Sign of the times: Courtney Stephen, whom the Toronto Star recently feted as the best high school footballer in the GTA, has his own eponymous website for recruiters to check out, complete with YouTube clips.

Stephen, from Turner Fenton Secondary in Brampton, looks like the type of prospect that the recruiting mags and websites list as an AT -- as in athlete -- instead of a formal football position. I can't fake a knowledge of what makes a football player and am fully aware Stephen's team didn't play in the top tier of Toronto high school ball, but he looks like he could be something once he fills out a bit.

High school standouts Stateside having clips on YouTube is nothing new (if you're a serious football nut, go look up Reggie Bush from his Helix High days), but it seems new to Canada.

It certainly can't hurt Stephen's prospects. Someone else who could get a scholarship out of this is Turner Fenton's fullback, who should be accepted into Juilliard on the strength of the acting job he did convincing the defence that Stephen might actually hand off on those triple option plays.

Here's hoping Stephen finds what he needs in Canada, but if he goes to the NCAA, all the best to him.

Stephen turning heads with punishing brand of football (David Grossman, Toronto Star, Dec. 21)
Observations on a weekend of following the holiday tournaments via the series of tubes (much obliged as always to, among others).

The best way to handle this seems to be a quick summary of who is up and who is down. Take it all with a grain of salt, though. The games don't count in the standings, everyone

  • Brock: Taking out No. 7 Calgary and No. 5 Brandon (who are also ranking 2-3 in the RPI) at the MTS Wesmen Classic in Winnipeg did wonders for the Badgers' reputation, especially since they did it away from home.

    The gunners from the Garden City have added a rebounder, Mike Muir, to a group that has three fifth-year seniors. Fifth-year guards Brad Rootes' and Scott Murray's shooting percentages are each down from last season, so the glass-half-full prediction is that they're likely to find their form in the new year.

    The name that also seems to pop up time and again is 6-foot-7 forward Owen White, who had 20 points Friday vs. Brandon. White is a third-year guy, and it's often in the third year that the light goes on for a player.

    The Badgers enter the second half a game behind OUA West-leading Guelph, whom they face Jan. 12.
  • Islam Luiz de Toledo/St. Francis Xavier: St. FX's Brazilian rookie has been covered here previously, but it bears noting: 30 points and 12 rebounds vs. Dalhousie en route to helping the X-Men capture the Rod Shoveller tournament in Halifax. The young X-Men beat Ottawa 84-72 in the final on Sunday, which is about a 30-point turnaround from their previous meeting in the nation's capital.
  • Western: Keenan who? The Mustangs went deep into their bench in winning the Ed DeArmon tourney in Toronto, where Brad Campbell's team beat Toronto (now 15-5 on the year) in the championship game.
  • Victoria: The Vikes, who are considered the surprise team in Canada West, delivered a surprise in the American Southwest by knocking off Trevecca (Ariz.) Nazarene, the No. 7-ranked team in the NAIA on Saturday. Forward Mike Hull had an 18-point outing in the 74-72 win.
  • The Halifax Daily News actually referred to "ninth-ranked" Ottawa on Sunday. Of course, the Gee-Gees aren't ranked in the official CIS poll, but Mark Wacyk has them at No. 9. So does this mean his rankings should be treated as official?


  • Ottawa: Losing to St. FX on Sunday sort of puts the Gee-Gees' wins over Concordia and Saint Mary's in a new light; they could have closed out either team much sooner. Chad Lucas of the Halifax Herald took in the Ottawa-Saint Mary's game and noted the Gee-Gees, who were up 11 by with 2:45 left and won by just a point, "don't handle pressure well." Carleton and U of T in the OUA East know something about bringing defensive pressure. Bottom line: It was a good weekend for Ottawa, but it could have been great.
  • Acadia: The Axemen showed something with a bounce-back win over Brandon on Saturday. Then Les Berry's team had a minor meltdown in the fifth-place game of the MTS Wesmen Classic, throwing the ball away twice late in the regulation in an eventual overtime loss to Manitoba Bisons. No offence to the Bisons, who came into the tournament 2-13 (albeit with several close losses), but that was totally unexpected.
  • Calgary: One game never proves a whole lot, especially since Calgary had a look at a tying three-pointer in the final seconds of its loss to Brock. Let's write this off to the fact the Dinos, as a group playing together, still have to do some growing. When they are together, look out.
  • Brandon: The lads from The Scrum have the full post-mortem on the Bobcats losing back-to-back games out in Winnipeg; apparently there was a 76-minute post-game meeting after the Acadia game. Yikes. The good news: It's almost two months to the post-season.
  • Concordia: This isn't a comment on the Stingers' merits. It should be noted that Dwayne Buckley, who by all accounts is a big part of their team, might have re-aggravated an injury in the overtime loss to Ottawa on Saturday.
  • A certain someone's alma mater: Actually, Queen's (10-6) losing to Western and Laval at the Ed DeArmon tournament in Toronto can be rationalized. Both games were close. The Gaels were playing a good Western team for the third time in less than two months. Laval's big man, J.P. Morin, who had 40 points in the Rouge et Or's 93-86 win on Saturday, is a beast. Queen's is young and doesn't have a lot of size.

Again, that's just a cursory look... would love to be out at some games.

There was a method to the procrastination ... there was a post in the hopper about McGill's dominance of women's hockey possibly having negative repercussions for the sport in general.

Naturally, since I finish about as well as the Leafs on a 2-on-1, it didn't go up yesterday. That was just as well, since the Alberta Pandas beat the No. 1 Martlets 2-1  today at the Guelph Gryphons invitational, handing them their first loss. 

On the men's side, there's a good game going on at this hour — No. 9 Manitoba at No. 8 Lakehead in the final of the TBayTel Varsity Cup. The Bisons, coached by Don MacGillivray (one-time coach of the Manitoba junior league's Portage Terriers) won the round-robin meeting between the teams.

Sssssh. No one tell the organizers of the CIS women's hockey championship that the real nationals might be taking place this weekend in Guelph at the Gryphons Invitational.

No. 1 McGill, which has looked pretty invincible all season, faces No. 3 Laurier and No. 2 Alberta today and tomorrow. Coach Rick Osborne's Golden Hawks, for their part, downed the defending national champion Pandas 3-2 yesterday.

McGill had eight players score on Friday in an 8-0 rout of the host Gryphons, who are ranked No. 8. Guelph tried to make a game of it, as Charline Labonte had to make 14 of her 21 saves in the second period, but during that frame the Martlets scored three times in a 60-second span to open a huge lead.

There have been questions about the legitimacy of McGill's record since they play in a four-team league, which not incidentally is getting two berths into the nationals (Ottawa is in as the host team). The 10-team OUA will only have one. The Martlets could quiet some people if they defeat Laurier and Alberta this weekend.
The ranked teams fell like prices at Boxing Week sales at the holiday tournaments. No. 2 Acadia, No. 5 Brandon and No. 6 Saint Mary's each lost today.

Two of the three games -- No. 7 Calgary's decisive 79-69 win over Acadia (who judging by the stats, kept it within 10 thanks mostly to their big man, Leonel Saintil) out in Winnipeg and Ottawa's one-point, 82-81 victory over hometown Saint Mary's at the Rod Shoveller tournament down in Halifax -- turned out exactly as the RPI would have predicted. (Seriously, is it too much to ask for the CIS to post this on their website, along with overall records vs. CIS teams, not just league records?)

Calgary, led by brothers Henry and Ross Bekkering up front, is second in RPI, so their beating the Axemen is no shock. For what it's worth, it says here if the Final 8 was held next weekend, a Calgary-Carleton final would be fairly plausible. (If there is a such a matchup come the middle of March, who would Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who's such a big sports nut, cheer for -- the city he represents in Parliament or the one he lives in?)

Ottawa's win over Saint Mary's was sweet validation for everyone who's been on the Gee-Gees bandwagon. Coach Dave DeAveiro's team will get a shot at No. 3 Concordia tomorrow in a tournament semi-final. The Gee-Gees won't have shooting guard Donnie Gibson ( is reporting that he tweaked his back in practice) to match up with the Stingers' Dwayne Buckley, which is going to make the task at hand that much tougher.

Meantime, what to make of the Brock Badgers, without shooting guard Rohan Steen, coming back in the fourth quarter to beat Brandon at the MTS Classic in Winnipeg? Brad Rootes shook free for a 16-point, 10-assist double-double to lead Brock, who were cold for three quarters before rallying with a 31-17 fourth quarter. It seems best to chalk this up as a case of Brandon failing to bury a team and veteran Brock coach Ken Murray getting his team to pull together in the final minutes.

Something of note: Brock has added 6-foot-6, 260-lb. big man Mike Muir, who should provide some beef under the boards for a team that's 11th in the 16-team OUA in rebounding margin.

Again, Mark Wacyk at is tracking results from across the country. The fellas at The Scrum are liveblogging from the 'Peg, and Guelph's Big Man on Campus is keeping a close watch on everything.

The upshot from today is we will have some movement in the CIS men's basketball rankings once everyone's back on campus in about 10 days.
Write this down: On The FAN 590's 1-4 p.m. show, host Roger Lajoie was asking people to call in with their sports prediction for the new year.

No word of a lie of all the topics available, the first caller (Trevor from Brampton) choose to makea this fearless prediction: "The U of T will end its losing streak against York next season. It took a miracle for York to win that game last season."

Lajoie was quick to clarify that the caller doesn't play for U of T, but it would be worth betting on. The Lions, who seem to be in a perpetual uproar, barely beat the Blues 21-20 last season on a last-minute field goal by Stephen Grochot, and the program might have a new coach next season. (The job has been posted.)

So there you have it, recorded for posterity, exactly 10 months in advance. The Red and Blue Bowl is typically played in Week 5 of the season, so it would fall on Sept. 28. Has anything historic in Canadian sport ever happened on that day?
The Canadian Press is reporting that Western alum Leron Mitchell, the Toronto Argonauts defensive back and special teams standout, will be working out for the Dallas Cowboys tomorrow.

Mitchell, got a late start in football since he's a converted track and field guy. He wasn't a star at Western and hasn't been one with the Argos, who are deep in veteran D-backs, but that won't matter if he ends up with a star on his helmet. What does matter is having NFL speed and strength. 
A lesser-known fact about famed Southern California sportscaster Stu Nahan, who died yesterday at age 81: He was a goalie for the McGill Redmen in his younger days.

Since being a movie buff and a sports fan is a relatively easy crossover, there's a whole generation that probably remembers Nahan more for his cameo appearances in the Rocky movies and in Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

I was aware Nahan had played professional hockey (there's a reference to it in one of Magic Johnson's autobiographies), but didn't know about his ties to Canada, much less McGill, until reading it in his AP obituary. Between Mike Babcock coaching the Detroit Red Wings, former hoops coach Kevin O'Neill now coaching a top NCAA D-1 team at Arizona and Mathieu Darche getting a regular shift with the Tampa Bay Lightning, McGill alums are ending up in high places in the sports world.
It's been a trying past 365 or so days, give or take a few weeks, for would-be Western Mustangs swingman Keenan Jeppesen. 

The 6-foot-6 swingman and former Ivy League standout who was expected to give Western a boost in the new year. Now  the one-time star at Saltfleet High School in Stoney Creek, Ont., will apparently be unable to play at all this season, apparently due to a nagging ankle injury.

Jeppesen was a second-team all-Ivy League pick at Brown in 2005-06. When his coach left to take over the program at Pennsylvania, he tried to transfer there, and was denied, and he reportedly also tried to go to Cornell. He played seven games last season before leaving the team at Brown for "personal reasons." It's going to add up to nearly two years away by the time he laces up for the 'Stangs.

Not that the Mustangs are hurting: They do have another NCAA D1 transfer in 6-foot-9 Colin Laforme.

Greg Layson at Big Man on Campus and Mark Wacyk of each have details, or should soon enough.
With goaltender Dwayne Roloson sidelined due to the flu, the Edmonton Oilers have signed University of Alberta Golden Bears goaltender Aaron Sorochan to an NHL amateur try-out agreement. The 6'0", 180-pound native of Edmonton will dress as back-up to Mathieu Garon for tonight's Oilers game versus the New Jersey Devils at Rexall Place.
>> team release
From CIS to the NHL.

What would be really interesting is if Sorochan gets a chance in goal tonight to showcase what one of the better university 'tenders can do against top flight competition. He was an all-Canadian last season and has a 59-17-2 (.769) career record with the Golden Bears.

Sorochan also played five years in the WHL, where he put up a few pretty decent seasons with Vancouver and Lethbridge.

A similar callup situation took place in Vancouver a few years back when University of British Columbia netminder Chris Levesque was Johan Hedberg's backup in an emergency callup situation.
The Lawrence Journal-World is reporting that the Kansas Jayhawks "likely will be touring either Toronto or Ottawa" when they make a foreign trip on Labour Day weekend of next year.

Coach Bill Self's Jayhawks are 11-0 this season and have risen to a No. 3 ranking in the NCAA. Their top four scorers so far this season could all potentially return next season, including 6-foot-9, 225-lb. sophomore forward Darrell Arthur, who is generating some NBA buzz. Going off his averages of 13.2 points and 5.7 rebounds, Arthur sounds like the type of big man who would need another year of work on his game before he declares for the draft.

Granted, for NCAA schools the foreign trips are mostly for their freshmen and sophomores or to try a player out at another position in a game environment. Self stressed that his 2008-09 team will "be as young as a team can be." Still, it's a kick for Canadian hoopophiles to learn that such a storied program is coming north, especially if the Jayhawks end up making a run in the NCAA Tournament come March.

A little bit of trivia: If the Jayhawks play Carleton, it would be the second year in a row the Ravens host a team with a past winner of the NCAA Tournament's Most Outstanding Player on its coaching staff. Danny Manning, the 1988 MOP, is an assistant at Kansas. Ed Pinckney, who won in '85, coaches with the Villanova Wildcats, who visited the nation's capital this year.
It looks like there is a movement to address one of the longer-standing anomalies in the CIS -- the lack of a hockey program at McMaster.

I've always thought it was sort of amusing that Mac didn't have hockey teams, though not in any mean way. Mac is one of the largest universities in the entire country. It enjoys a strong alumni base and the Marauders seem to be viewed as more of a home team than many other CIS schools are in their respective cities. Both Marauders basketball teams have achieved national prominence (and yes, paraphrasing a Mordecai Richler character, their football team was world-famous all over Southern Ontario), but the lack of a campus arena has put the kibosh on having hockey teams.

Former McMaster chancellor Mel Hawkrigg is one of the movers and shakers. The Hamilton Spectator also noted the owner of the AHL's Bulldogs, Michael Andlauer, is at least intrigued by the possibility. By most accounts, Andlauer is a true Hamilton guy and he can make this happen.

This is way down the road with respect to McMaster, but men's hockey does offer a fast track to success and the good publicity that brings to the school brand. Carleton has been competitive in its first season and Lakehead was a near-instant success a few years ago.

(And who knows? Perhaps Frank D'Angelo would try to enrol at Mac as a mature student so he can try out as a goaltender.)

Link via Guelph Mercury scribe Greg Layson's Big Man on Campus, a new addition to the blogroll.
"Management (at The Score) is seeking an edgier, in-your-face attitude to its on-air product. One insider called it a MuchMusic style for sports."
-- William Houston,

There's the Houston article from Tuesday's Globe & Mail referenced in the comments down below for anyone who hasn't seen it. Again, it's very early in the game to know what this means with regard to The Score's CIS coverage, but the question should be kept out there.

Personal opinion is that The Score will be chasing a demographic it's never going to catch if it goes through with these changes. Sports viewers want to be entertained, but also have an element of just-the-facts-ma'am. The Score always has more information than the other two networks, and you can usually get it quicker than on the other networks, especially if your horizons as a fan extend beyond the NHL.

Bottom line: If people wanted MuchMusic, they'd watch MuchMusic, and I can't remember the last time I did.
Former Manitoba Bisons star Israel Idonije got the start at nosetackle for the Chicago Bears in tonight's Monday Night Football contest vs. the Minnesota Vikings.

A big part of the Bears' plunge from Super Bowl representative to also-ran has been injuries along the defensive line, which has given the versatile Idonjie a chance to step in. Of course, Izzy's home province has more than a few Vikings fans, so suffice to say the best hoped for scenario is that he gets, oh, 1 1/2 quarterback sacks in a 24-17 Minnesota victory.
"Anthony Cicione is out as head of programming and production at The Score. Channel vice-president David Errington describes it as an amicable split, but sources say the highly regarded executive was at odds with the direction owner John Levy wanted to take." -- Chris Zelkovich, Toronto Star

It's worth noting that Cicione was apparently one of the movers behind the emphasis The Score has placed on its University Rush coverage, not only covering more games but promoting it well on the network. Any time you lose someone who's been an ally to CIS fans, it's worrisome.

Looks like most of the hoops news is coming out of Canada West the past few days:

  • Coaches being fired at mid-season is really more commonplace in the NHL, but the Trinity Western Spartans have fired coach Stan Peters. It's curious, mainly for the timing, plus the fact the Spartans (4-8) had won three of five going into the break.

    Peters, as noted at the outset of the season, lost fifth-year seniors Brian Banman and Jon Schmidt to injuries before the season. Thing is, Peters was just 107-168 in 8 1/2 years at the Langley, B.C., school. None of TWU's wins this season have been over teams with winning records.

    There might some realization on TWU's part that if it's going to get serious about basketball, now's the time to make a move. It's a tough division with the three urban schools -- UBC, UVic and Simon Fraser -- and Barnaby Craddock now being at Fraser Valley.
  • David Larkins of the Brandon Sun and Jeremy Sawatzky, a radio and TV guy in western Manitoba, have started a CIS-themed blog, The Scrum Brandon. It looks promising, especially their podcast, which is a great development.

    One small quibble is their contention that Carleton doesn't merit a host bid into the next three Final 8s. Who else has won five straight CIS basketball titles lately?

    Consider it karmic payback for 2002. Dave Smart's Ravens, No. 2 in the country, were upset in the OUA East final by York, but had no shot at the wild card since it was designated to Canada West before the season even started. Alberta, the eventual national champion, also got upset in a game to go to nationals, but it had the wild card to fall back on without it going before a committee. They might have picked Alberta still, but we'll never know.

    The OUA, minus Carleton, will have two spots for its 15 other teams, a lower percentage than for 14-team Canada West, which has plenty of teams this year who are going to have a good shot thge wild card.

    The OUA East, meantime, is not assured of two berths for its eight teams, which the Atlantic conference was during all the years Halifax played host.
  • has a post on Brennan Jarrett, a freshman swingman for the Saskatchewan Huskies who's been diagnosed with testicular cancer. Wish him well.

UPDATE: The Vancouver Province has more on the TWU coaching change.

Two CIS players, Laurier's Andrea Bevan and McGill's Catherine Ward, both defenders, will play for Team Canada at the upcoming European Air Canada Cup under-22 women's hockey tournament in Ravensburg, Germany.

York's Dan Church is coach, with Regina's Sarah Howald serving as an assistant coach.

The tournament begins Jan. 2. Canada typically has won with little difficulty -- it outscored opponents 32-1 at last year's event.
Bob McCown, the delightfully acerbic host of the FAN 590's drive-time show, Prime Time Sports, apparently has some very nice things to say about university hockey in his new book.

McCown mentioned in passing on his show yesterday that in his new book, McCown's Law: The 100 Greatest Hockey Arguments (written with support from Mr. Mirtle's colleague, David Naylor), he argues that university hockey is the best hockey to be found outside the NHL.

I'm paraphrasing here, but McCown said something like, "There is plenty of evidence that a university team would cream an OHL team... in many cases you have some very good players who are 27, 28, 29 years old ... and no one goes to see it in this country."

It's really a throwback to the old days of senior amateur hockey in the 1950s, when there was less opportunity to go pro, and many fairly talented players settled into working toward a career and playing hockey on the weekends. In this case, it meant taking a job in a small town like Belleville or Trail, B.C.; nowadays it means getting started on a degree, which is sort of the same thing. Players get to form a bond with a community.

Not to go all Long Tail on y'all, but here's hoping that some of the hockeypucks, to borrow one of the Bobcat's favourite terms of endearment, who pick up The 100 Greatest Hockey Arguments are motivated to check out a CIS game in the New Year, or if they already do, go more often.
The coaches who participate in the CIS Top 10 poll sure can't be accused of being Toronto-centric.

Coach Mike Katz's U of T Varsity Blues (13-4, 6-2 OUA) have been left out of the Top 10 in the final coaches' poll of the calendar year, even though according to the Cheers RPI rankings, they're the fifth-best team in the country. The U of T just beat Windsor, who was ranked No. 2 in the country not too long ago. Throw in their October win over the Calgary Dinos, who are playing as well as anyone, and Katz's crew has shown they probably merit being ranked.

There is something of a rooting interest on this end. The Blues were only a couple baskets here or there from going to the Final 8 last season, the CIS championship is about the only tournament Katz hasn't coached in, nd it would be great to see a U of T team enjoy a winning moment in a marquee sport after all the coverage of the football team's 49-game losing streak this fall. Leaving both the Blues and the Ottawa Gee-Gees (11-3, 7-1 OUA) out of the Top 10 seems odd, though. The fact two of U of T's four losses came against .500 teams probably doesn't boost their case.

The Blues, with a steady handle in fifth-year guard in Mike DeGiorgio, will get plenty of chances to prove themselves after Christmas.

The Ottawa Gee-Gees have the sixth-best RPI, but are also unranked. For the record, here's the new Top 10, with overall records vs. CIS competition:
  1. Carleton (14-0, 8-0)
  2. Acadia (10-2, 5-1)
  3. Concordia (7-2, 3-1)
  4. UBC (12-2, 10-2)
  5. Brandon (13-3, 9-1)
  6. Saint Mary's (13-4, 4-2)
  7. Calgary (11-2, 9-1)
  8. Windsor (9-4, 5-3)
  9. Alberta (12-4, 7-3)
  10. Guelph (11-4, 6-2)
This is a hard sell, but if you look past the standings, CIS women's hockey is getting a bit more competitive.

The league has made to the holiday break (save for a couple games to be played today) with only one double-digit score, an 11-1 win Moncton rang up over Mount Allison back in October.

That is noteworthy. As a developing sport, with a lot of programs that are less than 10 years old, lopsided scores have been a reality for the women's game. Two years ago, for instance, there were 15 games where a team scored 10 or more goals. So it's getting better -- or maybe the top teams have decided it's bad form to score 10 goals when six will do.

The operative words are look past the standings. The traditional way of following sports (albeit one developed by men) is that you watch a game since you don't know who's going to win.

Coming from that perspective, it's hard to be interested in the regular season, especially living in Ottawa, as I do. Top-ranked McGill, which has Olympian Charline Labonté in goal and national women's team coach Peter Smith behind the bench, stands out as a team that's just that far removed from its league opponents. McGill has the means to invest well in women's hockey, and evidently, it has done so.

The Martlets (10-0-0) stand out since they have a 48-5 goal differential and, of course, play in a four-team Quebec conference where everyone else is below .500. They've won seven games by shutout, been given up two goals in a game only once and have trailed for all of 10 minutes 21 seconds in their league games.

How do you put time into following a league that lopsided, though? Unless you have family or friends playing right now, it's hard to muster an interest, and this is coming from someone who is curious about the women's game, what with having a mom and sister who are heavily into the game.

McGill will get a better indicator of where it stands at a holiday tournament at the end of this month where it faces No. 2 Alberta, No. 4 Laurier and No. 8 Guelph.

Martlets keep rolling over opponents (Randy Phillips, Montreal Gazette)
Hey, now that the NCAA and its Bowl Clusterf--k Series has such a quandary finding someone for its sham national title game, maybe they should took a look at one of the only unbeaten teams anywhere...

... specifically, the Manitoba Bisons. While there's no unbeatens in NCAA D-1 except for the Hawai'i Warriors (who can't be picked since their program wasn't a Top 10 team 40 years ago), the Bisons did run the table. They've also played more recently than Ohio State.
A tip of the cap this morning goes out to the UOIT Ridgebacks, who scored their first men's hockey win over a ranked opponent by edging Western 3-2 in overtime last night in Oshawa.

It probably trivalizes it to say this was the Stanley Cup for the first-year the CIS team. Regardless, against the No. 6 Mustangs, the Ridgebacks (Blue Dogs? 'Backs? R-Backs?) came from 2-0 down to force overtime on goals by Derrick Bagshaw and Richard Power, and their goalie Matt Mateja, stopped 44-of-46 shots. Mateja, by the way, played for the Drumheller Dragons, whose name makes them sound like a team in Scotland, not Alberta.

So yes, that must have been pretty sweet, consider UOIT, coached by Marlin Muylaert, who made Guelph a national title contender in the '90s, had lost its three previous games by a combined 20-5, including a 7-2 shellacking against the same Mustangs the previous weekend.

(Actual photo caption from the Western student paper after that: "The Mustangs men's hockey team left the UOIT Ridgebacks under a pile of snow and a barrage of pucks this past weekend." Oh, to be that young again.)

(UPDATE: Maybe more mention should be made of UOIT -- The Ridgebacks got a point off Waterloo on Saturday, losing 4-3 in OT.)
Former Western star Andy Fantuz just scored on a 29-yard pass-and-run play to put the Saskatchewan Roughriders ahead by nine points in the fourth quarter of the Grey Cup game, so he's a possibility to be named the game's most valuable Canadian.

Fantuz has had three catches for 61 yards, including a grab that set up a field goal late in the half. Those might sound like modest stats, but in a defence-dominated game, it's made a difference for Saskatchewan, who's leading 23-16 with half the fourth quarter gone.

He would be the second Mustangs receiver in recent history to take top Canadian honours.. Dave Sapunjis, who did so three times with the Calgary Stampeders in the 1990s, did it for the first time when he was the same age Fantuz is now, 24. Now there's parallel.
The Vanier was of primary attention last night, but three Top 10 teams did lose in men's basketball:
  • Calgary took down No. 5 Alberta, 95-74 in a foul-filled front end of a home-and-home between rivals. Going by the scuttlebutt at in the summer (what would be a hoops equivalent of Hot Stove League ... the Cold Beer League?), the Dinos were the next-big-thing team in Canada West. Between high-leaping Henry Bekkering, his brother Ross, and an emerging junior forward, Robbie Sihota, the Dinos are a tough matchup under the boards.
  • One night ahead of its date with Carleton, No. 2 Windsor fell 78-61 to the Ottawa Gee-Gees. From the looks of it, the OUA West's best backcourt of Ryan Steer (1-for-12) and Kevin Kloostra (3-for-14) were just ill. Ottawa lead guard Josh Gibson-Bascombe owned the night -- 23 points on 9-of-17 shooting, plus six assists.
  • No. 10 beating No. 8 isn't really an upset, but Guelph did top the U of T Varsity Blues, 79-75 in overtime. The X factor might have been shooting guard Jonathan Moscatelli, who had 16 points. The first tip-off that there's a story with Moscatelli is that the CIS website lists him as a third-year student, but first-year player. He missed two seasons due to twice blowing his ACL, but he's finally able to play.
FINAL: Manitoba 28, Saint Mary's 14

This one will be more about the matchup that wasn't.

What would Erik Glavic, that ramblin' scramblin' man, have been able to do against the Manitoba defensive front with Simon Patrick, Justin Cooper and Justin Shaw?

That what-mighta-been stuff is more of a question for hardcore CIS nut than it is for the Saint Mary's Huskies. A coach or a player really can't think that way about a game. Fill-in quarterback Ted Abraham did reasonably well, but there are just things that a team can't have come to pass and expect to win. SMU without Glavic was like Earth, Wind and no Fire. The Huskies played hard, but this was, as noted below, Manitoba's Vanier to lose, and they weren't letting go.

Fans in the rest of country can gripe about the Bisons' veteran roster all they want, but Manitoba, which is hardly alone in having players past standard undergraduate age, was the superior team. John Makie ran an efficient offence that kept the sticks moving all night; game MVP Mike Howard took down three interceptions, and that was that in the two-touchdown win.

This won't rank as one of the most exciting Vaniers of the decade (that would still be Laurier's last-second 24-23 win over Saskatchewan in Hamilton two years ago), but it was a good enough game all things considered.

Twenty-six thousand fans in the Rogers Centre tonight, the most since 1995, but that's probably a mild disappointment given all the buildup, and that crowd did seem lost in the indoor stadium. How does playing a future Vanier at more intimate, outdoor BMO Field sound?


10:34: Saint Mary's just failed on third down... that's probably all she wrote it for the Huskies, who played pretty well against a favoured opponent and with scarcely little help from the Glavic-less offence. Manitoba's D-line, by the way, has played a great game... it's almost been boring for their linebackers.

10:28: Scott Dixon would be special teams MVP of this game -- along with four field goals, he's angled a punt out-of-bounds at the Huskies 1-yard line, leading to a conceded safety with just 4:34 left in the game, going down 28-14. In coachspeak, Dixon was a huge get in off-season recruiting for the Bisons after their kicking game, frankly, was garden-variety in 2006. He's about to collect his second straight national championship ring — he also won a CJFL title with the Nanaimo Raiders last season.

10:17: Does Saint Mary's really have the personnel to get a couple quick TDs, especially minus Erik Glavic? Not really. They have gone 2-and-out and will be kicking the ball back to the Bisons, who should be set up around midfield.

One contributor to the fatigue factor for Saint Mary's: The smaller rosters for the post-season mean putting more defensive starters on special teams. There were Tim St. Pierre and Andrew Paopao having to chase Brad Black around on a punt return just now. If anything, the rosters should be expanded for the bowl games and Vanier, probably to about 48 players.

The Huskies, now trailing 26-14, have to do a lot to make this matter, but Steve Sumurah's choice to go for two after his team scored a touchdown was a bit of a head-scratcher. Basically it means the Huskies need two touchdowns to win instead some combo of a field goal, TD and two-point convert or single.


(Obligations to the newspaper are getting in the way, so yours truly missed much of the third quarter... not a lot going on, other than Dixon kicking his third and fourth figgies of the game.)

9:47: Just give Mike Howard the Ted Morris Trophy as game MVP right now... he took down his third interception.

9:41: What was that about an eight-count? John Makie scrambles for a touchdown, and it's 20-8... Saint Mary's is ebbing; they aren't as deep defensively as the Bisons and that can hurt.

Brad Black, one of the fifth-year Bisons, has set up the U of M in plus territory for its second drive of the half, at the 52. Seven points here could put the Huskies down for an eight-count.

Here's a little sidebet for anyone versed in the deadline-driven world of the dead-tree medium (hat tip to Mr. Mirtle). Will this game end by 11 p.m. Eastern? The second-half kickoff flew at 9:27. It's good that the CIS is emulating some of the qualities of the NCAA, but long bowl games is not one of them.

HALFTIME: Manitoba 13, Saint Mary's 8

The general reaction is probably one of a surprise, seeing as the Bisons haven't pulled away in this game. Saint Mary's has played some friggin' defence in the first half, but its offence, with the two interceptions, hasn't quite been good enough to merit them being in the lead. They've been shut down since the first touchdown drive.

This is more Manitoba's game to lose than it is Saint Mary's to win.


9:02: Can someone who was there comment on this after the game? It seems church-quiet in the Rogers Centre... a far cry from the atmosphere that was projected during the past two title games, in Saskatoon in '06 and Hamilton in '05. Manitoba had a little drive going here, but Saint Mary's held thanks to a pass breakup in the end zone.

The crazy thing about Dixon hitting the upright on a FG try... this seemed to shape up a lot like the 1999 Laval-Saint Mary's final. The Huskies played great D, but ultimately lost a close game to a better team. Laval hit the upright on a field goal try at the same en do the field.

8:52: Some decent gains by Allister Blair, plus 30 yards' worth of penalties vs. the Bisons ("The Bisons have talent but must avoid putting themselves behind the eight-ball," Out of Left Field, Aug. 25, 2007 ) gave Saint Mary's a shot at field goal. It went for a single point, so it's 13-8.

8:47: What was that about momentum shifting? Manitoba's gone ahead for the first time, 13-7, on a long touchdown pass. Of course, they were ahead in the first half of the 2001 final against the same program.

8:40: The glass slipper has fallen off Ted Abraham: He's tossed two interceptions in a row to the U of M's Mike Howard, and on the second one it really looked like the Huskies were out of sync. SMU is playing some solid defence and their co-ordinator, Mike McLean, seems to have planned very well, but the Bisons are driving now, at the 39-yard line.


8:33: Manitoba's running back Matt Henry has suffered a "gruesome" injury (Tim Micallef's word) after being cut down by Jeff Zelinski at the end of a long run inside the Huskies 25. This is no doubt a real challenge for both teams, as it has become a 45-minute first quarter. Henry being out is the primary concern, but from a football standpoint the Bisons are deep in tailbacks. Apparently it's warm inside the Rogers Centre, which means a physical runner like Karim Lowen or SMU's Jacques Lumbala is going to be some kind of tired by the fourth quarter.

Scott Dixon has kicked a 27-yard field goal to cut the margin to 7-6 after one.

8:18 SMU has gone 2-and-out two drives in a row, with Justin Cooper having just forced a punt with a sack (he beat his man badly). Manitoba's taking over on its own 50, and SMU's early momentum has been quelled.

The "des jar deens," ad, we could stand not to see that next season. Even Don Cherry knows how it's pronounced. Manitoba has kicked a field goal to cut the margin to 7-3.

8:09: Did Duane Forde did just say "turnovers are for bakeries?" Stop trying to rip off Adnan Virk's act, Duane.

Well, talk about a terrifc start: Ted Abraham, the heretofore little-known backup quarterback, just authored an eight-play, 71-yard drive to stake Saint Mary's to a 7-0 lead. Remember, the Bisons have been slow starters even in their post-season blowouts.


Interesting debate during The Score's pre-game on the endless Canadian Quarterback debate (yes, it's capitalized now). Former Queen's standout Tom Denison had a good counter-point to the argument that CFL teams dn't have a window to let a Canadian passer develop: "How many chances did (Argos quarterback) Michael Bishop? have?" Bishop is in his early 30s, and he's still getting chances.

The one "out" CFL teams usually have is age and athletic ability. Eric Glavic still has to develop his arm strength, but there won't be questions about his physical ability and age if he plays two more seasons at Saint Mary's. With his size and speed, though, some teams could be eyeing him as a slotback.

Oh, and it goes without saying that yours truly was really regretting not being at the game even before a certain alma mater rented out the Steam Whistle Brewery for a party. D'oh. -- N.S.

Actual time of kickoff: 7:47 p.m. Eastern. Hey, it's not the NCAA.

Friday, Nov. 23, 2007 at 7:30 PM
Rogers Centre, Toronto

I'm not sure what we have planned here, but if possible, there'll be a game day blog. Consider this the game thread for the Vanier Cup, though, and post away in the comments.

I'll have updates as they come — but first I'll have to finish my dead-tree medium piece for the day.

1 p.m. UPDATE Here's a preview piece on the expected crowd turnout for the Vanier, and if organizers are worried about the game being lost in the Grey Cup hullabaloo.

The next time I weigh in could be from Rogers Centre.

7 p.m. UPDATE High above the field, in the press box, it's a pretty packed house on hand to cover this game. The turnout thus far in the stands is sparse, but it's still a half hour until kickoff (and besides why would anyone leave the Rider Nation party down the street early?).

Not much to report really. They're showing The Score's pregame show on the big screen here, and the coverage was, once again, pretty impressive. It's great to see the network cover this game like any other big-time sporting event.

Both the teams are currently on the field warming up, likely trying to get used to just how noisy it is in here (and they haven't seen anything yet on that front). Manitoba has a full cheerleading squad here, which is pretty impressive.

7:14 UPDATE Oh, my mistake: Saint Mary's has a cheerleading squad here, too. I'm afraid I'm too far away to report any more on that front.

It's still empty in here. I feel bad for the real hardcores who forked over $30 a ticket to sit in the 500 level even though there are plenty of great seats in the lower bowl that look like they'll go unused.

Boy, Brian Dobie's team is sure taking a beating lately, and all for playing well within CIS rules. The league has already instituted a new rule to limit the number of ageing junior football veterans in CIS, something that's being grandfathered in and will ensure Manitoba's the last of a dying breed.

But for now, the team is what it is.

And just to add a few more voices to the debate, I asked Dobie about a few of the team's success stories, off the field moreso than on, for a piece in tomorrow's paper.

"I do get riled up when I hear this," said Dobie, whose inbox was flooded with ugly messages from disgruntled Mustang fans after Saturday's win. "I say everybody has a right to go to university at any age and everybody has a right to participate in anything that school offers.

"Elitism in education is ugly. It's unfair and it's ugly, and that is what comes out of this."

I won't take a side here, but I will say that there are some great stories among the older players, many of whom never imagined they'd ever go to school or get a degree, and many of whom wouldn't have if not for football and the University of Manitoba.

Saint Mary's coach Steve Sumarah said he also felt there were times when older players should be allowed in CIS, and that 25+ players on his team had made significant contributions.

It was interesting, too, to get the perspective someone like 29-year-old running back Karim Lowen, who said he supported the rule change.

He added that he didn't see what the fuss was about. "After you hit a certain age, when you play on these teams, you’re all adults. It’s not really better to be older, other than just the maturity part. I don’t really understand why everyone’s making such a big deal out of it."
Saint Mary's quarterback Erik Glavic is the Hec Crighton Trophy winner.

It's a good choice; certainly, sorting between SMU's scrambling sophomore, the country's most efficient passer, Ottawa Gee-Gees QB Josh Sacobie, and record-setting runner in Bishop's Jamall Lee is a nice problem to for the coaches who picked the award. What tipped it to Glavic, from a coach's mindset, is the thought of having to game plan for a true dual-threat quarterback who can run and pass. Throw in the early exit of Sacobie and Lee's teams, Saint Mary's run to the Vanier Cup and that cinched it for Glavic.

There's also no denying that there might have been a mindset going in that really, it was high time to give the award to a player from outside the OUA.

Glavic, who's 6-foot-6 and sufficiently light on his feet to moonlight with the Saint Mary's basketball team, might be the most physically impressive athlete in the CIS. That's not enough to be the Hec Crighton winner, but he averaged more than 9 yards per pass and had a 16-to-5 TD-to-interception ratio while being sacked just twice in the regular season. He held his own in their toughest regular-season games vs. Concordia and at Laval, too.

(It would be nice to know what The Score, which is announcing the awards tonight, thinks of being scooped by its own broadcast partner. Somehow, someway, the story is on the CIS website, dated for tomorrow no less. It might be a leak or a boo-boo, but I miss the part where that's my problem.

UPDATE: 5:38 p.m. -- the story no longer appears on the website.)

Incidentally, how'd you like to be Sasha Glavic, Erik's brother? He played with the 2006 winner, Daryl Stephenson; and would have also defended against the 2002-03, '04 and '05 winners, Tom Denison, Jesse Lumsden and Andy Fantuz. It's also possible that as a rookie in '02, Glavic might have played against the 2000 winner, Kojo Aidoo.

CIS football awards: Glavic captures Hec Crighton Trophy (
The war of words between Manitoba coach Brian Dobie and Frank McCrystal over the Bisons having so many junior players is fun to observe, to say the least.

"You know where football coaches get screwed up? They seem to forget this is an educational institution and an educational issue. It's not a football issue. Football is a part of the University of Manitoba, and part of the unification of universities across the country. University is the key word here, and sport is the second element in that issue. I stand by that as an educator. Most guys coaching football have never frigging taught a day in their life in a school, so don't talk to me about that." -- Dobie

Some would call it obfuscation (a 10-dollar word for baffle 'em with bullflop), but it's a master framing job by Dobie. Calling the man on that is very tough to do without throwing stones at the U of M's academic merits.

It's true that there are late-20-somethings on the Bisons who get to play the game and pursue an advanced degree. But the tail wags the dog here: It's a physical game, it's a developmental league, and 26 players who are 25 or older is an affront to the game.

In the Ontario, Western and Quebec major junior hockey leagues, there are plenty of young men who benefit from an overage season. It's a good thing, but major junior hockey clubs are nevertheless limited to three 20-year-olds. Why? Because it's a developmental league; some people can stand with a little extra development, but there are limits.

A few years ago in Junior A (or Tier II) hockey, it was commonplace to see teams load up with 15, 16 overage players for a run at the Royal Bank Cup. Eventually, Hockey Canada said enough's enough, and capped teams at nine 20-year-olds for a given game.

The same principle exists in some of the lower-level minor-league hockey circuits. It's also at play in some of the independent baseball leagues, where teams can only have a few players who have more than four or five seasons of pro experience.

The CIS needs to cap how many players 25 or older a team can dress at about 10-12 per team. That would open a window to the individuals who come into university a bit late and want to get an education and play. But 26 on one team? Common sense has to prevail.

(Oh, and FYI, to Brian Dobie, Tom Denison was not "27 and 28" when he won his back-to-back Hec Crightons at Queen's. He was 24 and 25.)

Criticism of Bison players' ages draws Dobie's ire (Kevin Mitchell, Saskatoon StarPhoenix)
This is the Chris Flynn comparison that Saint Mary's fans were hoping would never be made with Erik Glavic: Like the legendary Huskies pivot, Glavic is going to is going to miss the Vanier Cup due to injury.

Flynn missed the '88 championship game due to an injury, pressing wide receiver Bill Scollard into service. Who was a chair of the Uteck Bowl? Bill Scollard. You can't make this up.
The Score has their Vanier Cup page up and running online now, where the game itself is going to be streamed live on Friday, beginning with the pregame show at 6:30.

The network will also be doing a live blog during the game.

It's great to see the Vanier getting this kind of coverage.
The Laval Rouge et Or have been so mechanical, so precise while winning three of the past four Vanier Cups that it came to seem they were like robots, guaranteed against breakdown.

So it's no surprise that they would be utterly robotic in getting stomped but good by a team that was all flesh and blood, the Saint Mary's Huskies, who administered a 24-2 spanking in the Uteck Bowl on Saturday. Saint Mary's, particularly the defence led by Tim St. Pierre, was both technically sound and simply out-emotioned the Rouge et Or.

Laval is going to be looked a lot differently now. Now the Rouge et Or, for the next 12 months, will kind of carry the mark of having the best of everything -- coaching, facilities, resources, scholarship money, but not being able to supply the emotion. Two years ago the Rouge et Or lost out in the national semi-final game playing on the road, but that was a 29-27 game vs. Saskatchewan that was in doubt until the final onside kick, so they could walk off with heads held high.

Not this time. The biggest question for Glen Constantin and his coaching staff might have to address behind closed doors is figuring out why their team flatlined on Saturday. The CIS has seen plenty of championship teams that came to be defined by their core groups of players who took the reins. The 2005 Laurier Golden Hawks of Ryan Pyear, Nick Cameron, Bryon Hickey, Ian Logan, et al., had that. So did the 2001 Saint Mary's team (Ryan Jones, John Salmas, Joe Bonaventura, among others). Those teams were talented, sure, but the vibe was that they had a bunch of leaders who pulled everyone along, while the coaches gave them just enough leeway. They seemed invested.

Laval ended up finding too late that it didn't have that. Perhaps a glut of injuries during the season defeated that sense of week-to-week continuity that's prized in football. Their near-slavish adherence to a vanilla scheme -- conservative, move-the-chains offence, bend-but-don't-break defence -- based on the idea of not making it easier for underdog teams with msistakes, might have failed to engage the players' interest. That happens with veterans who've been running the same plays in practice for three or four years.

Often, especially with veteran groups, coaches give players some new wrinkles to keep their interest, but judging by their play-calling on Saturday, Laval didn't do that this season. Of course, that swings the question back to the injuries. (To reference that '01 SMU team again, that season then-coach Blake Nill and then-offensive co-ordinator Steve Sumurah, introduced a no-huddle offence, even though the Huskies didn't need it to dominate their conference opposition that season.)

There's no excuses for Laval finding out too late what it didn't have; save for a dropped deep ball early in the game, there was nothing to regret. Saint Mary's only had QB Erik Glavic for less than half the game before he went out with a sprained right knee, yet they had little to no trouble beating Laval.

It's been a long time since any team could make that claim.

Mitchell Bowl: Manitoba 52, Western 20

The Bisons were capable of anything on Saturday, including the kind of candour you don't get from pro athletes. Witness defensive back Mike Howard's comment during the victory celebration, as related in Western's hometown house organ: "Most of us played junior football. We had no aspirations, because we didn't have the marks to go to university, but he (coach Brian Dobie) brought us here. He saved us."

Who knew that OUA folks being smug actually makes a sound? It's good fun to read someone not trying to do spin-control in the wake all the argle-bargle over the average age of Manitoba's roster and the use of junior players. The Bisons are honest about who they are. Besides, university is supposed to be inclusive. They didn't make the sures.

A 32-point Bisons blowout was fairly expected, although the gut feeling here is that Saint Mary's will provide much more formidable opposition next week. The Huskies staff has a little more experience with preparing for a Vanier Cup, which can't be overlooed.

At least the OUA can claim its sixth seed did better against Manitoba than the Canada West runner-up, Regina, did. Remember, in the regular season, Western did only win by two points over York the week after it beat U of T by one. So does that mean the Varsity Blues just need to join Canada West to end the 49-game losing streak?
"Well, here's another reason to like (the Argonauts). When they line up to face the Winnipeg Blue Bombers tomorrow, they'll start nine Canadians, otherwise known as non-imports.

"Why does that matter? Well, they only have to start seven.

In a country that self-consciously believes a product of Ohio State, USC or Florida is genetically superior to one from Laurier or Acadia, even when it comes to playing the three-down game, that is unusual. Other teams have done it, but it's still a rarity."
-- Damien Cox, Toronto Star, Nov. 17

Cox has it mostly right. It's commendable for the Argos, but it's not unusual. All four teams playing in today's CFL division finals start more Canadians than they're required to by the league's byzantine import rules, and each has CIS grads playing important positions.

What's interesting, though, is that the two worst teams in the league this season were not relying too heavily on CIS talent by season's end. On the last weekend of the regular season, the Edmonton Eskimos and Hamilton Tiger-Cats, played a nothing game that held little interest to anyone outside the players' immediate families. The Eskimos didn't start a single CIS grad. The Ticats, albeit with Jesse Lumsden injured, started two, rookie wideout Chris Bauman (U of Regina) and safety Pierre Gauthier (Laval)

There's other reasons for why the Ticats and Eskimos are struggling. It might be telling, though, that the teams with the highest degree of CanCon are the ones still alive for the Grey Cup.

The Argos' nine Canadian starters include three CIS grads: wideout André Talbot, guard Jude St. John and linebacker Michael O'Shea. Their opponent in the East final, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, also have nine, including four who played in the CIS: Left tackle Alexandre Gauthier (Laval), left guard Matthew Sheridan (Manitoba), centre Dominic Picard (Laval) and slotback Arjei Franklin (Windsor).

It's the same story for the West final, with seven CIS products starting. The host B.C. Lions start a total of eight Canadians, including a middle linebacker, former UBC standout Javy Glatt, which used to be unheard of. (Their other CIS grads are guard Kelly Bates and slotback Jason Clermont.) Their opponent, the Saskatchewan Roughriders, have Clermont clone Andy Fantuz at slotback, along with Gene Makowsky and Mike Abou-Mechek on the offensive line and safety Scott Gordon.

Let that be a lesson to the teams who were left watching the playoffs about the need to do more with Canadian-born and -trained talent.

Can-con gives Argos an edge (Damien Cox, Toronto Star)
Generally, you might hear about this happening in small-town high school basketball, but not in the collegiate ranks: The Cape Breton Capers won last night, 72-67 at home over Saint Mary's, despite using just six players -- including a freshman at point guard -- in the entire game.

The Capers were, to quote Ulysses S. McGill, in a tight spot coming in. Paul Blake and Phil N'Nkrumah, two of their starters, are out with injuries. Another player, Jonathan Wyse, was charged with mischief this week in relation to a vandalism incident on university property, so he wasn't available.

Still, out of that adversity (where is the narrator from NFL Films when we need him?), the Capers pulled of a stunning win. The Huskies provided plenty of help with some yips at the foul line, going 8-for-22. There's no telling much the Cape Breton crowd made concentrating tough for the mainlanders). The freshman at the point, Tremaine Anderson, had 18 points, six assists and four steals, while big man Eric Breland had a double-double.

Saint Mary's, strangely enough, used just seven players, as it did in a game vs. Acadia last week, who also used just seven. However, that's doesn't get Saint Mary's off the hook; they did lose to a team with only six.

I just spoke with Laval coach Glen Constantin and a few Rouge et Or players, who are in Halifax preparing for tomorrow's Uteck bowl against Saint Mary's.

What follows are the thoughts from Constantin on the Huskies, and specifically their quarterback Erik Glavic:

I think, firstly, we're going to see pretty much the same thing [as their regular season meeting] because we played them late in the season. Obviously, like every team, they're going to have some wrinkles here and there, not necessarily trick plays, but different formations, but the core will be the same.

They're going to dance with what brought them there, you know?

I think we matchup fairly well. I think we're a strong run defence, they seem to rely a lot on their running game. Where the challenge resides is basically in the way, with what happens on second down when a passing play goes sour on them, then that's when the Glavic factor kind of kicks in. We need to be very disciplined and respect our rush lanes and play the full down, avoid the second play because he scrambles so much.

We need to pursue the whole down, we need to lockup with receivers as he's scrambling. We've seen a lot of scrambling quarterbacks this season, but contrary to the other ones, he's very poised and he's patient and when he runs, he almost tries to run to pass the ball.

I'd rather play a really, really good running back because you know he's going to play a certain play, a certain direction, but [Glavic is] like a wild card, he can run everywhere, and even when he's going forward, he can throw the ball.

He's 6-foot-6, 225, but he looks very thin. But he apparently weighs 225. But he looks very, very lean. I had him on Team Canada at the world championships, he was our quarterback ... the offensive people didn't play him very much. Now I'm looking and [thinking] 'what were we doing, you know?' I didn't really get to see him very much.

I don't think we knew that Erik could scramble like that.

He's a special kid. He reminds me a lot of the Chris Flynn, Phil Cote type of guys that are great leaders and they take it up on themselves to win games. It's always fun to play those kind of athletes.

End quotes.

Constantin also said that the team's backup quarterback, Cesar Sanchez-Hernandez, would be getting the start, likely all the way to the Vanier Cup, as starter Benoit Groulx continues to have problems with a high ankle sprain suffered midseason.

Should be a heckuva game tomorrow.
This week's column in the Sun focused on the Ottawa Gee-Gees. A lot of people would say had their best shot at making a mark on the national scene last season, when they beat Carleton twice in the regular season before losing to the Ravens in the OUA East final and in the national semi-final.

The gist of it was there are longer odds for the Gee-Gees even when it comes to beating out Queen's and Toronto for second in the OUA East and possible berth at nationals, but this group wants to get its due.

Lead guard Josh Gibson-Bascombe has taken on more of a leadership role this season; in his first couple seasons he just had to go out and play: "It's business, all business," was how the 21-year-old grad of Toronto's Jarvis Collegiate put it, adding that he's trying to lead by example on and off the court: "I have to make sure that I'm always in class, always have all my schoolwork done, always show up 15 minutes early for practice."

The big if to contemplate with the Gee-Gees is their depth, and whether they'll be able to play their high-tempo style if the starters -- Gibson-Bascombe, shooting guard Donnie Gibson, big man Dax Dessureault and forwards Sean Peter and David Labentowicz -- have to play 32, 33 minutes per night. Gibson, for instance, averaged 17 minutes last season coming off the bench, but he played a career-high 38 vs. McMaster last Saturday.

Coach Dave DeAveiro pointed out that's bliss for someone such as Gibson, who has to wait his turn to start. At the same time, he said "patience is going to be a virtue for us" in regard to seeing if the rookies, such as forward Marvin Bazile out of Montreal, develop.

Toronto plays hard every night and Queen's can run the Princeton-style offence for threes and backdoor layups all night. Throw in the fact the York has the conference's best point guard in Tut Ruach and that Boris and Igor Bakovic at Ryerson are its best set of bigs, and it will be a dogfight behind Carleton. There's something about the Gee-Gees that makes them bear watching.

Taking their shot: GGs out to prove skeptics wrong (Ottawa Sun)
"Glen Constantin doesn’t think he has a quarterback controversy on his hands entering Saturday’s Uteck Bowl game against the Saint Mary’s Huskies in Halifax.

But the coach of the Laval Rouge et Or, the defending Vanier Cup champion, has a decision to make this week.

Constantin has relied on back-up Cesar Sanchez-Hernandez, a native of Mexico City, as his starter for the last five games while 2006 Hec Crighton finalist Benoît Groulx recovers from a high-ankle sprain he suffered in early October."

So you're Glen Constantin. Start the QB who took the Rouge et Or to the Vanier Cup, or play the hot hand? It wouldn't be surprising to see the latter, Sanchez-Hernandez, starting Saturday. He's played well across the past five games. Groulx would be ready to come in if the Rouge et Or can't get untracked.

A Big decision (Monty Mosher, Halifax Herald)
This week's bit of CIS business in The Globe is a look at the four quarterbacks left standing heading into Saturday's Bowl games:

John Makie from Manitoba
Mike Faulds from Western
Cesar Sanchez-Hernandez from Laval
and Erik Glavic from Saint Mary's

I was also able to track down the Bisons coach, Brian Dobie, for a chat, and he sounded genuinely thrilled/surprised at how the Hardy Cup game ended up going (a 48-5 romp over Regina). Both Manitoba and Western said they were just starting to get a look at one another via game tape, so I'm afraid I don't have much in the way of game plans for either side.

Sunday was actually Faulds's 24th birthday, so it was especially nice that he took some time out of his day to chat a bit. The media requests on these guys are starting to pileup, something that will reach an apex heading into the Vanier Cup here in Toronto.

"We knew going in that Guelph was going to be a tough team," Faulds said of the Yates Cup game. "We probably played as poorly as we did all year when we played them before in Game 4, so we knew we were going to have to change a lot of things."

I'll probably have more from Faulds later in the week.

Glavic sounds like an interesting cat. He's the youngest of the four pivots left at 21, but seems to have a pretty laissez-faire take on this whole Bowl game business.

Maybe that's why they call him 'Easy E', or the 'Snowman', which he gave as his two nicknames on the team.

On what happened against St. FX in the Jewett Trophy game: "We persevered and came out with a win, so we’ll live."

We talked about the spread as well, where the X-Men were said to be 27-point underdogs. "I asked the guys, who would you take, would you bet on us? Would you take the 27 points ... the bad weather, even to put up 27 points is tough."

He said he got knocked around a bit in that one, and that his throwing game was off given his shoulder was stiff/sore. Still, this was a big deal.

"To win a championship – everybody wants to talk about the Vanier Cup, Vanier Cup, but you’ve got to be an AUS champ before you can win that. That’s definitely a huge win for us and definitely the biggest of my career. No time to celebrate on that."

He said he thinks he compares to Vince Young, as for someone in the pros, and talked about about his family. His parents were immigrants (mother from Peru, father from Croatia) and didn't know much about football when he and his two brothers picked it up, but all three were terrific high schoolers at St. Mary Secondary in Pickering.

I didn't get a chance to catch up with the other fellows, at least not yet, but stay tuned. I don't think a Laval-Manitoba Vanier Cup is all that farfetched, and there may be quite a bit written about both teams by the time we're done.
That was a terrific OUA championship football game in Guelph yesterday that the
overzealous game officials almost found a way to ruin.
-- Steve Simmons, Toronto Sun

It's a matter of concern when a promiment sports columnist in the country's media capital's remarks on the Yates Cup, the OUA's signature sports event, involve dodgy officiating and the "bad" rule that a player who returns a punt or missed field goal "out of the end zone to the two-yard line and his team automatically gets the ball at the 20."

Simmons is pot-stirring, sure, but there's merit to his remarks. It seems like the reward for, as he says, bringing the ball a couple yards out of the end zone is out of all proportion to the deed itself. (Correction on myself: Teams now get the 20-yard line for an interception in the end zone, but isn't that more of an impressive act than catching a missed field goal?)

The CIS really needs to look a lot of the rules regarding the kicking game and scoring. Here's a few that should be addressed and by no way am I married to any of these ideas:

  1. Move the kickoff back: The game has evolved to the point where kicking from the 45-yard line is an holdover from the days when everyone played more than one position and star players such Neil Lumsden also handled the kicking duties. Now every team has a kicking specialist who can boom the ball. Some teams have two.

    How many times do you see underdog teams get pinned inside the 25, go two-and-out and punt, setting up the Lavals of the world with a short field? For a league that constantly faces questions about parity, they should do more to level the playing field.

    Move the kickers back to the 40 next season, and back to the 35 in five years or so.
  2. Discourage the conceded safety: It's just not anyone's idea of fun to watch the punter do the Safety Dance while the punt rushers half-heartedly chase him, no matter how much you liked Men Without Hats back in the day.

    Sure, it's two points for the other guys, but a team can gain up to 74 yards in field position. Simple change: Move the kickoff following the safety back to the 25-yard line from the 35. Oh, and if the team elects to forgo the kickoff and scrimmage the ball, move that up. Midfield seems about right.
  3. Tweak the out-to-the-20 rule: There's no arguing that the idea of rewarding teams for electing to run the ball out of the end zone has value. Three missed field goals have been returned for touchdowns in these playoffs, which is a hell of a lot more exciting than a guy taking a knee.

    With the old rule, St. FX's Jon Hood probably never would have attempted the return that became an 128-yard touchdown in the X-Men's win over Acadia; he'd have just given up the point.

    Guaranteeing the returning team the 10-yard line (some security, but still in the shadow of its goal posts) for running the ball out seems like an acceptable compromise. Another way to encourage returns is to no longer bring the ball out to the 35 after a single, but maybe just the 25. Keep the current 15-yard difference for not giving up a point.
It's hard to imagine that CIS hockey could have had any better showcase than it did during No. 2 Alberta's home series vs. No. 3 Saskatchewan, which the Golden Bears swept, just barely, winning 5-4 in a shootout on Saturday after taking the first game 6-5 in overtime in Friday.

The second game, when the U of A's Jesse Gimblett, an Ontario boy amid all that Prairie stock, scored to force overtime, even drew a crowd of 1,241. That came on a night when the CIS game was up against an Oilers-Flames match on Hockey Night in Canada. Let that be a standard for other schools to shoot for.

Much obliged to Andy Grabia at Battle of Alberta for the heads-up.
First quarter

David Clayton's emergence is the story of Western's second-half surge... his two big catches downfield have been the bulk of the Mustangs' first-quarter offence.

The one caveat with the Gryphons is their young receivers: David Harrison dropped a touchdown pass in the end zone, which is a hug momentum swing.

Anthony Adderley had a nice second-down catch to set up Western's first touchdown, a five-yard run by Randy McAuley. It's 7-0 after one.

Second quarter

The OUA is going to have to look into changing the application of this penalty: Guelph blocked a punt by Western's Derek Schiavone, but was called for illegal interference during the scramble for the ball, allowing the Mustangs to keep possession (first down at the point of the foul).

It was third-and-20, and as Tim Micallef rightly pointed out on The Score, "There's no way that Schiavone picks up that ball and picks up 20 yards." That could have really helped Guelph out to take over in Western territory.

Too funny by half: On the next play, Western's Jesse Bellamy was making the universally acknowledged signal for a pass-interference call. This was after a poorly applied rule kept Western's offence on the field, and two plays after Adderley was awarded a catch on a ball that appeared to touch the ground. (Duane Forde said, "I'm not sold," while watching the replay, and remember, he's an ex-Mustang.)

Is it just me, or can Guelph come up with a way to get penalized whenever it's got Western down a bit? An unnecessary roughness call on a punt moved the ball out from the eight-yard line to the Mustangs 23.

A two-play, 98-yard drive: That will defeat the purpose of trying to play ball control. Guelph just tied the game 7-7 on a 58-yard run by Nick FitzGibbon, who had lined up as a slotback on the play. It was set up by a 40-yard catch by Harrison.

Sign just spotted in the crowd: "Western, easier to take down than the Saugeen Stripper." No idea what that could refer to; no idea at all.

Well, maybe not so much. The 'Stangs have come right back to reopen a seven-point lead, 14-7, with McAuley scoring from five yards out after a long catch by rookie wideout Zach Bull. Three minutes to go in the half.

Injuries are starting to pile up for the 'Stangs: Their only OUA first-team defensive all-star, Corey McNair has limped out and outside linebacker Jason Kosec just had to be helped off. Zach Bull, who had that big catch, is done for the day with an injury.

For the second time in three weeks, a major media outlet has called Justin Dunk "Jason." The odd part is that when Adnan Virk did it, he called him by his correct name first, then quote-unquote corrected himself.

Halftime — Western 14, Guelph 7

Quick analysis of the Mustangs: Western's playing a good road game again -- solid defence except for that one Guelph drive that probably account for half the Gryphons total yards. They were a second-half team in both the first two playoff rounds, so it's huge for them to be ahead at the half.

Quick analysis of the Gryphons: The question is whether not getting rewarded early, thanks to a dropped TD pass in the end zone and missed field goal, has caused frustration to set in for a young Guelph team.

Third quarter

Guelph tied it on a TD catch by Harrison, but Western replied with a 37-yard Schiavone field goal. (Work commitments are making for spottier blocking.)

Take nothing away from Western for sticking with what's working, but man, is their offence boring. Run up the middle. Sideline pass. Yawn. It's not sport, it's art, man.

Fourth quarter

A six-play, 72-yard drive, capped by a TD catch by Adderley, has put Western up 24-14 and now it's just in the wind-the-clock stages. Full credit to Western, it's earned it with a stout defensive effort and a reliable offence.

Strange call by Guelph just to go with unimaginative QB sneak on a third-and-1 that failed with with seven minutes left. Why not try something? Seven minutes left, down 10 in an elimination game, isn't that the time to go against the book?

Schiavone tacks on a field goal to make it 27-14. Ball game.

Guelph will regret a couple early drops by its young receiving corps, the failure to get Nick FitzGibbon into space in the second half and maybe some tentative play from its secondary that allowed Michael Faulds to convert some broken plays. Western was clutch; the Gryphons will feel like they spit the bit somewhat. They are a young team, so it's reasonable to believe they will be back.

Who did a more egregious job of giving away a playoff game on home turf — Queen's, Ottawa or now Guelph? That's not meant to take away from Western's accomplishment, but when a road team wins in the post-season, usually the other guys had to do a lot to grease the skids. It's not fair to Western to say this Yates Cup fell into its lap; they did what they had to do, but it really feels like about four other teams missed a big opportunity.

Believe it or not, some on-line sports books accept action on CIS playoff football and Western has been listed as a three-point favourite over Guelph for Saturday's game.

Last weekend, Guelph was an eight-point underdog at Laurier and Western was a 12.5-point dog at Ottawa. Both dogs, needless to say, had their day.

Other spreads this weekend: Laval is a 14.5-point fave over Concordia, St. Mary's is a 27-point favourite over Saint FX and Manitoba is a 6.5-point fave over Regina.

Quarterbacks Teale Orban of the Regina Rams, Erik Glavic of the Saint Mary's Huskies and Josh Sacobie of the Ottawa Gee-Gees each took home player of the year honours from their respective conferences on Thursday.

Joining the three quarterbacks as Hec Crighton Award nominees for most outstanding player in Canadian Interuniversity Sport football is running back Jamall Lee of the Bishop's Gaitors, who was named Quebec's top player on Tuesday.
No quibbles from me, especially given these are the four I tabbed to win the conference MVP about a month ago.

The OUA, once again, has a good shot here, as Sacobie had quite a year.
Only five teams, so this should be relatively easy:
  1. Oh, brother: The reigning champion Concordia Stingers, led by brothers Damian and Dwayne Buckley in the backcourt, probably get the benefit of the doubt in pre-season prognostications, although that might be ignorance on this end. Concordia is ranked No. 3 in the country
  2. Red alert: Either the Laval Rouge et Or or McGill Redmen will likely be the biggest roadblock to Concordia getting back to nationals. Veteran coach Jacques Paiement's Rouge et Or boast one of the country's most dominant players in J.P. Morin, who had the single-game scoring high at two different tournaments the Rouge et Or attended.

    McGill is coming off a 9-20 season, but coach Craig Norman, who gave RMC some winning moments in hoops a few years back, looks like he might do it again at a bigger school with a bigger budget and more recruiting clout. The Redmen turned heads by winning their home tourney for the first time since 2000. Senior Sean Anthony gives them a high-scoring guard.
  3. Changing face: Back in the summer,'s Michael Grange penned a profile of the Philadelphia 76ers' Samuel Dalembert that touched on "the 'other' Montreal — increasingly urban, poor, and black." There is a lot of hoops talent in Montreal, plus players can develop their games at a CEGEP, but like in Toronto, most players only have eyes for the NCAA. The hope would be that UQAM, whose lineup includes four players born outside Canada and the U.S., might change that in due time; with more scholarship money coming available and Quebec's relatively inexpensive tuition, it's doable.

    The CIS has never seen a top team from an urban school, save for Ryerson in the late '90s and then only briefly.
  4. Let's see Senior Nicholas: The Bishop's Gaiters are not the power they once were, but guard Junior Nicholas can score in bunches.
  5. Con U and everyone else? Outside of the Stingers, Quebec didn't have a team in the top third of the final RPI rankings last season. Concordia, as the No. 1 seed, was then upset by Saint Mary's in the first round of the Final 8, so if you want to be selective with the facts, it's reasonable to wonder about the conference's strength relative to the rest of the country.
Take a boo at Jason Whitlock's column up at It's about Charlie Weis and his struggles at Notre Dame, but it's one of the more definitive analyses I have ever read when it comes to the difference between coaching pros and working with a collegians. It has some relevance to the CIS, given that some ex-CFL coaches are now at this level.

A quick look at the OUA's nominees for major awards:

  • Hec Crighton Award (top player): Josh Sacobie, Ottawa quarterback. The correct call. It's a regular-season award and Sacobie had a stellar senior season, putting up 21 touchdowns against just four interceptions. Sacobie, of Maliseet First Nation, N.B., would also be the first aboriginal player to win. He wouldn't be the first Hec Crighton winner off a team which fell short of the conference final; Queen's Larry Mohr (1985) and Tom Denison ('03) also did, just to name two.
  • Presidents' Trophy (top defender): Anthony Maggiocomo, Laurier linebacker. On his career accomplishments, he's there with anyone. It's funny: The OUA has better defences, but doesn't seem to have a lot of lights-out defensive stars (one thinks of Yannick Carter or Jason Pottinger). Maggiocomo had a good senior season, leading the OUA in tackles.
  • J.P. Metras (top lineman): Scott Evans, Laurier offensive tackle. The Golden Hawks led the OUA in yards-per-carry, and much of that was due to a line that had three fifth-year players and two OUA first-team all-stars.
  • Peter Gorman Trophy (rookie of the year): Ryan Chmielewski, McMaster linebacker. It could have been either of two players from Niagara Falls, Chmielewski or Guelph defensive back Sebastian Howard. The national winner is probably not coming out of the OUA. The smart money might be on Regina receiver Jordan Sisco or Alberta d-back Rhys Coppens.

    Chmielewski emerged toward the end of the season. He'll be a good one for Mac. The Niagara Region, which knows from bumper crops, was well-represented among OUA rookies: Howard, Guelph kick returner Jedd Gardner and d-back James Savoie were all high school teammates there. Mac used to own that turf for recruiting.
  • Russ Jackson Award (community involvement): Mike Goncalves, Toronto d-lineman. It's a nice reminder that the CIS is about developing people, not just players, although Goncalves produced good football for the Varsity Blues across his entire career.

  • Frank Tindall (coach of the year): Pat Sheahan, Queen's. No team exceeded the widespread pre-season expectations during the regular season (important caveat) than the Golden Gaels. Sheahan's team had improved offensive line, defensive and special teams play. It's the fourth time he's been up for the national award; twice at Queen's and twice at Concordia. How many coaches have had that accolade at two schools, let alone in two conferences? (Blake Nill at Calgary will soon enough, though.)
That's all for now. Send your thoughts to
This is the first weekend that all five men's basketball conferences across the country play games that count in the standings, so here's a "Starting Five" of storylines, conference by conference. Presenting: the OUA East.
  1. Rise of the eggheads: Toronto and Queen's are projected for a 2-3 finish in a pre-season coaches' poll conducted by the Ottawa Citizen's estimable basketball writer Wayne Kondro. Coach Mike Katz's Varsity Blues have a game that has a strangely retro feel to it; they're not flashy, but get out there and leave a couple layers of skin on the floor almost every night out. They have a steady hand at the point in fifth-year guard Mike DeGiorgio; teams with that kind of experience tend to be a tough out.

    Toronto has known some winning moments in hoops, particularly in the '80s when Brian Heaney was coach, but it's totally new to Queen's, who is nationally ranked for the first time in school history. Golden Gaels coach Rob Smart's team went 5-1 vs. CIS schools in pre-season despite playing without its best scorer, Mitch Leger, and guard Ryan Hairsine.
  2. Tut, tut: If you live in the GTA and have never seen a CIS game, head out to York and catch the Lions point guard, Tut Ruach, who practically gives his check windburn when he drives to the hoop. With the 24-second shot clock coming in, Ruach should be able to open the throttle. York is a young team overall, and could have some very frustrating nights.
  3. Ravens reloaded: There were a couple cast changes -- Oz Jeanty graduated and is now playing in Germany; lead assistant Taffe Charles took over the Ravens women's team -- but Carleton is back, as good as ever. Their share-the-ball system will be in full effect, although Final 8 MVP Aaron Doornekamp might be looking to score more.
  4. On the step back: The Ottawa Gee-Gees are a bit like the Boston Celtics of the league, with three stars (Dax Dessurealt as the big, Josh Gibson-Bascombe as the light-it-up guard and Sean Peter as the reliable small forward) but not a whole lot of depth. Donnie Gibson is a good glue guy who provides secondary scoring. Last season's national semi-finalists are very much a work-in-progress.
  5. Brotherly love: The final playoff spot will come down to rebuilding Laurentian, now coached by former Euro-league player Shawn Swords, or Ryerson, which features the brothers Igor and Boris Baković. Boris Baković had a great summer playing for Canada at the under-19 worlds in Serbia.
Five storylines from the OUA West (which admittedly, is less well known to me than the OUA East):
  1. Win city: Having three fifth-year seniors starting in point guard Ryan Steer, wing Kevin Kloostra and forward Greg Allin, along with with a fourth-year big, rebounding machine Greg Surmacz, suggests the No. 2 Windsor Lancers were built to win this year.
  2. Ready to Brock: The Badgers, who beat a NCAA D-1 school on its own floor, should be a challenger, along with Guelph, Laurier and Western. Fifth-year point guard Brad Rootes has the handle and they have added Rohan Steen, who can light it up from outside. Steen started at Brock, then played the past two seasons at York, whom he helped reach the Final 8 in 2006.
  3. Look who's back: The Western Mustangs were a .500 team last season, but have been bolstered by a trio of NCAA transfers, including 6-foot-6 Keenan Jeppesen who once finished No. 2 in the Ivy League in scoring when he played at Brown. (Jeppesen eventually left after Penn declined to let him transfer there so he could play for the coach he'd had at Brown.) Brad Smith and Andrew Wedemire give the 'Stangs most of their scoring punch; they can run and gun a bit.
  4. Open the throttle: Guelph, coming off a 12-10 record in the conference, plans to play more up-tempo with the shorter 24-second clock. Coach Chris O'Rourke's team has been poking around the Top 10 the past couple weeks. Guard Nick Pankerichan is a 20-points-per-night type of player.
  5. Frosh start at Mac: The Marauders are so young coach Joe Raso has to hold naptime in the middle of practice; they face a steep learning curve after losing five seniors off last season's team. They have a sophomore point guard, Jermaine DeCosta, who missed time since he plays football too, and his backup, Tyrell Vernon, is a freshman. There are a lot of first- and second-years, albeit talented ones, playing major minutes, such as guard Aminu Bello and posts Geoff McLaughlin and Mouctar Diaby.

(Much obliged to for doing such a good job of keeping us all informed, which got a mention at today.)

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