Have you ever noticed that people seem to love a crowd? Well, there sure hasn't been much lovin' goin' on in the CIAU for quite a while.
Whether it is due to poor marketing, a lack of funding or because some of the games are about as much fun as a kinesiology exam, CIAU sports haven't been scoring any points with the university crowd over the past decade.
Recently, however, there has been a surge by aspiring entrapreneurs and concerned members of the dying league to spark the flame that once packed university students into stadiums across Canada. Canadian University Sports, a national monthly magazine scheduled to hit campuses in September, along with The CIAU Sports Digest show on FAN 590 radio in Toronto, are taking big strides for promoting the league.
The concept of promoting Canadian talent and varsity athletics is fan-tastic. The only question is: Is it too late?
Cutbacks for varsity athletics have made it increasingly difficult for athletic departments to promote their events, meanwhile, university students would rather sleep in or watch 100,000 people screaming for a touchdown at American College game rather than mosey on over to their own team's game. Why? Because it is a lot more fun to be where the action is which is usually south of the border.
But before the American bandwagon is filled by all of the Canadian fans, these media projects have a chance to improve the situation of Canadian university sports. How? By making their products good. Very good.
Any business venture into the CIAU assumes the risk of failure considering the lack of interest that already exists. Barely anybody goes to the games so why would they want to read about them? Also, what could a national monthly magazine or a Toronto radio show tell someone at the University of Saskatchewan what they don't already know about how the Huskies are doing?
Another thought being thrown around the league is the possible merging of the Vanier Cup with the Canadian Football League's Grey Cup creating one giant (or not-so-giant) weekend showcase of northern football. For the CIAU it means television, sponsorship and above all, fans since a hosting city abuzz with football fever couldn't possibly attract fewer than the miserable 8,500 people who went to the Vanier in November.
The issue for all of these projects is mostly about education. The league knows it needs to find new ways of achieving national recognition and something is finally being done. In essence, these new ideas are not going to draw students out to every game with a bucket of face-paint and home-team pom-poms. They are, however, a good first step.