CIAU throws penalty flag on Gee Gees season
By Ian Ross
The dream season for the University of Ottawa Gee Gee's football team, which saw them climb all the way to the Vanier Cup, has been erased from the record books.
This attempt at rewriting history was part of a decision handed down by the Canadian Interuniversity Athletic Union executive last week. The penalty which was outlined to the Gee Gees was for two player infractions of the league's eligibility guidelines which occurred during this past season.
Both veteran athletes were discovered to have been holding only 15 credit hours from Sept. 1, 1996 to Aug. 31, 1997. According to CIAU and Ontario-Quebec Intercollegiate Football Conference rules each player must have 18 credit hours to be permitted to take the field for a varsity athletic team.
While the university does not wish to disclose the names of the individuals, Ottawa head coach Larry Ring described both individuals as "non-impact" athletes with a combined four games played between them last season.
"We made a mistake as Western did in 1991," Ring said. "Neither the players nor the school was aware any rules were being broken at the time. We must now pay the price with these sanctions and move on."
In addition to the removal of Ottawa's name from the Churchill Bowl (given this year to the Ontario-Quebec champion in one of two national semi-final match-ups), the school was also fined $2,000 and lost the right to host any play-off games or be telecast during the regular season for the next two years.
The discovery of the two ineligible athletes was the indirect result of a year-long investigation into the Ottawa football team. "We launched an internal investigation after a complaint was filed by Carleton University," Kerry Moynihan, the CIAU's Chief Executive Officer, said. "The accusations by Carleton proved false, but both the league and the University of Ottawa unearthed the eligibility violations during the investigation procedure."
The attempt by the league to invalidate last season's success does not concern Ring, as it is the future financial position of the team which worries him the most. "We still have the memories of [the 1997] season and they can't take that away," he said. "It is the revenue sharing from playoff games and television broadcasts that will hurt us the most."
With the cost of running a football team over the course of a season topping nearly a million dollars, Ring is concerned with the difficulties the school will face in replacing these lost funds. At this time, the university is looking at a number of options.
Although this is the third incident of its nature in the past three years (Bishop's also in 1997 and Queens in 1995), both Ring and Moynihan still agree that no formal national structure can be created to monitor such violations.
"It is up to the university to put a system in place. [The CIAU] simply doesn't have the manpower," Maynihan said.