Football: Sumarah a nice hire for Carleton, but instant success isn't sure

The Carleton Ravens may not be fielding a CIS football team in 2012, but they still made some of the most memorable news of the offseason by hiring Steve Sumarah Monday. Sumarah, of course, had incredible success with Saint Mary's as both an offensive coordinator (six straight AUS titles, trips to four Vanier Cups, two national championships) and a head coach (35-12 in the regular season,four straight AUS titles and a Vanier Cup trip) before his contract wasn't renewed this offseason. He's very likely the best-qualified candidate on the coaching market this year, so given the many vacancies that were/still are out there, it's quite remarkable that a team that's starting from the ground up in 2013 was able to land him. He should be a great addition for the Ravens, and he could help turn them into a contender quickly.

Despite landing an excellent coach in Sumarah, Carleton's success isn't a sure thing, though, especially at first. Keep in mind that coaching in Ontario's going to be quite a change for Sumarah; he's coming from Saint Mary's, which has used its status as the traditional AUS powerhouse to grab the best recruits from out East as well as many from across the country. The Ravens won't have that kind of profile to start, and they'll be competing with many long-established recruiting powerhouses, such as Western, Queen's, Laurier and McMaster. Even though Carleton has announced plans to follow the Laval model of heavy (alumni- and booster-led) financing for coaches and facilities, they may have a tough time duplicating the Rouge et Or's record of joining CIS in 1996 and winning a Vanier Cup in their fourth season. Laval came in during a bit of a power vacuum in the old OQIFC, making their ascension much easier. Carleton's going to have to fight tooth and nail to establish themselves in a conference that already has plenty of top programs, and even a top coach may not be enough for instant success.

Still, Sumarah seems like the best candidate Carleton could have grabbed right now, and hiring him at this point has the advantage of providing plenty of lead time. The Ravens have made one of their biggest moves in preparation for returning to the CIS gridiron, and it looks like they got it right. With Sumarah in place, they should be ready to hit the ground running in 2013. The question that remains is how far they'll get after that.
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  1. Having talked to a number of coaches and scouts from many OUA programs, the off-the-record consensus seems to be that Carleton will be a contender fairly quickly; certainly by the end of the first recruiting class' eligibility.

    They are going to be better funded from the get-go than almost any other program outside of Quebec City. They will also have one of the OUA's best facilities after the rebuild of Frank Clair Stadium.

    They will also have one huge advantage over the powerhouses you mentioned; lower admission standards in their general arts and social sciences programs.

  2. You are correct that they will have one of the largest operating budgets in their first few years.

    The lower admission standards worked to the detriment of the old Ravens that folded in 1998. The problem was that they recruited too many players that could not retain academic eligibility. Very few players made it to their third and fourth or fifth years, so they did not have veteran teams. The Old Crows are very aware of this and will probably try to not fall into that trap this time.

    Carleton does not intend to use Frank Clair as their home field. They will use their on campus Keith Harris stadium. However , they will play games where larger turnouts are expected at FC. Games such as the Panda game, perhaps some select playoff games.

    Surprisingly, it has never been mentioned here on the CISBlog that uOttawa will have its own campus stadium this September. Like Carleton they will play most games on campus, but play major games at FC when it is rebuilt.

    Revival of a great rivalry will make for interesting times on the Ottawa football scene.

  3. Ottawa's new stadium has been mentioned in the comments section a few times. Maybe we'll do a picture post in the summer when it's ready. Look forward to calling games there.

  4. The previous football program existed at a time when Carleton had it's general arts admission program that gave a second chance to any high school graduate with a 60% minimum. They had one year to attain a B- average; after which they could transfer to a degree program and also use the credits earned. It lead to them unfairly being labelled last chance U.

    That program is essentially dead so it is not a case of grads with low 60s averages crashing and burning after a year or two. However, they still have lower admission standards than most OUA schools, outside of high demand programs like journalism, architecture, aeronautical engineering, mass comm, etc.

    The students at the lower end of the scale that they take in are generally far better suited to university life than 20 years ago but many would still not get into the other top OUA programs.