McGill University has applied to play in the Ontario University Athletics football conference, which, if accepted, would move the Redmen from the Quebec league to Ontario by 2013, the team’s 133rd season on the gridiron.
The OUA will be expanding to 11 teams with the addition of Carleton in 2013, which opens the door for a 12th squad and would allow the OUA an option to have two divisions of six teams.
“The opportunity to be part of a restructured OUA football league with the addition of a second Ottawa-based team meant the time was right for us to consider such a move. And to do so we had to submit our candidacy,” said Drew Love, executive director of athletics and recreation at McGill, who indicated that he has not yet made a decision to leave the six-team Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec football conference.
“Should we make the move, we will continue to be a contributing member of the Quebec conference in the majority of our sports. In fact, we currently have 21 teams in the RSEQ – more than any other Quebec university. We had to make a formal application to the OUA last week, which was their deadline to have playing privileges for the 2013 season and we have no idea if they will accept our proposal,” said Love. “We have a long tradition of playing football in Ontario and were part of the first intercollegiate football league in 1902 with Queen’s, Toronto and Western, our traditional Old Four rivals.”
The OUA champion currently receives the Yates Cup, which was donated in 1898 by Dr. Henry B. Yates, a former McGill football player who graduated from medical school in 1893, went on to become a professor at McGill until 1914 and served in the Canadian Armed Forces during the First World War. The Redmen vied for the Yates Cup from 1898 until 1980, when they parted ways with the Ontario league – then known as the OUAA – and began challenging for the Dunsmore Cup as part of the Ontario-Quebec Intercollegiate Football Conference. Since the RSEQ league was formed in 1998, McGill has reached the final twice in 14 years, the last time occurring in 2002. McGill won the Yates Cup 10 times, including their last conquest in 1969.
“The possibility of playing football in the OUA is an intriguing one and we feel that it is a good match for our program,” explained Love. “We recruit about 40 per cent of our players from high schools across Canada. They are significantly younger compared to the average CEGEP recruit, so the move to the OUA would put us on a more even playing field. The OUA also plays a shorter regular season schedule, eight games instead of nine, which we feel is a better academic fit for our student-athletes.
Love noted that four of McGill’s 28 varsity teams already compete in the OUA (men’s hockey, women’s field hockey, men’s & women’s rowing) and indicated that McGill would also look forward to establishing greater ties with its Ontario colleagues as well.
“It would provide us with enhanced marketing opportunities to resume our long-standing rivalries with a number of teams, most notably Queen’s, which typically draws our largest crowds. In addition, it would give us a chance to play in front of many of our alumni and families of current and prospective McGill students.”