Football: Keeping the Northern 8 concept in the conversation

You must be new here if you find it odd that an idea to revitalize the football regular season sprang from the region of the country with the most travel for football, and the conference with the least hard-passed on even considering it.

Even though there was a patron of the gridiron arts -- U of Saskatchewan alumnus L. David Dubé -- willing to fund the Northern 8 (see PDF) interlock. Even though Canadian Interuniversity Sport, not too long ago, convened a football task force who found that nearly 90 per cent of the football-playing schools favour it. Last and hardly least, it went by the wayside even though meaningful interlock would not conflict with CIS' long-term goal of having a football Final 8, and could actually help facilitate a seeding system and greater familiarity between opponents.

Ontario University Athletics, with 11 teams playing an eight-game regular season, was loath to have even more non-combatants. There was also a conflict presented by the fact CIS' TV deal is with Sportsnet, which has ruled out airing conference games after the start of the NHL season.

None of those create an argument to dismiss the idea out of hand. There is no reason to punt on a good idea that was been developed and advanced by Krown Countdown U producer Jim Mullin. As proposals go, it was highly cogent, especially with the equity that Dubé was committed to pouring into broadcast production for interlock games between Top 10 teams.

Also, nothing has happened in the past 18 months to show the 'aspirational' model is not needed. The status quo argument that blowouts are inevitably going to happen is superseded by the old saying about the definition of insanity.

In 2015, 19 of 44 OUA regular-season games -- 43.2 per cent -- had margins of 30 or more points. Another 10 (22.7%) had a final spread in the 20-29 range. About two-thirds of the games were uncompetitive.

Counting interlocks with AUS, the blowout rate in Quebec was 38.5%, 10 games out of 26. Only another three, 11.5%, had spreads in the 20.

To quote Elaine Benes, "It's 3:30 a.m., I'm at a cockfight; what am I clinging to?"

Something needs to change. It probably starts with getting rid of the albatross that is the Sportsnet contract, which runs until 2019. With the state of the broadcast industry, it's also tough to predict what the marketplace will be by the time CIS becomes a media free agent. That, however, does not mean the hands are tied when it comes to offering something new to a potential broadcast partner. Especially when a partner is offering to pay the freight. With five feeds, does TSN really want to fill them with U.S. games that offer limited rooting interest in Canada?

Eight reasons for a Northern 8:

  1.  Media exposure.
  2. See number 1. Media exposure.
    Actually, OUA needs a reminder about the price of being regressive. The conference has long been the anti-progressive at the table. It was the holdout on athlete financial awards, and that was what led to a 10-year absence from the Vanier Cup that spanned the '90s and early aughts.

    Three Vanier wins and six appearances across the last 11 seasons is decent for OUA. It's not that great, though, considering the population of Ontario and the fact another conference is a non-factor nationally.
  3. A season-long lead-in to the final four and Vanier Cup. A TV property cannot be made on three games a year.
  4. The national 'my conference can beat your conference' conversation already takes place on social media every week.
  5. Coaching staffs would have a better idea of how a national semifinal opponent compares with the teams in their conference. It's one thing to watch a team on film. It's another to watch film of team who is playing a team you know first-hand.

    Would that guarantee better Uteck and Mitchell games? Not necessarily, but only four national semifinals in the last 10 years could reasonably be called gripping games. (Saskatchewan-Ottawa in 2006, Queen's-Laval in '09, Laval-Western in '10 and Montreal-Manitoba in '14.)
  6. A wider out-of-province recruiting footprint for the teams trying to keep up with the powerhouses. Carleton and Ottawa need to play in Quebec. Bishop's, Concordia and McGill, along with AUS, could stand to come to Ontario.

    Somehow schools have money for multiple plane trips by hockey teams, whose travelling parties are about one-third the size but bring in, what, one-20th of the revenue and exposure?
  7. Results to help seed a Final 8, if that ever becomes a thing.
  8.  An enhanced student-athlete experience. It is really fair that some five-year players never play a meaningful game against someone other than the same 5-10 opponents? The other side of the coin is the teams in OUA's unofficial third tier could get a benefit in attendance if they had home-and-homes, like they do in the other three conferences.

This could be stuck in limbo until the new leadership under CEO Graham Brown find a better fit for their media rights. The catch-22 (or 24) is undeniable: it can find a partner for football, but there's reluctance about cutting basketball and hockey loose. That will not be easy.

That said, there is a great idea out there for football, and it cannot be that hard to listen.
Next PostNewer Post Previous PostOlder Post Home


Post a Comment