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.