Ottawa Gee-Gees coach Gary Etcheverry, with the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 2009
Talking with Gary Etcheverry makes it tougher to view the Ottawa Gee-Gees as a CIS program at a crossroads.
If football in the nation's capital during this off-season could be summed up in a word, it's upheaval. Ottawa has a conditional CFL franchise set to begin play in a couple years' time at a renovated Lansdowne Park. At the CIS level, the revived Carleton Ravens made a big splash by hiring head coach Steve Sumurah away from long-time power Saint Mary's and adding two coaches from the cross-town Gee-Gees. That created the vacancy that gave Etcheverry — sometimes polarizing but never dull when he oversaw defences which helped the Saskatchewan Roughriders to successive Grey Cup berths in 2009-10 — his long-awaited shot at coaching collegiately in Canada. It figures: a unique veteran of the coaching ranks dropped into a unique situation where the new kids seem to be getting more buzz than the established team.
"It'll be fun, it'll be great," Etcheverry said Thursday when asked about partaking in the Panda Game rivalry come 2013. "I know most of the coaches, they certainly know me. Some of the best players I coached in the CFL were on the last Carleton team. [Former CFL defensive lineman] Cameron Legault and [linebacker] Jason Kralt were on the Ravens' last team. They were two of my favourite players that I coached in the CFL so there's a bit of irony there.
"Stuff like that is more for the fans and media, which is great. It adds to the flavour of the rivalry."
"I think the sky's the limit for us," Etcheverry added. "We have great players, great attitude, very strong coaching staff thus far, we're going to add a few more. I'm excited."
The Gee-Gees have thrived since the nation's capital became a one-team town after the original Ravens folded in 1999. They won the Vanier Cup under Marcel Bellefeuille in 2000 and had a superb run from 2005-10, going at least 6-2 or either making the Yates Cup final each season. Current Calgary Stampeders backup QB Brad Sinopoli also won the Hec Crighton Trophy in 2010 as CIS' top player.
Carleton's return and adoption of Laval's private funding model for football, with alumni such as well-known Ottawa developer John Ruddy ponying up for the program, have created a lot of curiosity about how fast the Ravens will rise when they begin OUA play in 2013. Meantime, the Gee-Gees not only lost coaches to the new guys, but their 5-3 finish and first-round playoff loss to Windsor was below their recent standard.
"It's easy to sit at home and do a lot of talking when you're not going to play for a year," Ottawa defensive coordinator Cory McDiarmid said of Carleton. "So they can say whatever they say. To me it's a non-factor. The people who have gone over there are friends of mine.
"To me it's good ribbing, in jest or what-not ... it's like me saying I'm going to win the 6/49 this weekend. Let's see if I do. They have strong support, they have good coaches, and they'll hire some more good coaches. It'll be great for Ottawa. But I don't want to beat Carleton any more than any other team. It just so happens Carleton is in the same city."
Read More »from CIS Corner: Former CFL head coach Gary Etcheverry takes over Ottawa Gee-Gees at critical juncture