55 Yard Line - CFL

On Peter Metuzals and the Vanier Cup-Grey Cup pairing

The CIS national office made an interesting move Thursday, completely eliminating the position of marketing director and getting rid of the man who currently held the position, Peter Metuzals. There had been rumblings for a while that there were some conflicts in the hierarchy and that Metuzals might be on his way out, but the timing's certainly notable, coming less than a week after CIS' most high-profile event, the Vanier Cup (won 41-38 by McMaster in double overtime; the Marauders are seen posing with it above). Both Metuzals' departure and other concerns that have popped up around this year's Vanier will undoubtedly cause some to reevaluate the idea of pairing the Vanier and Grey Cups, but the view from this corner is that they shouldn't. There were certainly problems, and some of those may be reflected in Metuzals' departure, but on the whole, pairing the Vanier and Grey Cups was a tremendous move for Canadian university football and Canadian football as a whole, and it's one that should be continued in future years.

First, on Metuzals. He's a long-time CIS employee (his LinkedIn profile says he's been there 11 years) who was in a very prominent role, so his departure is certainly notable. Metuzals has overseen plenty of changes in that time and has been quite involved in many of the broadcasting deals CIS has been able to strike, as well as some of the shift towards webcasting (which still is decentralized and school-by-school in many cases).There have been some complaints about him recently, but it's impossible to evaluate them fairly without details of exactly what goes on at CIS headquarters; it's also impossible to figure out how much of his departure is over the Vanier and how much is due to other issues. The most interesting element of the story is not just that Metuzals is gone, but that they don't appear to be planning to hire someone new for his position.

From this corner, that's a mistake. CIS needs successful marketing more than ever, especially when it comes to television contracts and events. As CIS fans of any sport (or even those whose first glimpse of the university athletics scene was last week's Vanier Cup) know, the quality of CIS sports is generally great; the challenge is selling the public on that. Maybe Metuzals was the wrong guy to have in charge of those efforts going forward, maybe he wasn't, but eliminating your top marketing position when marketing is arguably your biggest challenge doesn't seem like the best idea in the world.

Moving on to the Vanier and Grey Cup pairing, there were undoubtedly problems that arose. One of the most prominent issues came at the CFL Awards last Thursday night, where separate stages were set up for CIS and CFL award winners and CFL winners were frequently brought in and given precedence on the audio feeds before CIS winners could finish their speeches. That's not a great look for CIS. There are reports of further problems, too; despite an impressive reported attendance of 24,953, probably only about two-thirds of the seats at B.C. Place were filled on game day (which still is far from bad by Vanier standards), and there are rumours that CIS may wind up losing money on the game (thanks to a deal where they apparently didn't receive gate revenues). Tying the Vanier Cup with the Grey Cup also reduces the numbers of Vanier sponsorships CIS can sell, and that's problematic as well.

However, when you move beyond those particular issues and look at the larger picture, there are plenty of reasons to keep the Vanier Cup and Grey Cup connected. The Vanier Cup arguably got more exposure this year than it has in a long time; there was plenty of discussion about it in the leadup to the game, it was played at a great time with regards to Grey Cup Week when there were no CFL events to distract from it, and it turned out to be a fantastic game and received an average of 660,000 television viewers (almost as good as a typical CFL game, miles ahead of a typical CIS game). The coverage didn't stop once the game ended, either; TSN's SportsCentre was full of Vanier coverage all of Friday night with was plenty more on Saturday, and tons of other media outlets were talking about the Vanier even after the Grey Cup ended. For example, The Toronto Sun's Steve Simmons called it "the football game of the year" in a column this week, and that's not far from the truth.

Even with a spectacular on-field game like this year's, it's highly doubtful most notice the Vanier if you separate it from the Grey Cup and play it in a lousy time slot on the day before the CFL's biggest game across the country from the vast majority of Canada's football fans and media. That happened in 2010, and sure, the game was lousy, but it didn't even register a blip on most people's radar. If you isolate the Vanier, the hardcore CIS fans tune in; if you combine it with the Grey Cup, you can draw new CIS fans from the CFL ranks and get much more attention across the country. Sure, there are issues still to be solved, and CIS needs to figure out a way they can not only get their fair share of the attention during Grey Cup Week, but also pull in sufficient money to make the event profitable. However, pairing the Grey Cup and the Vanier Cup is a fundamentally sound idea, and you don't need a marketing director to see that.

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