Football: Vanier Cup ticket sales are, uh, stable

The worst Vanier Cup in pertinent memory, in terms of the crowd and the game, was 2004 in Hamilton. The Wikipedia entry summarizes it well. Now may we never speak of it again.

The game will surely be better than the touchdown-free turnover-fest Laval and Saskatchewan, loosely speaking, played 12 years ago. The crowd was announced at 14,227 that clear Saturday afternoon ... and one hopes that won't look good by comparison in 20 days' time.

Hometown rooting interest McMaster is out; you know that since the Mac was the only OUA semifinalist with a press release up within a hour of the games ending on Saturday, but that is a post for someone else. There is also a distinct possibility of losing the boost from having an OUA team involved, since the Yates Cup winner (cough, Western) will have to win the Uteck Bowl against Laval or Montréal.

Suffice to say, one might want to be braced for the possibility of a very small crowd at Tim Hortons Field on Nov. 26.

If "Hamilton" steps up, great. Consumers are not obligated to buy tickets to a sports event just because it is a national championship happening in their city, especially if they have no idea who plays for the participating teams. It will not be "Hamilton's" fault if there is a small crowd.

It will speak to how the organization and structure of university sports works against creating the type of event atmosphere that permeates other Small Sport (hat tip: Gare Joyce) tentpole events such as the Brier, Scotties Tournament of Hearts or Memorial Cup. That is somewhat justifiable since U Sports / CIS trades in true student-athletes. Curlers are independent contractors and the designation of junior hockey players' work is, well, a matter for the courts to decide.

One presumes the reasonable goal at U Sports' new HQ is to hold a national championship game that attracts 20,000-plus spectators, which is the ballpark figure for a CFL crowd. That turnout of 37,000 four years ago in Toronto was an illusory one-off. The bar is likely set at the level of the golden-anniversary game in Montreal in 2014, which drew 22,649 with the hometown Carabins making their first appearance (in what was only nominally a neutral site game, he did not add).

Western, with the groove that Chris Merchant is in, might have a chance of winning in Quebec.

The 2010 Mustangs almost did it and they didn't have a passing game. Whether Western's presence would goose sales remains to be seen. The Mustangs have struggle enough getting people to watch them play in their own city, let alone one 90 minutes east.

Laurier might not have anything left emotionally and physically if it upsets Western after also defeating McMaster.

The working assumption is the game is going to end up being the UBC-Calgary Hardy Cup winner against the Laval-Montréal Dunsmore Cup winner. That isn't going to help, but it shouldn't let everyone who is in position to raise the profile of university football off the hook either.

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