Isiah Osborne was preparing for a dominant season in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) with the Windsor Lancers. The 6’5” guard was a top prospect and looked to be a dominant force for the historically strong Windsor team.
That was until the University of Texas El Paso Miners saw him play in the preseason, which prompted them to sign him, according to a report from CBC.
Despite Osborne signing a letter of intent with the Lancers, he signed with the Miners only two days after they saw him play.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has rules in place to prevent bigger programs from recruiting players from the smaller ones. However, those rules don’t include Canadian universities.
“NCAA members have not implemented any current rules requiring coaches to request approval before contacting current student-athletes at Canadian universities,” said Meghan Durham, NCAA assistant director of public and media relations in an email.
“The NCAA is a membership-driven organization, meaning member schools and conferences propose rules and vote on whether or not to approve them,” she said. “At this point, NCAA members have not proposed legislation to extend that rule outside of NCAA and [National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics] schools.”
Jennifer Brenning, Carleton’s director of recreation and athletics, said she hasn’t heard of any player as notable as Osborne leaving Carleton for an NCAA school.
“I think that’s one of the first that I’ve heard with the Windsor case,” she said. “We haven’t had that experience, I think Windsor being close to the border, it’s a little more challenging.”
However, she added the NCAA not recognizing CIS restrictions on recruiting existing players is concerning.
And the NCAA hasn’t been entirely quiet around Carleton, as multiple American schools have offered coaching positions to Dave Smart, the Ravens men’s basketball head coach. Smart told the Toronto Star in 2015 he could never accept the position because he wouldn’t be able to break the news to the team he recruited.
Brenning said the other reason Smart has always decided to stay is because of the training the coaches are allowed to do with the players. She said he likes being able to work with them year round, which wouldn’t be allowed in the NCAA.
“In the States, it’s very restrictive on how much coaching [you can do] year round,” she said.
Carleton has also seen the opposite happen, as NCAA players decide to transfer and play for the Ravens. Some of these players include Kaza Kajami-Keane, starting point guard for the men’s basketball team who played at Illinois State and Cleveland State, as well as Chad Manchulenko, wide receiver for the football team who transferred from Simon Fraser University, the only Canadian school in the NCAA.
Manchulenko said he wasn’t recruited by the Ravens, but knew a lot of coaches and players from Team Ontario and other football-related events.
One sport that does not have to worry about NCAA interest is men’s hockey. This is due to the majority of players coming from the Canadian Hockey League, which forfeits their eligibility to play in the NCAA, according to the association’s rules.
But this hasn’t stopped outside interests. Marty Johnston, head coach for the Ravens men’s hockey team, said every year he has to discuss with his players the possibility of playing in minor professional leagues.
Johnston said this isn’t about the players being stolen—it is about their future.
“There are times when it is the best case for them to go and there are times when we try to give them advice to stick it out and get the degree,” Johnston said.
He said opportunities from the outside are presented every year, and he only wants what’s best for the player.
“It’s our job to help them as people first and look at our own interests second, it shouldn’t be the other way around,” Johnston said.
Kwesi Loney, Ravens men’s soccer head coach, said he cannot recall a situation similar to Osborne’s happening at Carleton.
Loney said the CIS doesn’t redshirt players that come from the NCAA, which makes the transition back to Canada easier.
“Kids like going to US schools on a scholarship, being promised this and that, and then getting there and realizing it wasn’t exactly what it was cracked up to be, and then coming back,” Loney said.
“I think at the end of the day it’s always what’s in the best interest of the student athlete,” he said.
Brenning said the situation with Osborne was surprising and worth watching due to the amount of American schools who play preseason games at Carleton. However, she said she isn’t worried about the competition.
“We’ve won 12 championships, we have many athletes playing professionally over in Europe, so I think coming here they know they’re going to get their degree and get a chance to play,” she said.