What happened to all that parity chatter? Western is also hosting the Yates Cup for the fifth time in nine seasons, which is roughly the same rate as during their halcyon days.
Not to be more of a buzzkill, but it is hard to get excited about seeing the same thing. The larger point is that the effects of the 'arms race' in university ball become apparent once the knockout games begin. The smaller one is that the pet idea about adding a wild-card week to the national playoffs needs to be refreshed.
The idea is pretty simple. The conference runners-up who were the highest in the final poll of the regular season become wild cards. They play two conference champions in the national quarter-final, and the two conference winners who were highest in the poll get a bye before hosting the Mitchell and Uteck semifinals. Basically, it is the CFL playoff format and it is also increases the inventory of games to offer to media partners and sponsors from three games to five.
At this writing, we're looking at a distinct possibility of a rehash of 2010, when Laval and Western played a nailbiter of a Uteck Bowl and Laval coolly crushed Calgary in an unwatchable Vanier Cup. The two best teams played a week too soon.
This season, the two best teams, Laval and Montréal, are playing two weeks too soon. The survivor likely plays the third-best team in the Uteck Bowl.
Here is how the eight teams left would be seeded, based on the Top 10 poll taken at the end of the regular season:
- Laval (RSEQ)
- Montréal (RSEQ)
- Western (OUA)
- Laurier (OUA)
- Calgary (Canada West)
- St. Francis Xavier (AUS)
- UBC (Canada West)
- Mount Allison (AUS)
In this hypothetical, the Laval-Montréal loser is going to be the 5 seed and the Laurier-Western loser will be the 6 seed. Having the fallback is not going to strip out the emotion of a championship game, since defeat still means having to regroup very quickly to go out of province for a playoff game -- a terrifying notion for any OUA program located west of the 401 turnoff for Madoc.
Let's presume the higher-ranked teams each win on Saturday. Here's our bracket:
- Montréal is going to Wester,n for a quarter-final; Laurier plays St. Francis Xavier in the revived Atlantic Bowl. Laval and Calgary are the bye teams.
- One concession to tradition might be assigning the two byes in rotation in the manner of the Uteck and Mitchell hosting. I am not opposed to that. There is a scenario where a 4-4 team wins their conference and ends up getting a bye while, say, an 7-1 or 8-0 team has to play, but other university sports have seeding criteria for nationals that put all the weight on conference playoffs and very little on the entire body of work. The efficacy of that something-for-everyone approach is debatable, though.
The problem of having the best teams meet too soon would still occur, though. That is the problem to be solved.
Point being, there is a better way.