Monday, August 18, 2008

CIS Countdown #27: U of T Varsity Blues

Fast facts: 49 consecutive losses. No wins since 2001. No winning season since 1995. But at least they have a new stadium, and have come close to breaking the streak in the past two seasons, with an end of game missed field goal the difference in a game against York last year, and a narrow loss to Waterloo the year before. The departure of head coach Steve Howlett does not mean the school is prepared to take the program seriously; when probed about it, school administrators will regularly try to change the subject.

Coach: Greg DeLaval (1st season, 1st overall)

Co-ordinators: Bob Howes (Director of Football), Other coaches not yet listed

Enrolment: 73,185

Alumni in the CFL: None

Famous non-football alumni: Paul Martin (Jr. and Sr.), William Lyon Mackenzie King, Adrienne Clarkson, Lester Pearson, Bob Rae, Paul Shaffer, Donald Sutherland, Margaret Atwood, Conn Smythe, and a heck of a lot more.

Three-year record: 0-24

2007 units ranking: 25th offence, 27th defence

Key losses: DL Mike Goncalves (2007 OUA Russ Jackson Award nominee), DB George Polyzois (2nd team OUA All-star), K Joe Valtellini, coach Steve "I think I'm a great coach" Howlett

Players to watch: DB Derek Batchelor (1st in OUA in solo tackles, 1st team all-star), QB Andrew Gillis (without question one of the most exciting field generals in the league, a scrambling left-hander who split most of his time with Mark Hamilton last year), WR Mark Stinson (or at least his blog, already with two entries unlike the failed experiment when Queen's Athletics tried the same thing with a few of their football players last year).

For future reference: Since he actually plays for the team, let's leave it to Mark Stinson - "I'm impressed with the size, confidence, and professional demeanor of an O-lineman named Steve - he's my pick!" All-Canada Gridiron lists no recruits for the team and CIS Football Recruiting Database only lists OL Patrick Yan of St. Andrew's. So let's go with Steve.

Schedule (swing games in bold):
Sep. 1 vs. Waterloo
Sep. 6 @ Windsor
Sep. 13 vs. York
Sep. 20 vs. Queen's
Sep. 27 @ Guelph
Oct. 3 @ McMaster
Oct. 9 vs. Western
Oct. 18 @ Ottawa

Final analysis: Opening against Waterloo might give the team some form of momentum if they can at least compete, but there's little to suggest this is the year the streak is broken. I love Andrew Gillis as starting quarterback and think he's their best chance at breaking the streak, but it's nothing to bet on. Nonetheless my official prediction is a 3-5 record with wins against Waterloo, York, and Queen's. Why? I'm secretly a Blues fan.

But more seriously and importantly, Stinson's blog makes an excellent point about this team - "For some guys on our team it's their fifth and final year. Guys like Cory Kennedy, Jeff Laforge, Cam Deans, Andrew Brankley and David Scott-McDowell have given everything they could and have yet to be rewarded for their efforts and commitment to our program."

That's something I talked to Mike Toth about when Queen's visited Toronto and I had him on the CFRC halftime show. A bevy of players have gone through a full football career, likely giving the same full effort of every other player in the league, and not been rewarded with a single win. The fault without question lies with a university administration that has deliberately ignored and, in earlier times, sabotaged this team to ensure its failure. This is a former university football powerhouse and its current state is one of the biggest things holding back the reputation of the OUA and broader CIS.


Rob Pettapiece said...

I propose that even if we find out Steve's last name, we don't use it. Recurring jokes, as Letterman taught us, never get old.

The fault without question lies with a university administration that has deliberately ignored and, in earlier times, sabotaged this team to ensure its failure.

Strong words. I get the ignoring. What have they done to sabotage it?

Tyler King said...

It's widely thought that when the school started to slash the team in both funding and attention (early or mid 90s I think), the intention was to in essence kill the team so it wouldn't be a bother anymore.

The problem now is that that doesn't jive with the building of a new stadium, but I maintain that's more of an optics thing than anything else since alumni organization helped keep the school from getting away with the sabotage.

John Edwards said...

They tried to drop football in 1992 (I believe), but it was saved by an alumni group.