Monday, October 27, 2014

Started from the bottom

The return of CIS basketball is imminent, but the who's who of teams are a relative unknown compared to previous years.
The elite tier of teams — meaning those with serious contention for the national championship — is a thin group. Unlike years past, the gap between those contenders as the rest of the league is not as large. Definitely ranking the teams this early in the season is an exercise in futility, but it is worth the time to provide a baseline for who we should be paying attention to in the first part of the season.
Top five
1.     Carleton
2.     Ottawa
3.     McMaster
4.     Ryerson
5.     Cape Breton
Yeah, this is an OUA-heavy top-five, but bear with me.

Carleton
Carleton gets the number one spot until they prove to be beatable. The obvious question mark is who takes Tyson Hinz’s minutes, but Jean Emmanuel Pierre-Charles is capable of sliding in and filling the gap. There are other key losses: Clinton Springer-Williams and Kevin Churchill are both gone. Head coach Dave Smart used a variety of guards and any regression from the guard spot should only be brief. They will miss Churchill’s passing from the post, which was an overlooked aspect of the Ravens potent three-point shooting. It’s not out of the realm of possibility for Ottawa to usurp them in the rankings, but Carleton has the legacy to separate them.

Ottawa
Ottawa is a curious case. They’re going to be good, we know that. But the book is out on them: shoot tons of threes and play at a crazy-high tempo. Teams will be able to adjust to them, and some squads have built themselves in a similar model. The only notable major turnover Ottawa is experiencing is Terry Thomas, who went pro after the season. He has been replaced with Alex Ratte, a pure scorer out of Laurentian.

Ratte is a transfer after graduating from the Sudbury, Ont. university. He has two years of eligibility remaining and should provide head coach James Derouin with some interesting options. Suiting up for the Gee-Gees will be a welcome change for Ratte, as the number of offensive options is a 180 from his time at Laurentian. This team is a national contender, but have teams figured out how to beat them?



McMaster

McMaster sits third, but an upset over Carleton or Ottawa (or, possibly but unlikely, both) in the opening weekend of the season would vault them into the top two. Mac is easily the deepest squad in the OUA, and more importantly, continuity. Depending on how the coaching staff allocates minutes, they will have added one or two major pieces - David McCulloch and Troy Joseph. The benefits of continuity are showing already, as McMaster has rolled their preseason opponents. On paper, Mac deserves the third spot. We will not have to wait long to see if their on-court production justifies the ranking.


Ryerson

And now, we move to Ryerson, one of the more intriguing teams in the league. The Rams made the Final 8 by upsetting Lakehead in the 2012 OUA Final Four. Since then, well, there has not been many positives. Ryerson will be back in the national championship, hosting the tournament at the fantastic Mattamy Athletic Centre. How much noise they make there? Well, that is tough.

Roy Rana’s roster is laden with veterans. The guard core of Jordan Gauthier, Jahmal Jones and Aaron Best play at a high tempo and love to shoot. But … they are known entities. You can’t dance around this fact. That group is solid and not the problem.

The forward crop is thin. Kadeem Green, Bjorn Michaelsen, and Juwon Grannum are the main front court players from last year, but they do not offer the same level of contribution as bigs on elite teams. Green’s 23.5 minutes per game lead the team - not a good sign considering the options behind him are not good.

Cape Breton

Cape Breton’s preseason has given them a bit of steam heading into the first poll. They have beaten St. FX (twice), UNB, Dalhousie, UPEI, UQAM and Calgary. Their only loss came against McMaster in the final of the Cape Breton exhibition tournament, but they dropped 90 points on a team that will be in the Final 8 conversation.

The Capers were 9-11 in AUS play last year, but they return all of their main roster pieces. Young players like Seth Amoah have stepped up, showing improvement you would expect from a guard entering his third year. He earned an All-Star spot in the CBU tournament.

Scoring was their issue last year, finishing 40th of 45 teams in points per game. There were some RSEQ squads and Algoma below them, which is a damning sign.

Their preseason numbers suggest they have shored up the offensive woes. Through eight preseason games, they have averaged 89 points per game.

Cape Breton deserves some top-ten recognition and there’s a ton of transition around the league. I expect them to land at fifth due to a combination of a) OUA voter fatigue (Windsor has a claim to the fifth-spot, but an all-OUA top five is unlikely) b) consistent preseason work c) no serious competition from any other conferences (yet).

The season opens on Oct. 31, with a slate of Canada West games tipping off on Halloween. More so than in recent years, the league is up for grabs. Enjoy.

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Ed. note: I will be attempting to create a Google Doc sheet with offensive and defensive ratings for teams. It’s a better metric for judging teams. The reality is, points scored and points against are antiquated measurements and we want to push conversations forward.

I’m hoping that other student newspapers or CIS hoops outlets can use this info. If you have other metrics that you would really like me to crunch, please let me know at scott1hastie at gmail dot com.
CIS football is in a bit of danger.

Within the 2014 season, two programs have considered shutting down. Originally reported by CanadaFootballChat.com, the University of Waterloo told players and administration that there was a “strong possibility” that the program would fold after this season. This was denied by the university, but athletic director Roly Webster said, "If we can't justify our investment, I'd say (folding the team) is absolutely a consideration. I'd be lying if I said it's not."

Now, the details of St. Francis Xavier’s Presidential Task Force report have surfaced. The football program has been deemed “unsustainable” by the university — the administration’s worst category for ranking programs at the university. In a screen capture from the PDF, the comments do not provide much room for optimism.

Screen Shot 2014-10-27 at 12.12.56 PM.png

For reference, the university’s definition of unsustainable can be found in this screen capture from the St. FX report slideshow.



Screen Shot 2014-10-27 at 12.16.34 PM.png


Two programs discussing shutting down is newsworthy. Even if they do not actually follow through, the consideration means this is not likely to be an isolated issue. Programs are feeling the financial pinch as the cost of competing has ramped up. I wrote about the issue of funding for my school newspaper, and the issue isn’t going away.

Which brings me to a Newsweek piece about Laval, and the angle that isn’t addressed in the article. The author speaks glowingly of the Laval football experience, saying it rivals (and even bests) the NCAA environment. Inaccuracies aside, it’s a good read. 

Laval has changed the game for CIS football. They have a rabid fanbase, a dedicated alumni benefactor group and a really damn good team, year-after-year. The standard for excellence has been raised, and that is important. Carleton University’s adoption of the mega-funding model has them sitting in a really good position for a second-year program.

But we’re now seeing the fallout that comes with this. Teams are realizing they cannot compete on a national scale, and that attempting to do so is a waste of resources. The financial barrier to success is lower in other sports and athletic departments may see that to be a more efficient use of a limited pool money.

The landscape of CIS football changed nearly 20 years ago, but we’re seeing the real ramifications now. If a couple of teams drop out, could we see others follow suit?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The season has barely begun in CIS men’s hockey, and already we have one coach going off on an opposing coach through the media. And is not about anything that happened on the ice, and they don’t even play in the same conference. If you guessed UNB Hockey might be involved, well then you have a pretty good sense of one of the main sources (targets?) for drama in the CIS.

The subject of the tension is Francis Beauvillier, a sixth round draft of Florida in 2012, who played for four different teams in the QMJHL. After he didn’t get an AHL contract this autumn, the speedy forward from Sorel-Tracey, Quebec decided rather than play down a level in the minors in the ECHL it might better to attend university. We know this because he announced it on Twitter, and he also stated he was going to be a Varsity Red (even before UNB announced his recruitment). He arrived in Fredericton last week and was in the V-Reds line-up on the weekend in their home games versus Dalhousie and StFX. Beuvillier picked up two points in the two games, including his first goal, and doesn’t look at all out of place in the UNB attacking style of play.

Marc-Étienne Hubert, head coach of the UQTR Patriotes, reacted very angrily and very publicly to the news that UNB had landed a prized student-athlete that he thought he had successfully recruited. In the local Trois-Rivières paper Le Nouvelliste Hubert accused UNB of “contourner les règles” (bending the rules) and he said UNB “offre des cadeaux, possiblement de l'argent” (offered gifts, possibly money) to convince Beauvillier to spur Trois-Rivières for Fredericton.

Hubert offers some details. “On a des informations privilégiées, des preuves. Lors de certaines discussions avec les joueurs, le message a changé et on comprend que UNB a contourné les règles. Ce n'est pas les mêmes règles pour tout le monde et c'est frustrant. On s'aperçoit que c'est David contre Goliath.” (“We have inside information, evidence. In some discussions with players, the message has changed and it is understood that UNB bends the rules. It is not the same rules for everyone and it is frustrating. We see that it is David versus Goliath.”)

It gets better (or worse). Hubert goes on to accuse all the AUS hockey schools in the Maritimes of breaking the rules, and comes off sounding very parochial (or regionally biased) in the process.

“Lorsque j'ai rencontré les entraîneurs de la conférence des Sports universitaires de l'Ontario, ils étaient tous, particulièrement ceux de la région de Toronto, vraiment outrés par la situation et par la quantité de joueurs qui, pour la même qualité de programme et d'enseignement, vont choisir une université dans les Maritimes. Si ces universités suivent le règlement et ne donnent pas d'argent à ces joueurs, ça leur coûtera très cher d'aller dans les Maritimes plutôt que de rester chez papa et maman. Si j'ai besoin de lait, je vais au dépanneur à côté de chez moi, je ne fais pas 25 km pour aller le chercher à Shawinigan.”

Excuse me if my translation isn’t perfect, as I did come up through a school system in the Maritimes:

“When I met with other coaches in the OUA conference, they all, and particularly in the Toronto region, are truly outraged by the situation and the quality of players who, despite the same quality of instructional programs here, chose to go to university in the Maritimes.  If these universities follow the rules and do not give money to the players, it would be a lot more expensive to go to the Maritimes rather than stay home with Dad and Mom. If I need milk, I go to the convenience store close by; I don’t go 25 km and look for it in Shawinigan.”

Well, you can imagine that didn’t go over very well chez UNB. In the same news article, V-Reds head coach Gardiner MacDougall is quoted as saying “C'est un grand manque de professionnalisme de sa part, lance-t-il. Nous avons le plus bel aréna et de grosses foules. Tout les profits sont retournés à l'équipe. C'est ce qui fait que nous avons le meilleur programme et que les joueurs se joignent à nous.” (“It is a great lack of professionalism on his part. We have the finest arena with big crowds. All the profits go to the team. This is so that we have the best program and that players want to play with us.”)

The Shawinigan newspaper, L’Hebdo du St-Maurice, also had a story last week on the former Cataractes player and his decision to play for UNB. Beauvillier says that once the Florida organization decided to send him down to the ECHL he reflected that it might be better to go to school now, rather than start when he was 28 years old. He’s always liked marketing and wants to get a business degree.

He said he came close to choosing UQTR over UNB, but ever since he was 16 he’s wanted to become bilingual and that made the difference. He wants to read, speak and work in English. “Ça a été une décision très difficile. J'ai changé à plusieurs reprises. J'hésitais entre l'UQTR et l'UNB, mais le fait que je désire devenir bilingue depuis que j'ai 16 ans a fait pencher la balance. Je vais lire, écouter et travailler en anglais. Ça va m'aider encore plus.”

It is probably comes as no surprise that both UNB and the AUS have responded to Hubert’s comments through a series of phone calls and official letters of complaint to UQTR and the RESQ and OUA conferences. The CIS has also been apprised of UNB’s dissatisfaction with Hubert’s comments and aspersions. So far I have not heard about any consequences for the UQTR coach, but I know for a fact that such comments within the AUS would certainly earn you a suspension.

In today’s Daily Gleaner (pay-walled), Athletic Director John Richard made it clear that UNB is pretty peeved with the published comments and are seeking a public apology and some sort of discipline imposed on Hubert.

"Any time you work 23 hours a day, seven days a week like he (Gardiner MacDougall) does on one program, and someone takes a run at your program, you're going to get defensive," Richard said. "And he should. From the second I saw the comments, I thought they were way over the line. And everyone I've talked to from our conference with whom I've had this conversation agrees with me. It's way over the line. It's not grey.

"We feel this AUS conference is the best hockey conference in Canada. The tough part to swallow all the time is all the accusations coming from the rest of the country toward this conference."

Richard strongly backs his hockey coach.

"I've talked to Gardiner, and more importantly, I've talked to the student-athlete too. These are young men who have been making decisions since they were 15, 16 years old about where they're going to play hockey and what they're going to do. These guys aren't kids. They're men making decisions with their best interests in mind.

"I know our coach is really aggressive in recruiting," Richard said. "But I've never seen him drive to some other town, lock the kid up in his trunk and bring him to Fredericton and kidnap the kid. The guys that are here want to be here and I don't think he's (Bouvillier) any different."

Coincidentally the AUS AD’s had arranged some time ago to meet last week at Mount Allison University to discuss a variety of hockey related topics. No doubt this had to do with the AUS trying to be proactive after the CIS quietly announced this August the results of their investigation of the Dalhousie men’s hockey program, including the fact that Dal was to be sanctioned for two years, including last season. 

AD’s discussed hiring an employee or an independent firm to audit the hockey programs for compliance with CIS regulations, but there has been no firm movement yet. UNB’s Richard is in full support of the idea and said “I will be one of the schools to put my hand in the air and volunteer that we go first. I'll be at the front of the line." The AD’s also discussed the idea of a “letter of intent” to keep competing coaches from poaching potential recruits.

This is news in itself -- that the AUS AD’s can come up with recruiting improvements for men’s hockey other than the “UNB rule” that now limits roster sizes to 22 skaters. Now that they have to deal with the fallout from the Hubert accusations, maybe the AD’s can find the common ground to accelerate their desire to dial back the recruiting wars within the AUS.






Monday, September 29, 2014

Photo by Shelby Blackley
The Marquee Matchup of the week for Ontario University Athletics proved to be anything but -- with another blowout again on the horizon.

The Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks hosted the Carleton Ravens in what was anticipated as one of the "more exciting" games of the week. Carleton was coming off a tremendous hail mary pass to win the Panda Bowl, and the Hawks were back from a bye week after obliterating the Waterloo Warriors, and were playing in front of around 7,500 fans.

Coming into the game, expectations were that this game would be "close" -- people I talked to thought maybe a 14-point spread in favour of the Hawks, but nothing like what they saw on Saturday.

Laurier walked away handedly with a 36-3 victory and moved into fourth in the OUA.

"You're never quite sure coming off a bye week. We tried to keep our schedule as close to normal as we could, and our guys came out and played. Offence, defence, special teams all played really well," head coach Michael Faulds said.

Laurier's team is improved -- they're one of the few teams that was a "have-not" last year (albeit also considered one of the "best 1-7 teams in recent history), but found a way to reformulate their team and turn into a contender.

Their script has gone as expected -- defeat Toronto, Waterloo and Carleton and lose a close game against the Windsor Lancers, one of three teams left undefeated.

But the big issue here is that the teams that Laurier played have a combined record of 7-11.

Doesn't seem like that big of a spread, right? How about the teams that the top-seeded Western Mustangs played through the course of their first four games -- which have a combined record of 3-16.

There's a distinct line within the OUA, with four teams sitting with a 1-4 record of worse, while five teams sit with a 3-1 record or better.

The issue isn't even just with the OUA. Look at Quebec, where the Laval Rouge et Or make the RSEQ look like the easiest route back to the Vanier Cup with a recent 70-3 victory over the McGill football team.

In Week 4/5 (depending on the conference), the closest game was a 42-41 victory for the Calgary Dinos over the Manitoba Bisons Friday night.

The spread for every other game (winner/loser, not including the Calgary/Manitoba game)? Let me pull out my calculator.

406-63.

I know I'm preaching to the choir when I complain about the parity issue across the CIS. As Morris Dalla Costa said in his most recent piece on the Western Mustangs,

"Those four wins made as an emphatic statement on the weakness of Canadian university football as one can make. There are far more have-nots than haves and except in exceptional years, the haves continue to have while the have-nots are embarrassed.

How to fix the weekly beating the have-nots are forced to suffer is something that won't be easy to figure out, but in some fashion a solution needs to be found or the popularity of university football, and on some campuses its very existence, will remain on a razor's edge."

So, how do we fix this? The lack of parity has always existed in university football, but the issue has become more and more prominent in recent years. There are those exceptional teams that make every other game interesting, but you're lucky if you get two games that keep your eyes glued to the screen.

Those have-nots are without for years and have no way to rebuild their programs while the haves run the score up; some coaches even use it as an extra practice before playing the "harder" teams.

This is the reason that major sports broadcasting stations don't take a second look at the regular season games. If the conferences can't guarantee competitive games, and most of the time will martyr their weaker opponents in lieu of their more promising candidates for the national title, how do you expect viewers nationally to be intrigued?

Laurier pulled Dillon Campbell out of the game 2.5 quarters in on Saturday. Even including the Windsor game, Campbell hasn't played a full four quarters and still leads the country in rushing yards and touchdowns. He has more rushing yards on his own than the entire York Lions team.

Laval's journey back to the ever-desired Vanier Cup becomes infinitely easier the more parity becomes a common practice in the CIS. With a sanction just laid on the Calgary Dinos, there could be some interesting weeks ahead.

But it's taken an ineligible player to make things intriguing in CanWest. What's it going to take to make the entire country interesting?

Sunday, September 21, 2014


Photo by Kyle Brown
With just 25 seconds on the clock, the Carleton Ravens were staring down 105 yards of turf separating them from a shocking upset.

As time expired, Jesse Mills launched a hail mary pass from 55-yards out and the football gods answered.

Nathaniel Behar scooped the ball into his hands off a deflection of Ottawa Gee-Gees defensive back Randy Williams. From there, he ran uncontested for 10 yards into the endzone and Panda Game history.

This year’s Panda Game marked the first time the game was played at Lansdowne since 1998. Carleton disbanded their football program following the 1998 season, and last year’s game was played at Ottawa’s on-campus stadium.

Saturday, 12,500 students descended on Ottawa’s brand-new stadium, TD Place. Whereas last year’s game lacked any real energy, fans of both schools hurled “F**k you, Ottawa/Carleton U” chants as they walked down Bank Street and through the front gates prior to kickoff. They kept them going throughout the game.

Ottawa’s fans were lined up at the stairwells in the north side stands, ready to storm the field as the final five seconds ticked off. As Behar collapsed at the back of the endzone, the whole stadium went quiet for just a split second as everyone tried decipher what had happen. Then the south side stands cleared. It is the stuff legends are made of, and for Behar it was certainly a legendary day.

The sophomore wide receiver from London had a whopping 13 receptions totalling 276 yards. In addition to the winning touchdown with no time on the clock, Behar had two others, including an 18-yard reception where he broke through three tackles and leaped across the goal line to reinvigorate his team.

Photo by Kyle Brown
For Mills, the pass was the only one he made all game. Starting quarterback Nick Gorgichuk went 23 of 34 for 318 yards with two touchdowns.

Speaking to the Ottawa Citizen after the game, Gorgichuk commented on the Ravens’ decision to let Mills launch the ball towards the endzone.

“He has the arm to put it 80 yards down the field,” he said. “We had drawn that play up … and Nate came down with it. We couldn’t have drawn it up better and I couldn’t be more proud of our guys.”

The victory comes 20 years following Carleton’s last Panda Game win. While Ottawa still leads the all-time series by a 33-13 record, today’s game will immediately become one of the most legendary in this brutal rivalry.

It brought back memories of the old Panda Games. Fans from both schools were lobbing chants across the field throughout the game. As Ravens fans stormed the field following the catch, they instantly went to the north side stands to voice their pleasure, so to speak. Ottawa fans quickly responded with beer cans, water bottles and yes, one half-eaten hot dog.

Following the game, fullback Stefano Napolitano expressed his shock and excitement at the conclusion.

“I’m shocked right now, I knew what play we were calling, I knew that was the plan, like I said earlier that was like a one per cent chance play. I’m just in shock right now, it’s unbelievable,” he said.

Coming off a winless season, Carleton now find themselves at 2-2 on the year. With 500 total yards on offence, the Ravens are proving that they can compete, and that the way they built their program is paying off. Of course, they remain a young team, and their nerves were obvious in this big game. They racked up close to 150 penalty yards and fumbled the ball five times, but were lucky to only lose possession twice.

Still, with a .500 record and two winnable games coming up -- Laurier and Toronto --, they aren’t counting out anything.

“Honestly last year was kind of, I hate to say a write off, but we were going into games thinking 'hey, we’ve got to get better today, obviously we wanted to win, but this year at this point, we’re for real and we’re trying to prove to everyone that we’re for real.”

For the Gee-Gees, the loss now marks two straight, following a 42-7 thrashing at home last week against Guelph. Still, they showed flashes of brilliance, especially in their ground attack. They racked up over 300 yards on the ground, and had three different players with 70 or more rushing yards.

While the defeat will leave a bitter taste in the mouths of Ottawa’s players, they too can look forward to two bounce-back games, as they will face Toronto (1-3) and Waterloo (0-4).

As far as Ottawa sports go, Carleton hold on to bragging rights for the time being. Perhaps Gorgichuk said it best: "I don't think anyone at Carleton is going to forget it any time soon."

Monday, September 15, 2014

(Photo by Heather Davidson)
Originally when I titled this piece, it was going to say "Dillon Campbell is a scary force in the OUA."

But after watching DC post over 200 rushing yards quietly Saturday afternoon for the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks to bring his season total after three games to over 650, I started thinking "who in the CIS would be even close to him?"

Last year's Hec Crighton Trophy winner was Bishop's quarterback Jordan Heather after he set a new CIS record with 3,132 passing yards in a season. He beat Will Finch, Western's poster boy, who also set the CIS record that year, previously held by Michael Faulds, former Mustang quarterback and now bench boss of the Hawks.

Heather was good -- he deserved that trophy. No only did he shatter Finch's record posted just a week previous, but Heather played for a team that had to deal with the Laval Rouge et Or on a regular basis. But he was a fifth-year golden boy and his time to shine is gone.

So, who else could possibly be boasting a better track record three weeks into the CIS season?

It's not Will Finch, who has been mediocre thus far through two games for the 'Stangs: He's 42-for-57 with an impressive and country-high completion percentage of 73.7 per cent, with 572 yards.

The only reason I say "mediocre" is because five of his OUA counterparts boast the top-5 yardage in the OUA, followed by Laval and then James Fracas of the Hawks. Finch was the main contender in the offseason to be the OUA nominee for the Hec.

Derek Wendel of Ottawa, a quarterback who came out of nowhere this season, currently boasts 70-for-110 for 844 yards -- a CIS high. Queen's Billy McPhee, Toronto's Simon Nassar, Windsor's Austin Kennedy (who also has 362 yards per game after two games) and McMaster's Marshall Ferguson round out the top five.

But do any of them really have a huge, impressive number ratio like Finch or Heather had last year?

Now, we move to D. Campbell, who after three games is off on his own in the world of rushing. Although most teams in the CIS haven't played three games, Campbell's numbers are still obscene.

According to the CIS website, after three games, DC has 68 rushing attempts for 674 yards, averaging 224.7 yards per game and 9.9 yards a carry. He has scored five touchdowns and his longest rush was 98 yards against Toronto.

In a media scrum Saturday, we asked if Dillon got his knitting done in the second half of the game, as his day ended at 204 yards through just over two quarters.

"It's crazy to think about," Campbell smiled as five recorders were held in front of him. "The guys joked about it at half, 'DC, only 169 [yards] so far. What's going on?' When realistically, that's a great game, right?"

"Last season, my most in one game was 180 against Waterloo. And now, I'm averaging 200 a game through three games."

After three games, Campbell is already only 193 yards away from his OUA-leading 867 yards a year ago. THREE GAMES.

The next closest in the CIS is Ashton Dickson from St. FX, who has 369 yards after two games -- averaging about 184.5 yards a game.

It's hard to argue with the numbers, but it's also very early in the season. Laurier heads into a bye week this week while the rest of the CIS beats each other up. Laurier has five games when they return, three of which are against harder opponents than Waterloo or Toronto (Western, McMaster and Guelph to finish off the season respectively).

But if Campbell can continue to boast numbers where he's en route to beating his record from a year ago -- he's en route for 1,800 yards if he continues where he is now -- that made him a sensation after once being buried in a depth chart, I will be the first to start the #CampbellforHec campaign.

Disclaimer: Shelby has covered the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks for over three years.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014



Gord Grace, a lifer in the Canadian university sports sphere, has been hired to take helm of the new OUA Chief Executive Officer position.

Grace has been everywhere in the CIS it seems, starting as an athlete in the late 70's and then becoming a coach in the early 90's. He completed his Master of Science at the University of Michigan before moving up and taking roles at Mount Allison University, then the University of Windsor before worked in a variety of positions for the OUA.

His most recent position was Chief Marketing Officer of the CIS, a role he will continue with in a smaller capacity as the governing body rolls out the Vanier Cup 50th anniversary tour.

From a critical angle, it is tough for me to take a strong stance one way or the other. It is a new position, so you probably want someone who knows the conference and challenges that come with the territory. But at the same time, an in-the-family hire leaves something to be desired.

With the loss of Sportsnet football and basketball coverage - a corporation Grace worked with to get national championships broadcast - the OUA is at a crossroads for growth. "Conventional television" is a stated goal for the OUA as per the league's 2014-2020 Strategic Plan (which, given the lack of actual tangible goals, should not be labelled "plan").

There are some critics I have spoken with that think OUA leadership is stale. That is a criticism I do not have the insight or experience to chime in on. It is worth considering, as the conference seems to have reached their plateau, if they have not already started their decline. There are too many teams that are simply not competitive, parity is non-existent and, in a combination of those two factors, the league cannot draw a television audience. 

And that's where I think it could be positive to have Grace come in as CEO. He has to know these problems - he has seen the league change over the past 25 years. It is yet to be seen whether he has the ideas and creativity to fix the issues. 

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Huge shout out to the Queen's Gaels, who are making waves for the second time this year for nothing related to on-field performance.

The Queen's Journal has been stripped of the majority of their credentials and, bizarrely, the athletic department told the paper it was because an article published that critiqued the team of the year vote and the behind-the-scenes decision making. (Update: I did not link to the original story "Access Denied" from the Journal. This is because a) I'm dumb b) it's frosh week.)

In a word, this is insecurity. The athletic department seems worried about potentially negative situations getting ink, and in order to protect themselves, they bully the student paper. I understand it, in a way - there are company secrets that would be damaging to your reputation.

But you know what else is damaging to your reputation? Telling a media outlet that because of their coverage, they will not be getting the same level of access.

It is dumb to limit access for no reason, but it is horrifyingly stupid that a public relations department just told an outlet how to perform their job.

And we'll run down a couple of other quick points here:

  • Students fund athletics. Not entirely, but they do give a lot of money. The student paper should have the same level of access of anyone else.
  • Part of what makes CIS athletics awesome is the access we are granted as journalists. Limiting that will only hurt the sport.
  • @queensgaels Twitter mentions is filled with professional journalists chiding the department and university. Go check it out.
  • Last time the Journal called out the department, Queen's issued a letter to the author. That article was hyperlinked in a rundown I wrote earlier and it has since been removed. You get a 404 error from Dropbox. 
  • This is another instance of the CIS (potentially) making headlines for something negative instead of cool stories about the personalities in the league. Feels like we're spinning our tires here.
  • Don't invest in a huge athletic complex and cut off the people who tell your story. You're not going to raise your profile with students that way.
  • I'm assuming the department will reverse the decision, but there will still be an impact on the coverage. If they want, Queen's can make it tough on the Journal in a variety of ways. 
I hope they change their mind, because Queen's is a big player in CIS athletics and the more coverage of their teams the better. But the department was snooty towards the paper before, so I'm not optimistic.

Some thoughts from journalists and other notable voices: