What's buzzing:

55 Yard Line

CIS Corner: York’s win over Ottawa suggests programs are going in opposite directions

Andrew Bucholtz
55 Yard Line

View photo


The York Lions (red) took down the Ottawa Gee-Gees in CIS action Saturday.

A few years ago, it would have been unfathomable to view the results of a York Lions-Ottawa Gee Gees game as one of the most interesting in a particular week in CIS football. The Gee-Gees have long been an OUA powerhouse, while the Lions have been a perennial doormat. However, that's starting to change, and York's 47-36 thumping of Ottawa Saturday suggests there's a different story at work now. That's the story of both the Lions' rise and the Gee-Gees' downfall.

This is certainly a great moment for York, and that shouldn't be understated. It was the Lions' first home win since Warren Craney took over as head coach in 2010, and only their second overall win in that time; they went 0-8 in Craney's first season and 1-7 last year, so they've already matched their previous wins in the last two years. They played well Saturday and deserved the victory; fifth-year running back Kyle Exume (180 yards on 31 carries) and fourth-year quarterback Myles Gibbon (23 completions on 39 attempts, a 58.9 per cent completion rate, a for 341 yards and a touchdown, although he did throw two interceptions) were particularly impressive, but the whole team dominated the Gee-Gees.

The Lions' recruiting has shot up under Craney, the well-respected former Concordia defensive coordinator who's also been heavily involved with Football Canada (including this year's IFAF U-19 world champions and the 2009 IFAF U-19 silver medalists) and international football (he was the defensive coordinator for Team World at this year's USA Football International Bowl and helped hand the U.S. squad their first loss in that event). This win suggests Craney's high profile and strong recruiting classes may be setting the Lions back on the road towards respectability, and while that won't be an easy journey or a short one, this is a huge step for them.

What may be even more notable is the downfall of the Gee-Gees, though. For much of the last few decades, Ottawa's been a relatively good program. Sure, the Gee-Gees have only claimed four Yates Cups, and that's even less impressive than it sounds; their most recent title was 2006, one came in 1907 and their two in 1975 and 1976 were merely East Division titles, not Ontario championships. Ottawa did play in the OQIFC rather than the OUA from 1980 to 2000, though, and played in the Vanier Cup thrice during that span, winning once in 2000. They were pretty consistently solid over the last decade too, especially during the heyday of current Calgary Stampeders' quarterback Brad Sinopoli. Now, they look like a program in free-fall; they only picked up 86 passing yards on the day against the Lions (partly because they're running the old double-wing!), and 47-36 was probably a flattering score.

Losing to York by eleven points is never a good thing, but that's far from the Gee-Gees' only problem. Thanks to construction at Landsdowne Park to prepare the way for the CFL's return to Ottawa, the Gee-Gees are playing "home" games at a tiny field 50 kilometres from their campus this fall. Even more problematic, while cross-town rival Carleton's preparing to return to football in 2013 and loading up with strong hires like former Saint Mary's head coach Steve Sumurah, Ottawa's plummeted so low that head coach Jean-Philippe Asselin (who himself was a somewhat-unusual internal hire in 2010 following Denis Piché's resignation) left this offseason to take a demotion to offensive coordinator at Carleton. He did that despite the Ravens not playing until next season. As Yahoo!'s Neate Sager pointed out then, that move didn't bode well for the Gee-Gees' football prospects, and looked like "another signal of the shift in the power structure of CIS football away from some traditional powers." What's clear is that institutions like York are investing in their programs, hiring respected coaches and giving them the support they need, while the Gee-Gees have deteriorated to the point where their coaches leave for less-prominent positions at schools that aren't even currently playing football. If that shift continues, Ottawa might just turn into the new York.

View Comments (2)
  • Texas votes to end high school steroids tests after 8 years

    Texas lawmakers voted Friday to dismantle the state's high school steroids testing program after eight years and more than $10 million spent collecting thousands of samples that turned up only a handful of cheaters. Texas started the program in … More »

    AP - Sports - 4 minutes 1 second ago
  • Blatter wins fifth FIFA term as challenger concedes

    Blatter wins fifth FIFA term as challenger concedes

    By Mike Collett and Brian Homewood ZURICH (Reuters) - Sepp Blatter was re-elected president of FIFA for a fifth term on Friday after his only challenger conceded defeat in an election overshadowed by allegations of rampant corruption in world … More »

    Reuters - 5 minutes ago
  • Dwight Howard suspended for 1 game after foul upgraded

    Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard was suspended without pay for one game Friday after getting his fourth flagrant foul point in the postseason. The foul in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals was ruled a common foul during the game, but was … More »

    AP - Sports - 6 minutes ago
  • Nationals' Werth out indefinitely with broken wrist

    Nationals' Werth out indefinitely with broken wrist

    Washington's Jayson Werth is out indefinitely after another test found that he broke his left wrist two weeks ago. The outfielder was hit on the wrist by a pitch from the Padres' Odrisamer Despaigne on May 16 and has been unable to swing a bat. … More »

    AP - Sports - 6 minutes ago
  • Rooney targets silverware as Man United captain

    Rooney targets silverware as Man United captain

    Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney believes finishing in the Premier League's top four last season was essential for the record 20-times English champions. United came fourth in Louis van Gaal's first campaign in charge, improving on their … More »

    Reuters - 6 minutes ago