St. FX football deemed "unsustainable" by university administration

CIS football is in a bit of danger.

Within the 2014 season, two programs have considered shutting down. Originally reported by, the University of Waterloo told players and administration that there was a “strong possibility” that the program would fold after this season. This was denied by the university, but athletic director Roly Webster said, "If we can't justify our investment, I'd say (folding the team) is absolutely a consideration. I'd be lying if I said it's not."

Now, the details of St. Francis Xavier’s Presidential Task Force report have surfaced. The football program has been deemed “unsustainable” by the university — the administration’s worst category for ranking programs at the university. In a screen capture from the PDF, the comments do not provide much room for optimism.

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For reference, the university’s definition of unsustainable can be found in this screen capture from the St. FX report slideshow.

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Two programs discussing shutting down is newsworthy. Even if they do not actually follow through, the consideration means this is not likely to be an isolated issue. Programs are feeling the financial pinch as the cost of competing has ramped up. I wrote about the issue of funding for my school newspaper, and the issue isn’t going away.

Which brings me to a Newsweek piece about Laval, and the angle that isn’t addressed in the article. The author speaks glowingly of the Laval football experience, saying it rivals (and even bests) the NCAA environment. Inaccuracies aside, it’s a good read. 

Laval has changed the game for CIS football. They have a rabid fanbase, a dedicated alumni benefactor group and a really damn good team, year-after-year. The standard for excellence has been raised, and that is important. Carleton University’s adoption of the mega-funding model has them sitting in a really good position for a second-year program.

But we’re now seeing the fallout that comes with this. Teams are realizing they cannot compete on a national scale, and that attempting to do so is a waste of resources. The financial barrier to success is lower in other sports and athletic departments may see that to be a more efficient use of a limited pool money.

The landscape of CIS football changed nearly 20 years ago, but we’re seeing the real ramifications now. If a couple of teams drop out, could we see others follow suit?

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  1. It's all about ROI - Return on Investment. All of the universities in the Maritimes have enrollment challenges due to our aging demographic, accelerated by so many young (and not so young) people working out West in the oil patch.

    Schools can justify varsity athletics when you have a core of solid student-athletes. But going over-budget with football AFA's while those same student-athletes are underperforming on the field and in the classroom? As StFX says, not sustainable.

    Go big, or stay home. Or have private funding groups take over the program like at Laval. If you can find the money.

    1. Your point on ROI brings up an argument, in my mind, about whether departments spread themselves too thin by trying to compete in all the sports.

    2. I agree with Scott -- there are some schools that have all of the major sports and find themselves spreading their funding so thin it takes away from the competitiveness. Especially schools that are smaller and have less SAC fees and whatnot.

    3. UNB dropped varsity football back in 1980 or 81 because of financial constraints. In the last decade they created a two-tier system for varsity sports and "competitive club sports", which is also financially based (and not been without controversy).

      Result? The UNB hockey team is a national power house and both soccer programs are nationally ranked. Volleyball and basketball still have some work to do, but certainly men's basketball has made huge strides.

      UNB varsity athletics this past year has a record number of all-Canadians, including the whole women's volleyball program.

      And that is just one example of a school that rationalized their varsity programs, and not just football.

  2. Here's the take in it from Monty Mosher of the Chronicle-Herald: