Volume 91, Issue 93

Wednesday, March 25, 1998



Shades of Grey for Vanier as CIAU looks for revival

By Ian Ross
Gazette Staff

The Canadian university football championship is suffering from a lack of interest and the CIAU is not planning on watching the premier varsity sporting event in Canada, the Vanier Cup, fade away.

Currently investigating options for the future, a committee has been set up to determine what path the league should take.

One of the leading proposals gathering a great deal of interest is the combination of the CIAU's title game with the Canadian Football League's Grey Cup to form a 'Super Weekend.'

If implemented, the plan would have the Vanier Cup game rotating through a number of CFL cities with the Grey Cup, leaving the comforts of Toronto where it has been played since its creation in 1965.

"Problems with not having the right mix of teams at the SkyDome is that there is not a lot of interest," said University of Alberta's head coach Tom Wilkinson. "By going into a site that is football anxious, people in the city are going to be ready to see football. Touring different cities with the Grey Cup site will guarantee to have that."

One of the pitfalls that has prevented the two leagues from melding their championship games in the past has been the battle over television contracts which has split the two games between different networks, creating contract and equipment difficulties.

"The reason things are falling into place now is that TSN holds the rights to both events. That is a major issue and one of the biggest hurdles removed, but there are a number of other things that need to be overcome," Tom Higgins, general manager of the Edmonton Eskimos said.

After the smallest crowd ever at a Vanier Cup event (8,500 for last season's game between Ottawa Gees Gees and University of British Columbia Thunderbirds), Wilkinson believes this proposal will return fans to the seats and revive media interest.

"The media can't ignore the Vanier Cup. Our game is going to be before the Grey Cup. That will get more media to it because they know their competition is going and don't want to miss a big story," Wilkinson said.

Mustang head coach Larry Haylor disagreed with his football peer and feels that the identity of the game will be lost as another event in the Grey Cup weekend.

"If you bring them together the media is going to have priority. I know what is going to be on the front page and it's not the Vanier," he said. "I think the Canadian university game needs an identity and needs to stand alone."

With other proposals still being considered by the committee, it is apparent the CIAU is unwilling to jump into a poorly-researched plan and the focus is long term.

Although the CIAU/CFL 'Super Weekend' is still in its infancy, there is strong indication from members of both leagues that the issue will be explored further and harder than it was in the past.

To Contact The Sports Department: gazsport@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1998