Today Ontario University Athletics released a revised schedule for the 2014 season. There is one significant change.
All of the Week 1 games originally scheduled for Sunday, August 24 have been moved to Saturday, October 25. Now the OUA season will open, as it traditionally has, on Labour Day weekend. For Guelph that means they open at McMaster on Monday, September 1. The Gryphons’ original opening game at Laurier will now be played in Week 9. See the complete Guelph schedule here.
Why the change? The OUA announcement tells us … Athletic directors of the 11 OUA football schools voted in unanimous favour of opening the regular season on Labour Day to coincide with the adjusted dates of the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) bowl games and Vanier Cup. The Mitchell and Uteck Bowl games are scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014 and the 50th Vanier Cup will be awarded on Saturday, Nov. 29. Essentially the Vanier Cup and the CIS Bowl games will be a week later than the OUA expected when they set their schedule.
Anyways, I consider this a big improvement over starting on a Sunday in August for several reasons. First, in 2013 the early start meant training camp was an abbreviated 10 days. The usual 14 day training camp in the OUA is already shorter than those in other CIS conferences. The RSEQ teams have 21 day training camps, while CanWest teams get 17 days to prepare for their season. There are a lot of positive things that can be done to develop players in a training camp setting that can’t be done once school starts and players have course work on which to focus.
Second, the short Training Camp and early start virtually ruled out the possibility of playing an exhibition game. During Coach Lang’s tenure Guelph had played an out-of-conference game each year up until 2013. [see below] I hope to hear that Guelph will once again play a non-conference game. It is a great opportunity especially for a few dozen freshmen/scout team players to get exposed to CIS football.
Third, playing a game in August before students are on campus and even sports fans have begun to focus on college football, is a sure fire way to dampen attendance. This year’s August game drew 2,155 fans and thousand less than the next lowest attendance figure. An August game vs UofT back in 2010 drew fewer than 1,000 fans on a beautiful afternoon.
Finally, an extra regular season game in the prime broadcast period of mid-September thru November should mean an extra OUA game on national television. That is a good thing for OUA football.
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2010 – Guelph travelled to Montreal to play the Concordia Stingers
2011 – Concordia visited Guelph
2012 – Guelph travelled to Saskatoon to face the Saskatchewan Huskies
2013 – Guelph and Western held a combined practice/controlled scrimmage in London