New proposal for national coverage

File Photo by Will Huang

File Photo by Will Huang

For the past decade or so, Canadian university football seems to be in a rut of taking two steps forward and three back. In hopes of reversing this trend, David Dube, an alumnus of the Unviersity of Saskatchewan, and promoter Jim Mullin have put together a proposal.

The pitch would see Dube reach into his deep pockets and cover the costs of a new TV deal with a major sports broadcaster. This is something Canadian University Sport is in dire need of after Sportsnet U was discontinued last year. While Ontario University Athletics’ OUA.tv has been an innovative idea, it has proved to have its difficulties. It would be a huge burden lifted for the CIS to have a single person cover all the costs of a national TV deal.

Also central to Dube’s idea is the concept of making sure the best competition comes to the surface in CIS football. This introduces key matchups and possibly the concept of interlocking games, cross conference, across provinces. This would force all universities to contribute to a travel pool, with contributions being approximately $33,000.

Wilfrid Laurier University’s athletic director, Peter Baxter, is also the convenor of the OUA and has been at the meetings regarding the proposal. Multiple head coaches, including Laurier’s head coach Michael Faulds have been present.

“There’s no question that if Laurier were to go in it, we would have to find the money. It probably would have to go on finding sponsors or some fundraising. It would be enhancement money,” said Baxter.

“Right now, we are very cognisant in terms of our own budget that the university is cutting and we are working with our partners with the students. When you are in a cutting mode or trying to save or do things with less money, adding something makes it very challenging.”

However the specifics of the deal are a small part of the big picture, which is attempting to get football back in the national spotlight.

“Everyone just wants to see CIS football on the biggest stage and that’s being on a major network like it used to be,” said Faulds.

Baxter said he believes there is room for the CIS on the major networks and it would not be a matter of trying to squeeze them in.

“For heaven’s sake, a lot of these sport networks have little documentary packages, or top ten this and that — they certainly have the time,” he said

While money was certainly an underlying cause that resulted in CIS football being pulled from the television set, another tugging concern had been the lack of quality content actually making it to the forefront. Baxter said he understands this may mean not seeing Laurier show up on the screen.

“As the athletic director of Laurier I want to see Laurier on the field, but I have to wear my OUA and CIS hat and you have to choose the most marketable games’,” he said.

Faulds said he believes the CIS may benefit from not pre-picking the matchups before the season starts and adapting the approach the NFL uses for their primetime games.

“It would almost be a lot be more beneficial if they didn’t decide at the beginning of the year what the games were going to be. NBC, with Sunday night football, keeps all their late weeks open late in the year because they want to pick the best game of the week,” he said.

“What might looks like a really intriguing matchup when they make the schedule in June or July might not end up being the best match up when we get into October.”

Each of the four conferences, as well as the head coaches, have been discussing the proposal throughout the month. Mullin is attempting to get a meeting with a group of athletic directors across the country once the schools have taken a look at it at the end of January.

“I think it’s feasible. If it’s not this year I think it will happen at some point. Change is a constant,” Baxter said.

“Are there risks? Sure. That’s why the coral looks beautiful on the ocean side, because that’s where the sharks swim. But, on the beach side of the coral, it’s dead. I’m not about to swim in the dead part of the coral. We have go to move on.”

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