of the problems with the RSEQ can be traced to the fact it only features five teams in comparison to the rest of the league. The Ontario University Conference (OUA) and the Canada West boast a total of 17 teams across multiple divisions, while the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) conference only has 8 teams.
The lack of competition and expansion have forced Quebec University Basketball teams to play fewer league games against the same underachieving opponents during the season, resulting in one or two teams finishing above 500% in the standings. Although not factually, it’s valid to argue that the conference is also losing the recruiting battle as most of the top high school players from Ontario, Canada West or Atlantic Canada rarely consider the RSEQ as a conference of choice for championships and exposure. Majority of the rosters across the five teams are filled with local CGEP Quebec talent and a few imports from french-speaking nations like France, Belgium, Haiti and few African countries.
With all these disadvantages and rapid growth of the game across the country, from prep leagues to professional ranks (NBL Canada), the RSEQ still has plenty to offer from high-level educational opportunities to top-notch coaching and features one of the most diverse provinces Canada has to offer.
For the RSEQ the road to supremacy will require time, funding, strategic thinking, and potential realignments with the OUA and/or CEGEP additions to grow the university/collegiate game throughout the province. Adding more teams will surely make the league more competitive and attractive, improving facilities, scholarship offers and most importantly winning will also help solve some these dilemma’s and hopefully restore the conference as a prime destination and end championship drought.