Realignment fumble: Ontario league won't expand
By John Intini
A formal bid by three Ontario universities to move out of the Quebec football conference for the 1997-98 football season has been taken off the table after facing problems with incorporating the three disgruntled schools.
As reported in early September, the Carleton Ravens, Ottawa Gee Gees and the Queen's Golden Gaels, who currently play in the Ontario Quebec Intercollegiate Football Conference, were interested in moving out of the OQIFC. However, OUA football convenor David Copp said the bid was met by a number of sizeable roadblocks.
"Cost is certainly the number one issue, but there was also a number of scheduling problems," he said. "The topic was greatly discussed, but a consensus among all schools could not be made."
In the late 1970s, the three schools joined up with McGill, Bishop's and Concordia under the assumption that once a fourth team was added, the Ontario teams would rejoin the OUA but even after Laval was added, the Ontario schools remained in the OQIFC.
From the start, Queen's was the leader citing an added increase in both rivalry and alumni support if they had the chance to play schools from Ontario. Queen's lobbied hard to force the hand of both Carleton and Ottawa, who Ottawa football head coach Larry Ring said would just as soon remain in the OQIFC stating that "financially the move just doesn't make sense."
Copp, who also is the director of athletics at Guelph, said money really is a big obstacle.
"It would be tough to throw another $20,000 dollars into a program when a number of other programs are being cut," he said.
Carleton's director of athletics Drew Love said a vote was taken among the 11 schools in early October which clearly showed the request looked to be in trouble.
"In a very unofficial manner, we had a straw vote that turned out to have an 8-3 outcome," he said. "It was unofficial, but it pointed to some obvious problems."
Solutions discussed included alternatives ranging from a two-division Ontario league with a cross-over in the playoffs, three five-school divisions including the Quebec league or a 15-team super-league.
Love claims it was understood that although the schools are pulling the bid off the table, the case is far from being closed.
"We will certainly try to iron out some of the details and come to a deal that the other schools will think is fair," he said. "It is a great move for the schools to build up rivalries and it is something the schools deserve."
Alternatively, Ring is not as optimistic with the possibility of a shake-up for the 1998-99 season.
"Teams in Ontario have it made," he said. "Why would any of them want to add more to travel expenses? It is simply an impossible battle that will never be won."