A long-awaited plan for inter-conference play between elite Canadian University football programs appears to be gaining traction.
“CIS football is a highly entertaining product when the better teams in the country play head to head, but there have been far too many blowouts in games between the haves and the have-nots,” wrote Canadian football analyst and radio host Mike Hogan in a recent article on TSN.ca. “For example, in Ontario there were 43 regular season games played in 2014. Of those, 20 were decided by 31 or more points. That’s 47 per cent of the conference’s schedule being decided by at least four touchdowns and a field goal. Only 11 of the 43 games played, or 26 per cent of the schedule, were decided by two touchdowns or fewer.” http://www.tsn.ca/talent/is-cis-football-super-league-in-the-works-1.215093
According to Football Canada the “Northern 8 Football Series” proposal, created by a group that includes Concorde Group CEO David Dube, who has reportedly committed to being a funding partner, includes the following:
• All interlock games would count towards conference standings
• In 2015 the interlock would include 2 Ontario teams, 2 from Canada West, 2 from the Quebec conference
• The Atlantic conference would be represented through their pre-existing interlock with Quebec
• The number of teams represented in the interlock was proposed to increase in 2016 from 8 to 10
• Each week an interlock game would be broadcast nationally
“The backers of the project have vowed to make this a non-profit venture. They would manage the air travel of the teams and all other business costs associated with the Northern 8,” wrote Hogan. “Teams would pay $30K up front for airfare and the cost would be divided equally. Any donors would receive either advertising or a tax receipt. Schools would have to pay for their own hotel accommodations and ground travel. If there were to be any profit, it would be split among CIS teams who were not involved in the Northern 8 series.”
While the CIS Canada West Conference has already given the idea its approval, the other conferences have not. The CIS has, however, created a task force to take a closer look at the idea.
“We’re certainly open to new ideas,” Gord Grace, the OUA’s chief executive officer, told TSN.ca. “From a CIS perspective, there’s a group that’s looking into it. What I’ve seen is not really a proposal, it’s more of a concept.”
There is also the matter of trying to work potential “Northern 8” games into an existing TV contracts (the CIS currently lacks a national broadcast agreement for its regular season games. Sportsnet televises the two national semi finals and the Vanier Cup only.)
“Selling the product is tough enough, but getting fans to buy into a sport with so many lopsided games is a tough sell to even the most hardcore fans,” wrote Hogan. “Promoting a game between Western and York isn’t easy, but what about McMaster versus Calgary or Queen’s versus Laval? All of a sudden the task becomes a lot easier, while the prospect of a closer game increases, as well.”
Football Canada directs fans interested in joining the discussion to visit https://www.change.org/p/cis-football-schools-engage-in-discussions-to-start-the-northern8-football-series-sic-parlez-au-northern8
The National Football League is a long-time supporter of Canadian University football. Over the past three seasons the league has visited and made donations to dozens of CIS football programs through its NFL on Campus initiative.
(photo Andrew Vaughn, CP)