The original CIAU Central was founded in 1906 and existed until 1955, composed only of universities from Ontario and Quebec. The period from 1906-1919 saw the development of university sport on university campuses across the country. The semi-national organization, CIAU Central, provided common rules and regulations.
The period 1919-1944 was a relatively stable one primarily between the two World Wars. University sport enjoyed rapid growth and development with the building of extensive facilities, and the establishment of professional coaching and management positions.
A growth spurt between 1944-1955 saw the CIAU Central grow into a large group of nineteen (19) member universities each of which had diverse enrolment, philosophy, and practices both academically and athletically. The result saw the collapse of CIAU Central as there was no forum to evaluate or research policy in order to adjudicate conflicts within the organization.
At the same time women's programs were expanding and required organization. In 1923, the Women's Intercollegiate Athletic Union (WIAU) was founded to provide athletic competition for female students in Ontario and the Ontario-Quebec Women's Intercollegiate Athletics (O-QWICA) coordinated programs for female students in Ontario and Quebec.
After the break-up , the universities divided into the Ontario-Quebec University Athletic Association (OQUAA) with 12 members and the Ottawa-St. Lawrence Athletic Association (OSLAA) with 8 members. The Ontario Intercollegiate Athletic Association (OIAA) was founded in 1959 with members only from Ontario.
In the East, the Atlantic Intercollegiate Athletic Association (AIAA) was founded in 1910, with members from the provinces of Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland. The association was reformulated to the Atlantic Universities Athletic Association (AUAA) in 1968 and has 10 members. The AUAA was one of the original members of the now CIAU national organization.
The OIAA lasted from 1959 to 1971, at which point it was dissolved as a competing league. In 1971, OQUAA and OSLAA reformulated into the Ontario University Athletic Association (OUAA) with 15 member universities from Ontario and the Quebec University Athletic Association (QUAA) with 10 member universities from Quebec. The QUAA became the Quebec Student Sports Federation (QSSF) in 1989 as the Quebec school sport structure changed to include CEGEPS and High Schools.
During this same period, the Women's Intercollegiate Athletic Union (WIAU) amalgamated with the Ontario-Quebec Women's Conference to form the Ontario Women's Interuniversity Athletic Union (OWIAA) in 1971. At the national level, the Western Canada Intercollegiate Athletic Association submitted a proposal to the National Committee on Interuniversity Competition, a sub-committee of the University Women's Physical Education Committee, and to other conferences. The proposal was presented to representatives of each conference at a meeting in December 1969. The amalgamation proposal was accepted resulting in the formulation of the Canadian Women's Intercollegiate Athletic Union with the primary purpose of organizing national championships for women. The first "unofficial" national championship sanctioned by the CWIAU was volleyball played at the University of Waterloo in March 1970.
The Western Intercollegiate Athletic Association (WIAA) was founded in 1920 and included members from British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. In 1971, the WIAA subdivided into the Canada West Universities Athletic Association (CWUAA) with 6 members and the Great Plains Athletic Association (GPAC) with 3 members primarily from the province of Manitoba, the University of Regina from the province of Saskatchewan and Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Lakehead University canceled it's membership in GPAC in 1988 and became a member of the OUAA/OWIAA.
With the rapid development of interuniversity sport in the late 1950's, it became quite apparent that any future successful development needed to be coordinated and administered in a centralized location. The evolution of Canadian interuniversity athletic programs progressed to a well organized level as scientific coaching methods contributed to the high level of athletic performance.
The various Athletic Associations across the country found that there was a need for discussion on common issues pertinent to athletics and the provision for a communication vehicle among teachers, coaches, athletes and researchers. Initially, there was limited interest in who won national championships as conference and member interaction was the ultimate goal. Other areas of common concern were as follows:
- a recognized need for the formulation of consistent and acceptable sport rules and regulations for all teams represented at national championships;
- mutually beneficial agreements with other National Sport Organizations;
- coordination of national and international competition;
- to assist in developing leadership and citizenship of athletic staff.
The first CIAU Secretary-Treasurer was Major Danny McLeod, Athletic Director at the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario. He ran the CIAU from his office at the college. Federal funding for the development of the CIAU was limited since the Fitness and Amateur Sport (F&AS) Act of 1961 had a budget of $1,000,000 available for all amateur sports. John Munro's (Minister of State for F&AS) vision for a national sport center was not realized until 1971. In the 1960's the CIAU functioned as a voluntary, autonomous, educational sport organization. Common people with common needs utilized similar goals and means throughout this era.
Munro's successor Iona Campagnolo believed "growing demands for sophisticated administration and technical programs tend to be beyond the capacity of dedicated volunteers and that the universities and indeed all the educational system, are the natural delivery systems for sport in Canada" (Campagnolo, 1977).