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This Mexican university hopes to become the NCAA’s first south-of-the-border member

May 14, 2017

A Mexican university located just south of San Diego is looking to become the first member of the NCAA to be located south of the U.S. border.

Having submitted its application in January, now Cetys University has to prove it can comply with a series of rules. Cetys rector Fernando León García described the process as “long” to AGP Desportes in January, and also clarified that just because it’s seeking NCAA accreditation, doesn’t mean Cetys has its sights on becoming a Division I powerhouse.

“Do not expect to see us competing against Ohio State or UCLA in football and basketball,” León García told AGP. Instead, he added, Cetys is looking to compete against smaller, Division II schools, such as Westmont College of Santa Barbara, a member of the Golden State Athletic Conference.

“We would compete against small universities that have anywhere from 5,000 to 15,000 students, where sports is just one component of life,” he said. “In division one, you have the big universities that … have mega budgets and a long tradition in sports.”

For example, the entire year’s athletic budget at Cetys totals to about $1.25 million, the New York Times reported Monday. At a Division I school like Ohio State or UCLA, that wouldn’t even cover a football coach’s salary.

Cetys, which already travels to the United States regularly to play exhibition games in four sports for men and three for women, is aware its application isn’t a sure thing, however. The last Mexican university that applied for NCAA membership, Monterrey Tech, was rejected in 2013.

The reason, according to NCAA’s Division II vice president Terri Steeb Gronau, was that Monterrey’s application was “just a potential option,” she told the Times. “It was more conceptual.”

Cetys’s application, she added, is more “specific.”

“The school fits the mission of other schools within the West Coast,” she said.

Cetys’s location is also likely appealing. Unlike Monterrey Tech, which is located about a three-hour drive from the U.S. border of Texas, Cetys is located just six miles from the nearest entry point in Calexico, California.

“The trips aren’t that far,” Cetys men’s basketball Coach Héctor Vildósola told the Times. “A lot closer than anywhere we play in Mexico.”

Despite the proximity to the United States, there are obvious complications involved with any border crossing. As SB Nation points out, U.S. students traveling to Mexico will need a passport to attend games in Mexico. Meanwhile, student-athletes already in the United States on visas may not be able to attend at all.

“It could create headaches for undermanned athletic departments [in Division II programs],” reporter Matt Brown wrote Tuesday.

As Brown concludes, as well as other supporters of Cetys’s inclusion, however, the positives of accepting Cetys into the NCAA fold far outweigh the negatives.

“You really can’t compare the level of basketball, U.S. versus Mexico,” Mexican student David Ackerman told the Times. That, Ackerman said, will allow Mexico’s student-athletes to develop their skills at a higher level.

Already, the NCAA has accepted a Canadian college into its fold. Division II school Simon Fraser University out of British Columbia was accepted by the NCAA, as well as the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, in 2012.

Milton Richards, SFU’s senior athletic director at the time, sounded very much like Cetys’s supporters in explaining his reason for working toward inclusion.

“For the NCAA, adding Simon Fraser creates unbelievable opportunities for the largest collegiate sports body in the world to truly become international,” Richards told SFU’s campus magazine at the time. “Playing in the U.S. against American universities fits in well with the university’s strategic plan. I think competing in the NCAA shows engagement and diversity, and reflects that Simon Fraser is an international university, serving the world.”

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