Glory days for CIS football

Glory days for CIS football

With a growing number of graduates on NFL rosters and the security of a long-term broadcast agreement in hand, Canadian University football is poised to reach new heights.

(Photo Jonathan Hayward CP)

Shortly after the 2013 NFL Draft Regina Rams defensive tackle Stefan Charles (a native of Oshawa, Ontario) and McMaster Marauders offensive lineman Matt Sewell (a native of Milton, Ontario) signed as free agents with the NFL’s Tennessee Titans.

The two are part of a trend.

Charles’ teammate, long-snapper Jorgen Hus, signed as a free agent with the St. Louis Rams.

Ben D’Aguilar, the 6-foot-2, 240-pound winner of the J.P. Metris Trophy as Canadian university football’s top defensive lineman, got a call from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers inviting him to minicamp.

Calgary Dino Kirby Fabian was also recently invited to an NFL mini-camp, this time with the New York Giants.

The five players are just the most recent examples of the NFL’s interest in Canadian University players.

In 2012, Akiem Hicks, a defensive lineman with the Regina Rams, was selected in the third round by the New Orleans Saints. In 2009 the University of Western Ontario’s Vaughn Martin was drafted in the fourth round by the San Diego Chargers.

Several more CIS players have also earned NFL jobs in recent years as undrafted free agents (Concordia’s Cory Greenwood, Calgary’s Dan Federkeil, and Brandon’s Israel Idonije to name a few).

A new broadcast agreement should ensure that this expanding profile continues to grow.

Sportsnet and Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS), the national governing body of university sport in Canada, recently announced a new six-year partnership. The length of the agreement, headlined by the Vanier Cup, ensures a promotional commitment and also includes the CIS football semi-final Mitchell and Uteck Bowls. The agreement spans television, online and mobile.

Sportsnet’s The Score will be one of the main hubs of CIS coverage, continuing its strong tradition of broadcasting university sports and amateur athletics, which began in 2002. Specific broadcast details are expected to be announced by summer 2013.

The NFL on Campus program, which will include visits to nine Canadian Universities this Fall, has a long history of support for CIS football and cooperation with The Score’s CIS team.

“CIS athletes have proven they can compete at world-class levels, and now they will receive the world-class coverage they deserve,” said Navaid Mansuri, Vice-President, Programming, Sportsnet in a release. “The CIS is a highly-valued, long-term partner, and we look forward to working with them to significantly increase the profile of Canadian university sports and expose the country to some of our best athletes and stars in the making – along with sharing the game-day excitement from campuses across Canada. The sky is the limit from here.”

The 2013 Vanier Cup, including the presentation of the NFL Youth Coach of the Year award, will take place on Saturday, Nov. 23 on the campus of Université Laval in Quebec City.  The Vanier Cup will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2014.