Former CCAA President (1986-90) & 2018 CCAA Hall of Fame Inductee, Glenn Ruiter, documented the Association's history as part of the CCAA’s 40th Anniversary. Entitled The History of the CCAA, the 400-page book is a chronological narrative of the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association, encompassing its earliest incarnations up until the 2014 AGM. The following is an excerpt from the first chapter of the book chronicling the CCAA’s beginnings:
It was not long after the establishment of the conferences and their championships that the institutions began to desire a further test for their teams. The impetus for national championship events was launched by the suggestion that conferences might compete against each other. The western provinces first broached the idea of cross conference play at a meeting in Saskatoon in December of 1970. Alberta pushed for the creation of a 4-West Conference which would govern inter-provincial championship events between representatives of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The participants were sufficiently motivated, and a championship program was established in 1971 for men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball as well as men’s hockey.
Just a year later, representatives of the 4-West initiated the first steps toward the development of a national championship athletic association. The Conference had in place an administrative infrastructure that could address the many issues which would arise from the blending together of provincial associations. Using this as a basis, Don Stouffer, of Mount Royal College in Calgary, convened a meeting in Quebec City in June of 1972 with the expressed purpose of creating a national association. The other representatives that attended the meeting with Stouffer were Wayne Halliwell, of Dawson College in Montreal, as well as Al Hoffman and Jack Costello, of St. Clair College in Windsor.
Funding for this initial meeting was not available to the group, so they coordinated their meeting with the CIAU AGM and used the opportunity to meet with A.J. (Bud) Fraser of Sport Canada. Fraser acknowledged and understood that the objectives which motivated the college representatives were consistent with the long term goals of Sport Canada. The representatives received encouragement for their ambitions which resulted in the establishment of an ‘Ad Hoc Steering Committee on the Formation of a National Association to Promote College Athletics.’ Don Stouffer agreed to serve as chair of the committee.
This new committee followed up their initial meeting a few months later by convening in Toronto at the Association of Canadian Community Colleges AGM. The Royal York, with its historic ties to the Canadian Pacific Railway and nation building, served as a symbolic and appropriate location to discuss the possibility of linking the provincial conferences under a national association. There were fourteen participants at the October 1972 meeting, representing twelve colleges from conferences in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec:
These representatives wasted no time in deliberating and passing several motions that would set the framework for this new association, including a name – the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association. The four regional conferences of the 4-West, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia would go on to serve as the founding membership and framework for the organization. The creation of committees and their roles, which included membership, constitution and government liaison, was another important element of these early talks. These essential components served as the fabric for the CCAA and provided optimism to those involved that the structure for national championship competition could be realized in the very near future.
However, the CCAA was still in search of legitimacy, and recognition from Sport Canada would go a long way to serve that interest. Sport Canada was eager to pursue the development of high-performance athletes who could contribute to the national teams. Sport Canada had been supporting and funding CIAU programs, having identified the organization as a significant source for athletic development. Those involved believed that the CCAA could be a source for similar opportunities. However, outside of Quebec, students that were enrolled in collegiate institutions were left out of the Sport Canada system. As skilled as these athletes were, they had not been provided with competitive opportunities to perform at the highest level and further enhance their abilities.
A step towards clearing this hurdle was achieved when, in early 1973, Sport Canada agreed to fund representation for the first CCAA Annual General Meeting. Sport Canada agreed to support the travel of two delegates from each of the four regions for the first official gathering of CCAA representatives. In June of 1973 the meeting was held at Mount Royal College in Calgary and for the first time Canada’s colleges gathered to construct a national athletic association. There was considerable excitement as the delegates developed plans for the introduction of seven national championships which would begin the following year in 1974.
Pessimism was nonexistent and the passion to create athletic opportunities helped override many obstacles. The excitement of a national championship program initially brushed aside concerns which would become challenging points to the growth of the CCAA. Ultimately, they needed to be addressed and the development of national championship competition which provided equal opportunities for all participants was a chief concern for the association.
In some cases the inequities were inherent in the structure of the provincial education systems: B.C. and Alberta had university transfer programs; Nova Scotia had degree granting institutions; Quebec had access to all high school graduates with its mandatory pre-university programs; and Ontario offered three and four year diploma programs in its CAAT colleges. These challenges were matched by discrepancies in size and enrollment between both the conferences and institutions. Some colleges had enrolments of over 5000 students while others only had a few hundred registered. The Quebec conference had fifty collegiate members and several teams in each league while Manitoba had only three member institutions in total.
The CCAA would be faced with the challenge of balancing its many divergent interests and realities in the pursuit of competitive fairness. The athletes were far removed from the political arena where these issues were being (and continue to be) debated. Above all it was (and is) the responsibility of the CCAA members to ensure that these issues were resolved to the satisfaction of their ultimate beneficiary – the student-athletes.