|Current season, competition or edition:|
2021 U Sports football season
|Formerly||CIAU football, CIS football|
|No. of teams||27, in four conferences|
|Most titles||Laval Rouge et Or (10)|
|TV partner(s)|| CBC Sports (in English)|
TVA Sports (in French)
|Official website|| usports|
U Sports football is the highest level of amateur play of Canadian football and operates under the auspices of U Sports (formerly Canadian Interuniversity Sport). Twenty-seven teams from Canadian universities are divided into four athletic conferences, drawing from the four regional associations of U Sports: Canada West Universities Athletic Association, Ontario University Athletics, Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec, and Atlantic University Sport. At the end of every season, the champions of each conference advance to semifinal bowl games; the winners of these meet in the Vanier Cup national championship.
The origins of North American football can be traced here, where the first documented game was played at University College at the University of Toronto in 1861. A number of U Sports programs have been in existence since the origins of the sport. It is from these Canadian universities that the game now known as Canadian football began. In 1874, McGill University (Montreal) challenged Harvard University (Cambridge, Massachusetts) to a series of games.
The Grey Cup, the championship trophy of the professional Canadian Football League (CFL) since its founding in the 1950s, was originally contested by teams from the University of Toronto and Queen's University and other amateur teams since 1909. Many U Sports players have gone on to professional careers in the CFL and elsewhere; a number are drafted annually in the Canadian College Draft. In 2019, there were a record 208 U Sports alumni on CFL rosters, including at least one player from each of the 27 football programs.
The regular season is nine to ten weeks long, depending on the conference, and, as of 2019, opens on the weekend before the Labour Day weekend. Teams play eight regular season games and regular season games are in-conference with exhibition (pre-season) games being played between conferences. Throughout the season, there are featured homecoming and rivalry games in most regions. Following the conclusion of the regular season, the Hec Crighton Trophy is awarded annually to the Most Valuable Player of U Sports football.
After the regular season, single elimination playoff games are held between the top teams in each conference to determine conference champions. In the Atlantic conference, the top three teams qualify for the playoffs with the first place team receiving a bye. In the Canada West and Quebec conferences, the top four teams qualify for the playoffs. In Ontario, the top six teams qualify with the top two teams receiving playoff byes to the next round. Because the OUA teams have conference playoffs that last three weeks instead of two, the first round of the post-season in the OUA occurs during the same week that each of the other three conferences are playing their last regular season games. Each conference has its own championship trophy; the Hardy Trophy in the West, the Yates Cup in Ontario, the Dunsmore Cup in Quebec and the Jewett Trophy in the Atlantic conference. The conference champions proceed to national semifinal bowl games: the Mitchell Bowl and the Uteck Bowl. The participant conferences of each bowl are determined several years in advance on a rotating basis.
The winners of each bowl game meet in the Vanier Cup national championship, first established in 1965 and named in honour of Governor General Georges Vanier. The game was held in Toronto every year through 2003 when host conference bids were first accepted, yielding a move to Hamilton for 2004 and 2005, followed by Saskatoon in 2006. Quebec City, Vancouver, and Montreal have since hosted Vanier Cup games.
There have been efforts at establishing new varsity football programs at institutions that currently do not have teams. A group of alumni from Carleton University in Ottawa successfully revived that school's program which returned in 2013. The team is a member of the Ontario University Athletics conference of U Sports, returning football to Carleton University after a 15-year absence.
Because the AUS is the smallest conference in U Sports, there has been talk of adding more teams there, as well. There has been interest expressed in starting a team at the Université de Moncton, due to the recent construction of Moncton Stadium.As of May 2011, the athletics department submitted a feasibility report to the school's president and are going to base a large part of their decision upon how the Uteck Bowl in 2011 is received by the fans in Moncton. Additionally, a club team league, the Atlantic Football League, features four universities in what some hope will lead to varsity teams featured at some of these schools.
Following their successful application to become full-members of the Canada West Universities Athletic Association, the UBC Okanagan Heat are investigating the feasibility of starting their own football program, likely to be partnered with the existing CJFL's Okanagan Sun.UBCO would host the Sun in much the same way that the University of Regina was paired with the Prairie Football Conference's Regina Rams.
The University of Quebec at Trois-Rivières were also exploring the possibility of adding a football program with the launch planned for the 2017 season.The program would have been similar to Carleton University's in that there would be private funding from football alumni, but operated by shareholders. As of April 2015, $800,000 of the required $3 million had been raised in support of the varsity sport at UQTR. The capacity of the football stadium would then be increased from 2000 to 6270 seats. The UQTR Patriotes previously fielded a senior varsity team from 1971 to 1973 and 1977 to 1979.
In February 2015, businessman David Dube (an alumnus and supporter of the Saskatchewan Huskies) and Jim Mullin announced a proposal for a consortium known as the "Northern 8", which would organize interconference games between its member schools. Dube felt that this plan could help improve the prominence of CIS football on a national basis outside of the post-season (which, as of the 2014 season, was the only period of the season that featured nationally televised CIS games), as it would allow a nationally televised package of regular season games to be sold to a major broadcaster. The Northern 8 would be structured as a non-profit corporation, and would subsidize production costs for its telecasts: profits would be distributed to non-member schools. It would start with 8 teams, but could expand to 10 in the future. The Canada West conference backed the proposal. The OUA, RSEQ and AUS showed concerns for the plan due to travel costs and its effects on standings and rejected the plan.
|Institution||Team||City||Province||First season||Head coach||Enrollment||Endowment||Football stadium||Capacity||Hardy Trophies||Vanier Cups|
|University of British Columbia||Thunderbirds||Vancouver||BC||1923||Blake Nill||49,166||$1.3B||Thunderbird Stadium||3,500||16||4|
|University of Calgary||Dinos||Calgary||AB||1964||Wayne Harris Jr.||30,900||$790.6M||McMahon Stadium||35,650||18||5|
|University of Alberta||Golden Bears||Edmonton||AB||1910||Chris Morris||39,312||$1.0B||Foote Field||3,500||18||3|
|University of Saskatchewan||Huskies||Saskatoon||SK||1912||Scott Flory||21,168||$214M||Griffiths Stadium||6,171||20||3|
|University of Regina||Rams||Regina||SK||1999||Mark McConkey||12,270||$25.9M||Mosaic Stadium||33,350||1||0|
|University of Manitoba||Bisons||Winnipeg||MB||1920||Brian Dobie||28,335||$424M||IG Field||33,422||12||3|
|Institution||Team||City||Province||First season||Head coach||Enrollment||Endowment||Football stadium||Capacity||Yates Cups||Vanier Cups|
|University of Windsor||Lancers||Windsor||ON||1968||Jean-Paul Circelli||13,610||$110.8M||South Campus Stadium||2,000||1||0|
|University of Western Ontario||Mustangs||London||ON||1929||Greg Marshall||35,952||$685M||TD Stadium||8,000||32||7|
|University of Waterloo||Warriors||Waterloo||ON||1957||Chris Bertoia||31,362||$311.2M||Warrior Field||5,200||2||0|
|Wilfrid Laurier University||Golden Hawks||Waterloo||ON||1961||Michael Faulds||20,151||$71.6M||University Stadium||6,000||7||2|
|University of Guelph||Gryphons||Guelph||ON||1950||Ryan Sheahan||27,048||$308.9M||Alumni Stadium||4,100||4||1|
|McMaster University||Marauders||Hamilton||ON||1901||Stefan Ptaszek||29,411||$609M||Ron Joyce Stadium||6,000||8||1|
|University of Toronto||Varsity Blues||Toronto||ON||1877||Greg Marshall||73,185||$1.88B||Varsity Stadium||5,000||25||2|
|York University||Lions||Toronto||ON||1969||Warren Craney||55,000||$439M||York Lions Stadium||4,000||0||0|
|Queen's University||Gaels||Kingston||ON||1882||Steve Snyder||24,582||$1.04B||Richardson Stadium||8,000||23||4|
|University of Ottawa||Gee-Gees||Ottawa||ON||1881||Marcel Bellefeuille||42,587||$233.9M||Gee-Gees Field||4,152||4||2|
|Carleton University||Ravens||Ottawa||ON||1945||Steve Sumarah||31,202||$270.6M||MNP Park||3,500||0||0|
|Institution||Team||City||Province||First season||Head coach||Enrollment||Endowment||Football stadium||Capacity||Dunsmore Cups||Vanier Cups|
|Concordia University||Stingers||Montreal||QC||1974||Brad Collinson||38,809||$136.7M||Concordia Stadium||4,000||3||0|
|Université de Montréal||Carabins||Montreal||QC||2002||Marco Ladeluca||55,540||$276.5M||CEPSUM||5,100||3||1|
|McGill University||Redbirds||Montreal||QC||1898||Ronald Hilaire||39,497||$1.45B||Molson Stadium||23,420||3||1|
|Université Laval||Rouge et Or||Quebec City||QC||1996||Glen Constantin||37,591||$108.3M||Stade Telus||12,817||15||10|
|Université de Sherbrooke||Vert et Or||Sherbrooke||QC||1971||Mathieu Lecompte||35,000||---||Stade de l'Université de Sherbrooke||3,359||0||0|
|Institution||Team||City||Province||First season||Head coach||Enrollment||Endowment||Football stadium||Capacity||Jewett Trophies||Vanier Cups|
|Bishop's University||Gaiters||Sherbrooke||QC||1884||Chérif Nicolas||1,817||$32.5M||Coulter Field||2,200||0||0|
|Mount Allison University||Mounties||Sackville||NB||1955||Peter Fraser||2,694||$110M||MacAulay Field||2,500||6||0|
|Acadia University||Axemen||Wolfville||NS||1957||Jeff Cummins||4,358||$96M||Raymond Field||3,000||15||2|
|Saint Mary's University||Huskies||Halifax||NS||1956||James Colzie III||7,586||$52.9M||Huskies Stadium||2,000||24||3|
|Saint Francis Xavier University||X-Men||Antigonish||NS||1954||Gary Waterman||5,158||$100M||StFX Stadium||1,100||13||1|
There are post-season awards for on-the-field excellence. The players deemed to be the best at each position are named to the annual All-Canadian Football Team as first or second team players.
Additionally there are a number of individual awards for categories like "best defensive player".
Many players from U Sports football have become professional athletes with most of them playing in the Canadian Football League. Opening Day of the 2015 CFL season saw a record 199 U Sports football players on rosters around the League.The most recent CFL season, 2019, featured 208 former U Sports football players on CFL teams' rosters on opening day.
The following is a list of recent numbers from the CFL Draft, which is an annual eight-round event with a current maximum of 74 players drafted. From 1997 to 2012 the CFL Draft had six rounds of selections and from 2013 to 2015 it had seven rounds. From 2002 to 2005, the CFL had nine teams, then reverted to eight teams from 2006 to 2013, and then was back to its current number of nine teams in 2014. The high-water mark of 59 players from the U Sports drafted was recorded in the 2014 CFL Draft, which was the most since 1978.
|Year||Picks||U Picks||1st Rnd||Highest||Position||School|
|2005||53||33||5||Miguel Robede||DE||Laval Rouge et Or|
|2006||50||26||5||Jay Pottinger||LB||McMaster Marauders|
|2007||47||31||5||Chris Bauman||WR||Regina Rams|
|2008||48||33||4||Dylan Barker||DB||Saskatchewan Huskies|
|2009||48||38||7||Simeon Rottier||OT||Alberta Golden Bears|
|2010||47||36||4||Shomari Williams||LB||Queen's Gaels|
|2011||47||34||4||Henoc Muamba||LB||St. Francis Xavier X-Men|
|2012||45||24||3||Ben Heenan||OL||Saskatchewan Huskies|
|2013||60||44||4||Linden Gaydosh||DT||Calgary Dinos|
|2014||65||59||8||Pierre Lavertu||OL||Laval Rouge et Or|
|2015||62||44||7||Sukh Chungh||OL||Calgary Dinos|
|2016||70||53||4||Philippe Gagnon||OL||Laval Rouge et Or|
|2017||71||56||6||Daniel Vandervoort||WR||McMaster Marauders|
|2018||69||56||4||Mark Korte||OL||Alberta Golden Bears|
|2019||73||52||2||Jesse Gibbon||OL||Waterloo Warriors|
|2020||73||57||4||Coulter Woodmansey||OL||Guelph Gryphons|
|2021||54||31||4||Nelson Lokombo||DB||Saskatchewan Huskies|
As of 2019, U Sports had produced 36 players who have earned a spot on an NFL roster (including four who did not play a regular season game; players listed in chronological order by entry year in NFL):
There have been 12 U Sports players drafted into the National Football League with David Onyemata being the most recent.
|1976||8||234||Washington Redskins||Brian Fryer||WR||Alberta Golden Bears|
|1979||11||280||Baltimore Colts||John Priestner||LB||Western Mustangs|
|1982||12||333||Cincinnati Bengals||Dan Feraday||QB||Toronto Varsity Blues|
|1986||1||23||Los Angeles Rams||Mike Schad||OG||Queen's Golden Gaels|
|1992||9||239||Phoenix Cardinals||Tyrone Williams||WR||Western Mustangs|
|1995||7||237||San Diego Chargers||Mark Montreuil||CB||Concordia Stingers|
|1998||2||32||Indianapolis Colts||Jerome Pathon||WR||Acadia Axemen|
|2001||7||241||Jacksonville Jaguars||Randy Chevrier||DE||McGill Redmen|
|2009||4||113||San Diego Chargers||Vaughn Martin||DE||Western Mustangs|
|2012||3||89||New Orleans Saints||Akiem Hicks||DE||Regina Rams|
|2014||6||200||Kansas City Chiefs||Laurent Duvernay-Tardif||OT||McGill Redmen|
|2016||4||120||New Orleans Saints||David Onyemata||DL||Manitoba Bisons|
The Regina Rams represent the University of Regina, located in Regina, Saskatchewan in the sport of Canadian football in U Sports. The Rams joined U Sports in 1999 and have competed in the Canada West Conference since then. The program has won one U Sports football conference championship, in 2000, and the team has made one appearance in the Vanier Cup championship game.
The Carleton Ravens are the athletic teams that represent Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario. The most notable sports team for Carleton is the men's basketball team. In men's basketball, the Ravens have won 15 of the last 18 national men's championships, which is more than any top division college in Canada or the United States. The Ravens went on an 87-game winning streak from 2003 to 2006. They also had a 54-game home winning streak. The Ravens finished 2nd in the World University Basketball Championships in 2004.
The 2008 CIS football season began on August 23, 2008, and concluded with the 44th Vanier Cup national championship on November 22 at Ivor Wynne Stadium in Hamilton, Ontario, with the Laval Rouge et Or winning their fifth championship. Twenty-seven universities across Canada compete in CIS football, the highest level of amateur play in Canadian football, under the auspices of Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS).
The 2009 CIS football season began on August 29, 2009, and concluded its campaign with the 45th Vanier Cup national championship on November 28 at PEPS stadium in Quebec City, Quebec. Twenty-seven universities across Canada compete in CIS football, the highest level of amateur play in Canadian football, under the auspices of Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS). The Queen's Golden Gaels defeated the Calgary Dinos 33-31 in the Vanier Cup to claim the 2009 national championship and their fourth in school history.
Shomari Gyasi Williams is the defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator for the UBC Thunderbirds of U Sports football. He is a former professional Canadian football defensive end who played in parts of six seasons in the Canadian Football League. He was drafted first overall by the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the 2010 CFL Draft after Saskatchewan traded up to be in a position to draft him. Williams played one season with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats before being traded back to Saskatchewan. He played college football for the Queen's Golden Gaels and the Houston Cougars.
The Manitoba Bisons football team represents the University of Manitoba in the sport of Canadian football in U Sports. The program was the first of four U Sports football teams to have won back-to-back Vanier Cup championships, having won in 1969 and 1970. In total, the Bisons have won three Vanier Cup national championships and 11 Hardy Trophy conference championships. The Bisons are led by head coach, Brian Dobie, who has been the head coach since 1996.
The University of Ottawa Gee-Gees football team represents the University of Ottawa in the sport of Canadian football. The Gee-Gees compete in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) conference of U Sports. Football at the University of Ottawa began in 1881, it was one of the first established football programs in Canada.
The 2015 CIS football season began on August 30, 2015 with ten Ontario University Athletics teams playing that day. The season concluded on November 28 with the UBC Thunderbirds defeating the Montreal Carabins 26-23 in the 51st Vanier Cup championship at Telus Stadium in Quebec City. This year, 27 university teams in Canada played Canadian Interuniversity Sport football, the highest level of amateur Canadian football.
Terry Cochrane is a former Canadian football running back who played four seasons in the Canadian Football League with the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Winnipeg Blue Bombers. He was drafted by the Calgary Stampeders in the fifth round of the 1985 CFL Draft. He played CIS football at the University of British Columbia.
The U SPORTS East–West Bowl is an annual preseason Canadian university football all-star game which showcases the top U SPORTS football prospects in the country who will be eligible for the following year's CFL Draft. The East–West Bowl is organized by the Canadian University Football Coaches Association (CUFCA) with the support of the CFL. It brings together over 90 of the top U SPORTS football players for a week of practices and evaluation, culminating with the annual all-star game. A national committee of U SPORTS head coaches selects the participants from a pool of players nominated by their respective universities. Players who are generally in their third year of eligibility are the prime candidates for nomination. Every U SPORTS football program is represented by a minimum of three and a maximum of four players who will be eligible for the CFL draft the following year. Each school submits a list of six players they nominate. A committee of U SPORTS coaches and CFL representatives review the nominations and determine who gets invited.
The 2016 CIS football season began on August 28 with ten Ontario University Athletics teams playing that day. The season concluded on November 26 with the 52nd Vanier Cup championship at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton, Ontario. In 2016, 27 university teams were scheduled to play Canadian Interuniversity Sport football, the highest level of amateur Canadian football.
The Laval Rouge et Or football team represents Laval University in Quebec City in the sport of Canadian football in U Sports. The program began its first regular season in 1996 and has quickly become one of the most successful programs in Canadian collegiate football history. The Rouge et Or have won a record ten Vanier Cup championships and their most recent victory occurred at the 54th Vanier Cup in 2018. They are also the only program to have played in four straight Vanier Cups and have a record of 10–2 in Vanier Cup games. The Rouge et Or have also won the Dunsmore Cup 15 times since 1999, demonstrating their historical dominance in their conference.
The Bishop's Gaiters football team represents Bishop's University in Sherbrooke, Quebec in the sport of Canadian football in the Atlantic University Sport conference of U Sports. The Bishop's Gaiters football program can trace its roots back to 1884 and has fielded teams in every decade since then. The program is one of six currently playing U Sports football that has not made a Vanier Cup appearance. However, it is the only program to have appeared in three of the four current conference championship games, with two Yates Cup games played, nine Dunsmore Cup games, and one Loney Bowl game. The program has four conference championships, all Dunsmore Cup wins, with victories in 1986, 1988, 1990, and 1994.
The UBC Thunderbirds football team represents the University of British Columbia athletics teams in U Sports and is based in Vancouver, British Columbia. The program has won the CWUAA Hardy Trophy conference championship 16 times, which is third all-time among competing teams. On a national level, the team has won the Vanier Cup championship four times, in 1982, 1986, 1997 and, most recently, in 2015. The team has also lost twice in the title game, in 1978 and 1987. The Thunderbirds program has also yielded three Hec Crighton Trophy winners: Jordan Gagner in 1987, Mark Nohra in 1997, and, most recently, Billy Greene in 2011.
The St. Francis Xavier X-Men football team represents the St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia in the sport of Canadian football in U Sports. The program has been competing at the varsity level since 1954 and won the second ever Vanier Cup national championship in 1966. The team has played in two National Championship games overall when they were runners-up in 1996 and have won 13 conference championships in total.
The Montreal Carabins football team represents the University of Montreal in Montreal, Quebec in the sport of Canadian football in U Sports. The program has been in operation since its resurrection in 2002 and has established itself as a provincial and national powerhouse with three RSEQ conference championships and one national championship since 2014.
The 2017 U Sports football season began on August 25 with the St. Francis Xavier X-Men visiting the Saint Mary's Huskies in Halifax, Nova Scotia and the Montreal Carabins visiting the Concordia Stingers in Montreal, Quebec. The season concluded on November 25 with the 53rd Vanier Cup championship at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton, Ontario. This season saw the first conference shift since 2001 with the Bishop's Gaiters moving from the Quebec Student Sport Federation to the Atlantic University Sport conference. 27 university teams in Canada participated in the newly re-branded U Sports football, the highest level of amateur Canadian football. The Western Mustangs defeated the Laval Rouge et Or, 39-17, to win their first Vanier Cup since 1994.
The Western Mustangs football team represents the University of Western Ontario in Canadian college football. The Mustangs compete as a member of the Ontario University Athletics (OUA), under the U Sports association.
Stavros Anastasios Katsantonis, nicknamed The Bakersfield Bandit, is a Canadian football defensive back for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League (CFL). He played U Sports football for the UBC Thunderbirds. In college he developed a reputation for forcing turnovers, setting school records, as well as cracking the conference and national record books earning 20 career interceptions as well as a total of 10 forced/recovered fumbles. In his first collegiate season, he garnered national attention with six interceptions and a total of four forced and recovered fumbles in seven games. In his true freshman season, he would go on to be proven as an integral part of the 2015 Vanier Cup Champion T-Birds, and received the Bruce Coulter Award as the Vanier Cup's Defensive MVP. Katsantonis would go on to be a 3x first team All-Canadian at the safety position during his collegiate tenure.
The 1999 CIAU football season began on September 10, 1999, and concluded with the 35th Vanier Cup national championship on November 27, 1999 at the SkyDome in Toronto, Ontario, with the Laval Rouge et Or winning the first Vanier Cup in program history. Twenty-four universities across Canada competed in CIAU football this season, the highest level of amateur play in Canadian football, under the auspices of the Canadian Interuniversity Athletics Union (CIAU). The Regina Rams began their first season of play in the CIAU after previously playing in the Canadian Junior Football League.