Imagine, for a second, that we have been asked to completely overhaul the process by which teams qualify for the semifinal bowl games in CIS football.
What's my idea? Instead of guaranteeing every conference a spot in the Mitchell and Uteck Bowls, let's put six teams together in one division (Laval, SMU, Saskatchewan, Western, McMaster, Calgary), with the top three in that division qualifying for three of the four national semifinal spots. The fourth spot goes to whoever comes out on top among the other 20.
This is a pretty silly and unfair idea, right? Who would agree to a system that allows just 1 out of 20 teams from one group in the national tournament, but takes 3 out of 6 from the other group?
The more astute readers will have already guessed the punchline: that unfair system is the system we already have. Those six teams above have combined for 30 of the 40 conference championships in the last ten years. (The other 20 teams still in CIS have won just nine.)
So the "chosen six" already comprise 75% of the national playoff teams. We don't have to overhaul anything for that to happen.
It would make for a far more interesting article if I could tell you how we can stop this from happening, but if I knew how to unseat Laval, I would be sharing my plan with whatever Quebec university I like best, not rambling about it on the blog. (Revenue sharing and expansion to 40 teams are what Laval's Jacques Tanguay thought might help two years ago.)
But even without a solution, we do have a problem: an unbalance of power in CIS football.
Of course, this didn't just start happening when I started writing about CIS--in the ten years before I was born, Western won six Yates Cups--but consider this: our four national semifinalists this year are exactly the same as they were in 2008, and are a Michael Faulds injury away from being a copy of 2009 as well. Fluke or not, just five schools have won the last twelve conference championships up for grabs.
And even if this isn't an entirely new phenomenon, it's not always been this way. As Neate just reminded me, the OUA has had five different winners in the last 10 years, but eight (all but York and Windsor) in the ten years before.
Anyway, it's never good when 25% of the teams win 75% of the time, regardless of how much precedent there is. If you're an Acadia or a Bishop's or a Guelph, there must come a point where you look at the cost of football, and the benefits it brings (e.g., just four home games and a blowout playoff loss), and wonder what the point is.