When Canadian Interuniversity Sport doesn't take elements of its showcase event seriously, it's a wonder that there are people who takes its product seriously.
On some low rung, there's a bit of #OnlyInCIS cuteness that the McMaster Marauders coaches were shovelling snow off the field before their Friday walk-through for last Saturday's 50th Telus Vanier Cup, where they lost 20-19 to the hometown Montreal Carabins after a blocked field goal in the final minute. On a more serious level, CIS CEO Pierre Lafontaine, et al., should be on the hot seat about why the Marauders were left to practice on an unprepared field the day before the national championship game while Montreal switched its practice to an indoor facility on campus. While taking nothing away from the Carabins, it's pertinent that Lafontaine admitted there are no firm guidelines in place for staging the one university football game that gets nationwide attention. That allowed the Montreal Snowjob to happen.
From Scott Radley, writing before the game:
[Lafontaine] says he has no ability to enforce rules about championship week protocol because there really are none.
"There's been no real rules," he says. "It's been unspoken understanding."
Coaches will always want to do the best for their teams, he says. So he's reluctant to put strict guidelines in place unless there's a compelling reason for them.
"We as a whole group (CIS) have to look at this and say, what are the rules that are intelligent, not just rules for rules." (Hamilton Spectator, Nov. 28)
One can tolerate, to an extent, that the traditional all-Canadians dinner two nights before the game became "something approximating a Carabins' pep rally," or that McMaster players got some hostility from passionate fans during the week. That comes back to human nature. However, as Radley details, what the Marauders encountered when they arrived at Molson Stadium for a walk-through on Friday was unacceptable.
Three huge white tents had been erected on the field on top of newly-painted logos. The structures certainly made running any kind of passing or kicking drills difficult.
"I don't know what's going on here," says receiver Ben O'Connor, who'll be playing in his third national championship game on Saturday and hasn't seen a situation like this before. "It's a little embarrassing, I think. I don't think it's acceptable."
He was also referring to the fact that when the team arrived, the field hadn't been cleared of snow. So the Marauders' coaches had to grab shovels and start clearing it off before any work could be done.
And here you thought the Montreal screwjob was something that happened to wrestler Bret Hart. I guess we can call this this Montreal snowjob.
Around the same time the Marauders were flexing their shovel muscles, the Carabins' workout was moved to their campus for the second time in his week. Which is what Mac coach Stefan Ptazek pretty much expected to happen from the get-go.
The temptation is to say, "Forget it; it's Montreal," à la the famous scene in the Jack Nicholson movie Chinatown. By no means is anyone trying to detract from the Carabins' feat and the talent within coach Danny Maciocia's team. Nor is it meant to make excuses for the Marauders, who handled their fate with grace. This all couched in having empathy for university football and the people who make the game. The 22,649 fans deserved a game between two teams which were able to prepare under as close to same conditions as possible. Everyone who bleeds Carabins blue, from the coaches to the student-athletes to those who hopped on the bandwagon in the third quarter against Laval on Nov. 15, deserve to be free of questions of whether the behind-the-scene shenanigans had any effect on McMaster's performance. The title sponsor, Telus, also would probably prefer to not be associated with impropriety, which is why this is my only Vanier Cup post that mentioned the title sponsor.
For instance, did the tents on the field having anything to do with why McMaster had only one completion of more than 20 yards? Well, no, because correlation does not equal causation. But now there are questions.
The big picture is that Lafontaine has big ideas about increasing the visibility of CIS, as daunting as that might seem. There are scores of people across the country who would like that to happen. However, achieving that requires fostering trust that transcends conferences, regional lines. It's not clear how the Montreal snowjob serves such an objective.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.