Blues approach futility record
But the new digs at Varsity Stadium are nice

I had a chance to catch up with Varsity Blues football coach Steve Howlett and take a look at the rebuilt Varsity Stadium during practice on Saturday afternoon. What I really wanted to know was if the club has improved enough to pull out a win this season.

U of T is just six five wins from tying the all-time losing streak (47 games, set by York) after a 42-17 loss at home in the opener on Monday afternoon (yours truly caught a few quarters of the beatdown in person).

I've written about the Blues a couple times over the past few years, and it's one of those stories where you really have to strive to avoid being repetitive. After all, how many different ways can you say this team doesn't win?

Here's Howlett's take on the 'will they win?' question this year.

"I expect the competitiveness to be much improved, and when you're competitive, you get a chance to win. I just hope we're going to challenge every time.

"There's a whole lot of things that have changed. When we get wins, all of a sudden that will change everybody's impression, but the change has occurred every time we go."

Does the team's record hurt you when you're trying to bring new kids in?

"That's another challenge for recruiting, you know, people want to go to a winner. But there's been a lot of good recruits that have gone to places that have a stronger record and that have not played there. Sometimes guys will come because they figure they've got a better opportunity to play. I mean, we're pretty competitive right now.

"You can't just walk on here and expect to play either... but certainly the record is one of the obstacles in recruiting and over time, that's going to get better."

And where can we expect to see improvements from the team?

"I think in our pass game and offence, we're good in the quarterbacking position, we have good receivers," Howlett said. "We don't have as much depth at O-line as we'd like but we've got guys that have played there for a while, so I'm hoping they're going to do well. We're pretty good in the back end on defence, secondary, and in other places we're young."

The main thing I'd wanted to do on Saturday was get a first-hand look at the team's new digs, which are pretty impressive. The millions they've poured into the facilities show, and the turf and grandstands are both top quality.

My guess is there were about 3,500 on hand for Monday's game, which isn't half bad considering the place seats 5,000.

I asked Howlett what new recruits and current Blues thought of the rebuilt stadium.

"They (the recruits) were here and were impressed by it," he said. "It's something that they (the team) take pride in, which is nice for a change. You want a place that's your home, a place that you defence, and without that, I think, they were pretty resilient, but I think it's nice to have."

Howlett played for U of T back in the early '80s when the team was quite competitive, and he won a Yates Cup in 1983 as a slotback. He said it's great to see the stadium and field rebuilt being used for football again.

"This has got to be the most historic football site in North America, I think, in terms of a place where football is currently being played. You know, I think where we stand right now (on the 50-yard line), there's been a lot of football that's been played here over the years, and I think that means something.

"Now that it is a quality stadium, and I think maybe the best in the country for university, it's kind of heart-warming in a way, nostalgic, and I think it's important that football is here."
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  1. Correct me if I am wrong, but did they not cancel the football program at the U of T a few years ago? If so, have they actually won a game since bringing the program back?

  2. No, there was certainly talk of doing so, but the team's always been there. Losing.

  3. The talk of killing it actually was at its peak in about 1992.

    It was saved, the Blues won the '93 Vanier and, well...

    It's easier for U of T to ignore the program than it is to kill it outright.

    The Blues play York on the 29th. If it doesn't end that week.....

    Duane Rollins