Late Wednesday, Sébastien Lajoie of La Presse reported that the Gaiters, who have had only two winning seasons since the turn of the millennium, are leaving the RSEQ league to form a conference with the four Atlantic University Sport teams. It's long been rumoured as a logical step for the Lennoxville, Que., team, and now it's actually happening: a league with five like-minded, like-sized schools ("offrent toutes un programme d'études en « liberal arts », elles sont de même taille, ont la même réalité financière et des budgets similaires accordés à leurs équipes sportives," as Lajoie put it). In other words, the schools that are "primarily undergraduate" are actually going head-to-head, how novel.
There's some reference farther down in the story to a group of schools called the Maple League. Cute. Call the Maritimes-plus-Eastern-Township league that, please! Either way, it appears to be happening:
Déjà, en mai dernier, de fortes impressions laissaient croire que le passage pourrait finalement se faire.
La direction des sports de Bishop's avait alors démenti la rumeur, prétextant que les coûts pour le transport pour les matchs à l'extérieur étaient prohibitifs, évalués à entre 25 000 $ et 30 000 $.
Les tractations pour un transfert vers les Maritimes ne se sont pas pour autant dissipées et se sont même accentuées depuis les derniers mois. Bishop's avait jusqu'au premier décembre dernier pour déposer une demande de transfert.
The more immediate repercussions of Bishop's move creating two five-team conferences include, but are not limited to:
- A more vibrant Atlantic Conference. Granted, the league is at such an ebb that St. Francis Xavier hanging in with Calgary for nearly two quarters in the Mitchell Bowl is a moral victory. Having Bishop's, which always punched its weight in what now looks like the paleolithic pre-Laval era, creates another program with a good environment for student-athletes who know they're joining a team which can win while operating on a more modest scale than Laval or Montréal.
Balance in AUS has often been elusive. But the move should revitalize Bishop's now that it has something to play for, and recent league winners St. FX and Mount Allison certainly should not get complacent. Saint Mary's is also
- A reason to do away with AUS/RSEQ interlock. Each league now has the same number of teams and can simple have each team play a home-and-away to make eight games.
- Two bye weeks per team? Unless schools want to increase injury risk and the fatigue factor by having midweek games -- Canada West did during the period Simon Fraser was its seventh team -- they would probably need a 10-week regular season, two games per week. Two weeks of playoffs still stays within the 12-week timeframe that OUA uses.
Added recovery time between games, especially ones played by real students, is always better for the product.
That is mainly what jumps to mind; anything else is blue-sky hypothesizing. The RSEQ is now exclusively a football conference of large universities; AUS is now one of universities of 10,000 students and fewer. Bishop's essentially has been AUS program playing out of position for some time. While parity and close games cannot be legislated, this reduces the monetary mismatches that can mean a game is over before a single ball is kicked.
As far as the hypothetical is concern, it is plausible that either of the conferences involved might intensity their search for another school to establish football and have even number of teams.
Oh, and if an end result is that the likes of Laval and Montréal have open weeks on their schedule, there is one less excuse not to have a national interlock.