2016 CIS Season Preview

cis-vanier-cup-20151128The CIS football season is ready to get underway for another year as one of the premier sports in Canadian universities starts on the path to another Vanier Cup.

CIS football has grown in a big way over the last few years as it continues to develop into a major championship throughout Canada.

The league may not be at the level they want to be with TV coverage every weekend and plenty of talk about the games but they are getting there.

They may be able to find a boost though as a new leader has taken over the organization and his hoping to make some big changes.

Graham Brown was named CIS CEO last year. As with most appointments in sports, it is always a good idea to take a year to find out everything about the league.

Brown did just that as he went through a full year of CIS sports and now looks to begin his vision of the organization.

Brown came to the CIS from Rugby Canada where he was a big part of the evolution of Rugby throughout Canada.

Thanks, in part, to his business acumen Rugby Canada went from a fringe sport to one of the fastest growing sports in the country.

He helped to get funding for almost every team under the Rugby Canada umbrella which has only made the program stronger over the years.

He will try to take that attitude to the CIS and build the organization into a strong sports organization throughout Canada.

Although he doesn’t want to compare the CIS to anything else he is essentially trying to bring the CIS up to a different level that could be closer to the NCAA.

It could be considered the best example, in some ways, for any university sporting organization as they are the most well-known sporting organization for universities and colleges.football-sidebar

The CIS may never reach that level but getting closer to that is the ultimate goal for Brown and his new regime.

To do that he will need to focus on the big sports and make them bigger than they are right now.

Sports like hockey, basketball, and football will surely be the focus.

Football has been one of the bigger sports in the CIS but in recent years the football focus has not been as big as it could be.

A big part of that is the coverage that football gets as even the opening weekend for the OUA will see no TV coverage.

That is something that Brown will likely try to fix in his time at the top of the CIS as sports today are dependent on the TV coverage they receive.

One way or another the Cis seems to be at the beginning of a new future and there is little doubt that a big part of that will be football.

Now it is time for football to make good on their part and continue to produce great moments and new stars.

Last year the reign of Quebec ended with the introduction of a new, potential superstar in the league.

The league is only seemingly getting better and more even with more teams getting in on the action.

Whether that can continue this year or not remains to be seen as another season begins with the Vanier Cup waiting for its next owner.

canwest

The CanWest Conference was one that led the way in an era where power teams consistently stayed on top. For the west, it was all about the Calgary Dinos who took six straight Hardy Trophies and looked like a powerhouse that could never be beaten. They continued to produce great teams that became constant players in the national championships. They were always in the hunt but two years ago their reign ended when Manitoba took the Hardy Trophy beating Calgary in the finals. It seemed like the Dinos had a new rival as the Bisons were an up and coming team ready to change the guard in the west. It seemed like the competition was going to get better as the Dinos were no longer going to be allowed to walk to the championship game and into the national playoffs. Then came the decision that changed the landscape in CIS football. That decision was made by a Michael O’Connor who had been given a scholarship to Penn State University but decided to leave the college when the coaching staff changed. That left him up for grabs to come back to Canada and his decision was to go west to UBC where the best Canadian quarterback could start right away. That decision proved to be a big one as the Thunderbirds saw their new quarterback lead them to the top. It didn’t start that way though as they struggled to start the year until O’Connor found his groove. Then they began to take over and they did that all the way to the Hardy Trophy and eventually the Vanier Cup. The Thunderbirds are hoping that their Vanier Cup is just the start of a period of dominance which all starts in the conference. If O’Connor is as good as he showed this might be the start of a change in the CanWest conference with the Thunderbirds looking to establish a pattern of winning while they have the services of the future of Canadian quarterbacks. The rest of the conference will be looking to match the Thunderbirds and there are some teams that are sure to challenge them. Calgary has never been a team that gets used to losing while the Manitoba Bisons are looking to remain on top. The concentration for the CanWest conference will be in British Columbia though as the Thunderbirds are the team to watch and with O’Connor now over his adjustments it could be hard to beat them.

CanWest Champion:

ubc-thunderbirds.fw

oua

The OUA is the largest and one of the oldest conferences in the CIS and they try to show that power every year as they look for another Vanier Cup. They produce some great talent and have always produced tough teams with periods of dominance from certain teams. There is no doubt that the OUA has been a big part of national championships for years but lately, they are beginning to fall off in their competition. In the last ten years, the OUA has only been on top twice as Queen’s and Western have been the only representatives to win a Vanier Cup in that time. The OUA used to rule the national playoffs but lately they have been unseated by the west and Quebec. The teams are still good as they constantly put up a fight but they cannot seem to take home a Vanier Cup. It was 2011 the last time an OUA team made the Vanier Cup and that is not a good thing for a conference that was a building block of the CIS. This year there will be plenty of teams looking to be the first teams since Western to get that Vanier Cup and many have a chance. The last team to win is one of them as Western is never out of the running in the OUA season. They will need to do it without an experienced quarterback though but a long run of great quarterbacks has them still confident. The Mustangs have been good for a long time but their reign at the top of the conference has come under fire recently by the Gryphons. They seem to be the new team to watch in the OUA as they look to win the Yates cup for the second straight year. Meanwhile, Carlton is making quick work to get to the playoffs and hopes to stay there while McMaster looks to continue their time near the top of the conference. The OUA is not an easy conference to win with so many teams and so many opportunities to surprise or fall short of expectations. It will be up to the team that avoids the pitfalls that will get to the top where they hope to represent the OUA proudly on the national stage. Whether it will be one of the previously mentioned team or a surprise participant the OUA is looking to make an impression the OUA is looking to make an impact once again on the national stage.

OUA Champion:

gu-gryphons.fw

rseq

The RSEQ has gone from one of the most boring, albeit dominant, conferences in Canada to the conference with the greatest rivalry in the game right now. The Dunsmore Cup had been given a permanent home in Quebec City where the Laval Rouge et Or had created the most dominant program in Canada. In 2003 the program began to find its stride after five years in the league. That was the year they began a streak of 11 straight years at the top of the RSEQ. They also found their way to eight Vanier Cups in that time winning seven of those appearances. Simply put the Rouge et Or were the most dominant program in CIS football and everyone just wondered if or when their reign would come to an end. They got the answer in 2014 when the Montreal Carabins took home the Dunsmore Cup and followed it up by taking the Vanier Cup in the same year. All of a sudden the Rouge et Or had a challenger after years of walking through everyone on their way to the national championships. In 2015 the talk was all about these two teams and whether or not Montreal could repeat their performance from the year before. Although there was plenty of doubt the Carabins did it again taking another Dunsmore Cup and going back to the Vanier Cup. Despite the Vanier Cup loss to UBC, the Carabins are quickly becoming a team to beat in the CIS. In terms of the RSEQ, it seems clear that the rivalry continuing to brew between these two teams will be the defining factor in the conference. There is always the possibility of another team like Sherbrooke coming up to surprise but it does seem like Montreal and Laval will be the teams in the hunt for the Dunsmore Cup. They will continue to develop their rivalry over this season with games against each other playing a major factor in the standings. It could be the official crowning of a new king in Quebec if Montreal wins three straight but it could also be the comeback of a great program. One of these teams seems likely to win the conference and become a factor in the national championships. The only question is who will it be and how far can they go to continue the reputation of the RSEQ as one of the most dominant conferences in the country.

RSEQ Champion:

laval

aus

The AUS has been the forgotten conference in the CIS for years which is not a place they were used to long before. They were once one of the most surprising conferences in the league as such a small recruiting space and league led to some dominant teams. More often than not those dominant teams came from Halifax where Saint Mary’s constantly came up big on the national stage. The Huskies’ program quickly became the blueprint for the rest of the country but it couldn’t last. Like more college programs their dominance came to an end and the rest of the conference began taking over. Since then it has been one of the most unpredictable divisions in the CIS. There is an argument that they could be the best conference in the CIS by the simple fact that the competition in the east is so much closer than the rest of them. In any given year any team can win this conference, in fact in the last six years every team has taken home at least one championship. There have been times where it looked like one team was about to take over like the Huskies did in the past but they have never been able to keep a reign longer than two years. The StFX X-Men will be looking to start their own time on top after winning the Jewett Trophy last year. Of course, the Huskies are trying to get back to the top of the league after missing out the last few years. The Mount Allison Mounties were just starting their time at the top of the AUS but lost out last year and are hoping that it is just a bump in their period of dominance. Acadia is never too far behind as they have had their own time as champions and want to be back there again. There is no doubt that the AUS is a great competition as all of these teams can win the Jewett Trophy this year. Whoever does win has the bigger challenge though as the AUS has not been the same when they get to the national playoffs. They have not been able to get much further than their conference putting up less of a fight than any other teams. The champion of the AUS will need to try to represent the east coast well and be the first team since Saint Mary’s in 2007 to get to the Vanier Cup.

AUS Champion:

mau-mounties.fw

vanier-cup-black-final

The Vanier Cup travels to their new temporary home, at least for the next two years, in Hamilton and there are certainly a few motivated teams. Any team in Ontario would love a home province game while other teams are looking to simply get back on top. The Most interesting though will be from the west as the UBC Thunderbirds seem to be ready to take over the league. With Michael O’Connor at the helm they may very well be the best team in the country but there are plenty of teams looking to unseat him and his team. One of the most motivated teams will likely be the Laval Rouge et Or as if they do get the Dunsmore Cup they will certainly be favourites to get to the Vanier Cup. The Guelph Gryphons and Mount Allison Mounties could both come out of their divisions looking to make an upset. In the end, though it looks like the west and Quebec will be the two conferences to produce the biggest competitors. It might come down to an old power to the new power with the old power getting the advantage this year.

Vanier Cup Champion:

laval

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