Coverage Blackout

Graphic by Joshua Awolade

Graphic by Joshua Awolade

In August, Sportsnet made the executive decision to axe the Ontario University Athletics men’s football regular season from its television programming.

No one was really surprised — aside from Homecoming, fan base at the games was subpar at best. However it came as a huge blow to the OUA and Canadian Interuniversity Sport conferences alike that are still struggling to get the media attention they deserve.

Being the dedicated, football-crazed fan I am, when Saturday’s OUA Yates Cup championship game began at 1 p.m. sharp of course I had OUA.tv connected to my television and had my bacon already cooked.

OUA.tv has been a mediocre alternative to the lack of national media attention throughout the regular season, but it did not do justice to one of the most led-up to conference championships.

The Yates Cup — the oldest football trophy in North America — deserved that spot on Sportsnet Saturday afternoon.

But alas, I was forced to yell at a blank blue screen that threatened the broadcast and reset my feed enough times so the game was relatively close to the tweets coming to my phone. It was as stressful as it was enjoyable, and all I yearned for was the ability to watch Sportsnet’s coverage on my television.

Despite the lackluster performance of both McMaster and Guelph that made the game mediocre and rather ugly, there’s something about OUA football that makes people stick around and continue to follow these student athletes that are given minimal $4,000 scholarships to essentially do two full-time jobs. These athletes pour their hearts into the opportunity to just be able to lift the coveted Vanier Cup.

Unfortunately, I understand Sportsnet’s positioning when it comes to numbers and dollars — with a giant NHL contract now under their wing, who needs amateur university football for a relatively small demographic?

The woes of Canadian university sport continue with its lack of national coverage.

Sure, the Mitchell Bowl and the Uteck Bowl — essentially the semifinals for CIS football — and the championship final, the Vanier Cup, will be broadcasted on Sportsnet over the next two weekends. But that’s two weeks out of a 13-week season.

Marauders fifth-year quarterback Marshall Ferguson, who has aspirations to be a broadcaster, reached out to OUA executive director Brian Crawford when Sportsnet originally dropped the OUA’s broadcasts in August.

According to Crawford, “The OUA actually committed significant financial resources in supporting production costs for the SportsnetU and University Rush broadcasts … the primary benefits to OUA and our members came from the branding and visibility opportunities that come with being on national television.”

OUA put money into its ability to somehow grow its visibility, yet national television continues to play with its heartstrings by leading the conference on.

TSN covered the 2011 Vanier Cup between the Laval Rouge et Or and McMaster — forever known as the “best game ever” — with over 660,000 viewers tuning in. TSN cashed in big, and Sportsnet hoped to do the same.

Unfortunately, the giant blowouts that became the OUA over the past few years are the primary reasons for the league’s lack of exposure to the public.

So, how is Canadian university football supposed to grow its dedicated demographic when it’s stripped to the bare bones of national coverage? Why must we continue to compare the CIS to the NCAA, but not give them the same opportunity?

Unfortunately, as long as several issues such as the lack of parity, minimal funding for exposure and the professional sports being more important than amateur sport continue, we’ll be stuck watching OUA.tv and will be fighting with their blank blue screens while Twitter feeds us updates on who threw the most recent pick six.

 

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