Guelph Mercury: Gryphons rankled by competitiveness proposals

Gryphons rankled by competitiveness proposals

GUELPH — Spectators at the Ontario University Athletics football games involving the Guelph Gryphons will not see them in a variety of uniforms during the 2015 season.

According to an email sent to The Mercury by U of G football head coach Stu Lang, the athletic directors at OUA schools competing in football voted that teams be limited to three game-day uniforms per season, two game-day helmets per season, a maximum of 110 student/athletes at their August training camp each year, and 90 student/athletes on their official roster. All were deemed as league competitiveness motions.

OUA Director of Operations Bryan Crawford refused to comment on the vote when reached by phone Friday. The OUA holds its annual general meeting in the spring and rule changes are usually announced following that.

“There is an issue with competitiveness although if you look at the various leagues, we’re probably the most competitive in terms of who’s won the Yates (league championship) as opposed to Calgary dominating it, Laval dominating and, for a while, Saint Mary’s,” Lang said Friday. “We do have a competitive league in comparison, but obviously in the last couple of years, there is a little bit of the Have Nots and the Haves. So there is some value to the argument, so where I disagree is they said, ‘OK, to make us competitive, we’ll take the good teams or the teams that are doing things to make them competitive and take them away,’ as opposed to spending time with the Have Nots and saying, ‘OK, how do we bring you up?’ So in a sense going their route, you produce mediocrity rather than striving for excellence. Fundamentally, I disagree with the decisions because they just went out and picked a couple of things rather than trying to understand the bigger issue.”

Last season, the Gryphs had six sets of helmets, 10 sets of jerseys and five sets of football pants. They had planned to order more for this season.

“From our standpoint, people realize that it’s not the uniforms,” Lang said. “It’s the philosophy or the brand behind it.”

During the last 10 years, teams representing five different schools have hoisted the Yates Cup as the OUA football champions. Western won it four times, McMaster three times and Laurier, Ottawa and Queen’s once each.

Over the same period of time, three teams won the Canada West Hardy Cup, led by Calgary with six victories, and two teams won Quebec’s Dunsmore Cup with Laval winning it nine times. The Atlantic Conference’s Loney Cup was won by three of its four teams — Saint Mary’s and Acadian four times apiece and Mount Allison twice.

“We arrived and we’re inheriting a 3-5 team,” Lang said of taking over the Gryphs in 2010. “The coaching staff sits around and says, ‘OK, how do we become attractive for 17- and 18-year-olds when we don’t have a winning record? So we thought we wanted to establish a unique brand so that when the 17- and 18-year-old was deciding between Mac (McMaster) and Queen’s and us and the rest, they could say, ‘Hey, Guelph is different. I have a choice here not to go to Western or Mac or Queen’s because I like this.’

“So as everyone knows, we followed the Oregon model so it’s not uniforms, it’s the colour of the field, it’s the scoreboard, it’s going to Florida,” said Lang. “It’s all the things that we do to try to separate ourselves, and they’ve decided to pick on a couple of things that only one team did, rather than thinking big scale. That’s why I’m upset.”

Guelph and Western were the only schools to vote against all three motions. Ottawa voted against limiting the number of players at both training camp and on the roster and Carleton voted against limiting the number of uniforms to three. Queen’s, Toronto, York, McMaster, Waterloo, Laurier and Windsor supported all three motions while Ottawa and Carleton supported two apiece.

“It should be left to the university to decide how they’re going to be competitive,” Lang said. “Toronto and York have some Pan-Am money and they are building some beautiful facilities that are going to attract 17- and 18-year-olds. Is that a competitive advantage? It certainly is, but that’s a fact of life. We’re not going to get Pan-Am money here, so what we have to do is think outside the box. How can we do it differently?”

As for the player cap, the Gryphs feel 90 for a regular-season roster is too small. They don’t really have a problem with 110 for training camp.

“If you just look at what we try to do, we try to have two teams of 47 so that we can always have a scout team practising against (the starting offence and defence) at the same time. Ninety to me is too small,” Lang said. “Everyone tends to vote selfishly.”

When Lang became head coach of the Gryphs, he’d heard that Western recruited more players than it could possibly use or keep.

“Whether that was true or not, I didn’t see it as a competitive advantage,” Lang said. “I didn’t worry about it. I just had to recruit better than (Western head coach) Greg Marshall because my starting 47 had better be better than his starting 47.”

In the last three years, the Gryphs have posted more wins in the OUA football league’s regular season than any other team. They’re 21-3 over that period while McMaster is 20-4 and Western’s 19-5. The records for the other teams are Queen’s at 16-8, Windsor and Ottawa at 12-12, Laurier and Toronto at 8-16 and Waterloo and York at 4-20. Carleton is at 4-12 in the two years it has competed. The Gryphs were 6-10 in the first two years with Lang at the helm.

“They have to look at the bigger issue,” he said. “They look at what’s happening now and they get jealous or whatever, but it’s happened at various times through the history with other schools. They’re just criticizing because they seem to be on the other side of the fence whereas years before they were on the other side of the fence.”

The Gryphs have appeared in two of the last three Yates Cup games, losing in both 2012 and 2014 to McMaster at Ron Joyce Stadium.

“No-one’s ever talked about putting a cap on alumni giving,” Lang said. “My background is more business. You compete against other businesses and there’s always competitive advantages. Some are geographical and some are financial, but you still have to compete. I keep coming back to what we decided. We couldn’t compete against Western and Mac on tradition, so we decided to create a new one and that’s how we competed. My challenge to the rest of the OUA, quit bitching and try to out-think us.”

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5 Responses to Guelph Mercury: Gryphons rankled by competitiveness proposals

  1. Bill Morrison says:

    The issue for the OUA is “tall poppy syndrome”. Once some poppy or programme gets too much attention some one or some group will try and will probably be successful in cutting it down. Consequently the tall poppy is lost and the opportunity for other tall poppies to flourish is diminished. Improvements in programmes come from the staff and the efforts of the staff to develop the players they recruit. Guelph has done a great job in developing players and getting them to mature as men, and I believe at a very young age. If the football programme wishes to reward these players with uniforms or locations for practice, well done Guelph. People were critical of the manner is which Laval started to dominate, after St. Mary’s had their run. But, now many teams do not see Laval as the perpetual winner, but yes a perpetual competitor who they wish to play and practice against. Congratulations to coach Nill and UBC, in their recruitment and scheduling. Hopefully we can get more schools in the football competition to elevate their game and do what they feel is the best way to become more competitive. Please do not let the lazy staffed teams pull down the teams who are making a better field of play for all of football.

    • Bill,, I see others are using the same analogy – Tall poppy syndrome – to describe this.

      Jim Mullin ‏@Jim_Mullin Feb 16 Greater Vancouver, British Columbia
      @ronh_pm It’s about a group trying to pull a leader back to the pack. Classic tall poppy syndrome. Baffling is a good word to describe it.
      9:12 AM – 16 Feb 2015 ·

  2. mike carney sr says:

    hmmm where shall I start?

    these rule changes are not “Competitiveness” rule changes. These changes are a window dressing (and not a good one at that) that are designed to reduce the pressure to be excellent by lowering the bar not raising it.

    I was thinking of how we could join the OUA in their absurdly mad rush to mediocrity and I am proposing a couple of rule changes:
    1. Term Limits on Coaches. While the uniform limits are window dressing, coach term limits would help alleviate exceĺence in a real and meaningful way, thereby eliminating a programs ability to settle into a rut of excellence by having excellent coaches for prolonged periods.

    2. Rotating Championship. Great way to reduce the pressure to be and maintain excellence. Schools will be able to recruit with the best because they will all be the best.

    Some CIS schools are looking to the NCAA because of the CIS’ s indomitable drive to mediocrity. Many of the best athletes do the same. even the kids can see ” AVERAGE IS AS AVERAGE DOES.

  3. John McCaig says:

    These proposals are just so typical of the way far too many of our politicians and leaders (and now our Ontario universities) think. Regulations, whether in business, sports, or politics, seem lately to be designed to reduce those who achieve something back to a lower level rather than elevate those who are at the bottom to a higher level. Anyone who has managed in the business world knows this is the easy way – much more difficult to innovate, inspire, and train to be successful rather than to regulate against success.
    This is a tough time for many schools in the league as they struggle to recruit and achieve success (Toronto, York, and Waterloo being the prime examples). However it can be done without lowering the bar for those who do succeed – Guelph being the prime example with Carleton coming on strong. In Stu Laing Guelph has a man dedicated to producing not just excellent players but excellent men as well, and with the resources and University support to make it happen. Hopefully better sense will prevail at the board room table, and the myopic men who make these decisions will show some gumption and vote these proposals down in the future.

  4. mike carney sr says:

    Joe Adams is a friend of mine and is a teacher/football coach at STM in Burnaby BC. Joe played his has ball at St Pats in Sarnia and college ball at SFU. The following is his reaction:
    I think Coach Lang’s comments are spot-on. Why does the OUA have a “dearth mentality” when what is really needed to improve competitiveness is an “abundance mentality”? Do you EVER make ANYTHING better by de-valuing it, by divesting in it, by clawing back? As Coach Lang says, why take away from the teams that have worked so hard to raise their profile & make themselves attractive to recruits when this is such a golden opportunity for the OUA to help build the perceived “have-not” teams up? I think the alternative jersey/helmet issue could have been parlayed into a very meaningful discussion on how to get football alumni & sponsors more involved in fundraising for capital expenditures so that, in time, EVERY OUA football school could afford multiple uniforms. I think there is a perception that some schools have an “Uncle” Phil Knight sugar-daddy footing the bill for uniforms & helmets & that this is simply not “fair”. Making a competitive CIS football program does cost money; it is undeniable that Nike uniforms, spring training trips to Florida & state-of-the-art weight rooms & locker rooms attract talented athletes. My question is, why don’t the football ALUMNI at the “have-not” schools help foot the bill for some of those much-needed attractors? OUA football has so much to offer but this recent decision is so small-minded. I know I do not have all the facts; I know that there are many factors that affected this vote & ultimately this unfortunate decision. As a football coach & a football fan, I just feel that this decision is very disheartening. If you have ever read Dr. Spencer Johnson’s book, “Who Moved My Cheese?”, you will understand why this decision on the part of the OUA is a missed opportunity to address a paradigm shift in recruiting & a changing football culture in Canada.

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