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.”