Canadian vs American college sports programs

By Radhya ComarOctober 27, 2022

Canadians and Americans certainly have their fair share of differences. Some are tiny and unimportant, like the color of the currency or the spelling of the color itself, while others are large and confusing. Differences between collegiate sports in Canada and the United States fall into the latter category.

Many of these differences can be attributed to the wide disparity between media coverage of college sports in Canada and the United States. Media coverage plays a huge role in the popularity of college sports as it allows people across the country to engage in sports. ESPN, the most popular sports network in the United States, pays on average $34 million USD per year to broadcast collegiate championships in a number of sports. This agreement between ESPN and the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) was signed in 2011 and is set to expire at the end of the 2023-2024 sports season. By comparison, U Sports, which oversees university-level sports in Canada, signed its largest influential case in 2021. The association signed a four-year deal with CBC to broadcast championships in all sports.

However, the question of why American college sports are getting more media coverage remains. The answer may simply lie in the cultural differences between the two nations. Maybe Americans pay more attention to athletics in general. After all, their culture can be easily identified with many different sports. In professional basketball, the majority The majority of the NBA is made up of American teams with American players. The same could be said for football and baseball which have strong cultural ties across the country. These diverse interests in sports in America translate directly into the greater popularity of their college athletic programs. Having a wide range of sports broadcast allows citizens to engage with the one they prefer. Yet, in sports, the Canadian media is dominated by ice hockey. This encourages the average Canadian to turn away from television if the sport broadcast is not hockey, whether at the professional or collegiate level.

When discussing this topic, many consider the elephant in the room to be the differing skill level of college athletes in the two countries. This is not a commentary on the players themselves but on the different environments in which they are formed. For example, it was found in 2018 that the average Division 1 football program in America had an annual budget of $22 million usd. This statistic was calculated from the budgets of 15 FSB institutions. Alabama State University tops the list with an annual average of 60 million US dollars dedicated to the football program. Sitting at the bottom of the ladder, the University of Miami had an average annual budget of US$36 million. Comparatively, in the 2017-2018 fiscal year, the University of Ottawa had an overall budget for the sports of $16 million, which is approximately US$11 million, adjusted for inflation. This budget includes the costs of facilities, personnel and operations.

In general, the sports budget directly impacts an athlete’s experience. The amount of funding determines the scholarships available to student-athletes. It also influences the quality and quantity of staff hired. These roles include coaches, trainers and medical staff. Taken together, these funding differences show the increased emphasis on sports in American schools compared to their Canadian counterparts.

Differences in media coverage, general sports culture and funding are all factors that may indicate why Canadian college sport pales in comparison to our American neighbours. In reality, however, these are only the first factors that cross your mind. Population differences, scholarships of varying quality, and academic leniency are often overlooked factors. Although at present, it is safe to say that athletics at Canadian universities will look the same in the near future. Even though college sports are beginning to be integrated into mainstream media, the cultural and monetary changes just seem too drastic right now.