University of Windsor tells NCAA to keep hands off our athletes

Photos by CBC/CP. Article originally appeared on Sept. 8, 2016 at cbc.ca/windsor


The athletic director at a Canadian university has a message for his counterparts in the United States — stop stealing our athletes.

Over the past two seasons, the University of Windsor’s Mike Havey watched, almost helplessly, as a Canadian Interuniversity Sport basketball rookie of the year and an Ontario University Athletics soccer rookie of the year walked out the door and headed to schools in the U.S.

The latest incident happened in August, when the University of Texas El Paso raided the University of Windsor’s men’s basketball team and took its best player, Isiah Osborne.

Havey wants NCAA compliance officials to establish rules prohibiting U.S. coaches from poaching players.

On Aug. 7, Osborne was playing for the Lancers in Windsor against Charleston Southern University from South Carolina. According to observers, Osborne was easily the best player on the floor, scoring 35 points, grabbing seven rebounds and making five steals.

Matt Willms, a basketball player with the University of Texas El Paso Miners, was in Windsor and saw Osborne play. He called his coaches in Texas, telling them to take a look at the Windsor guard.

Two days after that game Havey was asked to sign papers confirming Osborne’s transfer to the school in Texas. According to UTEP, it was the recommendation from Willms that triggered its decision to offer Osborne a “financial aid agreement.”

By the end of the week, Osborne was headed to Texas.

‘Isn’t the 1st time we’ve sounded the alarm’

The NCAA, which governs collegiate athletics in the U.S., has a complicated system of rules around recruitment designed to prevent its schools from poaching athletes from each other and other lower-caliber universities and colleges in the States.

But there is nothing in place governing relations between schools in the U.S and Canada.

“We’re tired of it,” Havey told CBC News. “This isn’t the first time we’ve sounded the alarm. We’re determined to bring this to the attention of the NCAA from a legislative perspective.”

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Havey said Osborne is only the latest elite athlete to move to the U.S in the middle of his commitment to Windsor. After the 2015 season, soccer player Noah Pio, the OUA rookie of the year, transferred to Cleveland State.

Havey said neither UTEP nor Cleveland State officials responded when he sent letters of protest.

“We’ve basically been ignored,” he said. “We’re pressing a little harder this time.”

“UTEP has done nothing wrong, according to the rules. Cleveland State has done nothing wrong, according to the rules,” Havey said. “But from an ethical perspective, I think anybody can see that this is a shady practice.”

Calls to UTEP head coach Tim Floyd and the NCAA were not immediately returned Wednesday.

‘We’re not alone’

After several attempts to fix the situation by talking with the schools directly, Havey is ready to take his case to the top of the NCAA. He said poaching is a common practice that hurts schools across Canada.

“We’re not alone,” he said. “Osborne had the potential to be one of the best, possibly the best player in Lancer basketball history. To lose a high-performing student athlete like that is distressing. It’s not about Isiah Osborne per se, it’s about the practice.”

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