Photo by Jeff Chan
Like the Toronto Maple Leafs and never-ending disappointment, poutinerie frequenters and cardiac arrest, and Queen’s University’s Homecoming and flaming cars, some things are just meant to go together.
And while Queen’s administration is trying to “…send a very clear signal that this party must stop,” the CIS and the CFL are taking their party up a notch.
Next year, the Vanier Cup and the Grey Cup will both be held on the same weekend in Vancouver BC, with the university championship played Friday and the CFL championship played Sunday.
The two games have only ever been held on the same weekend in the same city twice before, in 1973 at Toronto’s Exhibition Stadium and in 2007 at Toronto’s Rogers Centre. The 2007 Vanier Cup drew 26,787 fans, the seventh highest attendance in Vanier history.
This weekend the Vanier Cup is being played in Quebec City on Saturday while the Grey Cup will take place in Edmonton on Sunday. Last year’s Vanier Cup between the Queen’s Gaels and Calgary Dinos, also in Quebec City, drew 18,628 fans despite the home team Laval Rouge et Or not being in the game.
Of course, Laval will play in this year’s championship, taking on Calgary. The Rouge et Or have installed additional seats at PEPS Stadium on Laval’s campus in order to accommodate the expected rush of fans.
British Columbia isn’t exactly known for being a hotbed of university football with just one team participating in the CIS — the last-place UBC Thunderbirds. Simon Fraser University was in the CIS last year but this year competed in the NCAA’s Great Northwest conference. They lost all eight of their inter-conference games.
A local school in the championship game would go a long way to filling BC Place but considering UBC’s 2-6 record this year, that feat is extraordinarily unlikely. A more likely situation will see at least one team travelling nearly coast-to-coast with a representative from either the OUA or AUS guaranteed a berth in next year’s game.
British Columbia does support their CFL team well and surely the CIS feels they can feed off that energy on Grey Cup weekend. One strategy that the CIS and CFL have used in the past is to bundle tickets in order to encourage people to attend the Vanier game. It worked in 2007 when more than 26,000 showed up to the Roger’s Centre to see Manitoba walk over Saint Mary’s.
But when you have to offer discounts and ticket bundles to get butts in seats maybe the problem is that people just aren’t all that interested in CIS football. It’s always been a tough sell in Canada where even university students don’t seem to give two scoops about their teams.
But part of that problem could be a lack of media coverage for the Vanier Cup, something that isn’t helped by having the Grey Cup on the same weekend on the other side of the country as Andrew Bucholtz pointed out.
But both CIS Bowl games and the Vanier Cup are broadcast nationally. As are ten games from the OUA season on The Score’s University Rush. It’s the only Canadian football you can watch on most Saturday afternoons — the CFL is usually kind enough to hold off for Saturday night — yet most choose not to. That says something.
It’s a thorny issue that, frankly, no one outside of passionate Canadian football circles cares about.
Having a big crowd turn up in Vancouver for 2011’s Vanier Cup will be nice, but is it so great if it’s simply CFL fans who were sold on a bundled ticket and don’t want to see it go to waste? What’s better — a large crowd of 26,000 indifferent fans or a smaller crowd of 15,000 passionate fans?
On the other hand, if next year’s Vancouver Vanier is a dud, it could mark a point where the CIS has to accept that they aren’t the most popular draw and settle for intimate venues in areas with strong CIS support that they can pack with passionate fans — such as PEPS this weekend.
Or go all XFL styles and eliminate extra points, replace the coin toss with a 20-yard death-race and allow defensive backs to hit receivers without the ball.
And incorporate trampolines. I’m telling you — it’ll work.