Toronto, ON- With yesterday being Super Bowl Sunday in the NFL, another example was born of the greatest tradition in sports. That tradition being people complaining about someone who is not an “original” fan of one of the two teams playing “jumping on the bandwagon.”
To be fair, with the Buccaneers having Tom Brady and his endless Super Bowl appearances on one end and the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs on the other, it is not wrong to assume that the bandwagons on Sunday were quite full.
This got me thinking though, especially considering the hopeful the return of the Vanier Cup in the fall of 2021. U SPORTS football has 27 teams across four conferences (Canada West, OUA, RSEQ and AUS). If we were to imagine a fan, trying to pick out their new U SPORTS team to follow, thereby jumping on said bandwagon, which team should they pick? That’s what I am here to provide advice for.
Group 1: You are just here to have fun
- York Lion
- Toronto Varsity Blues
- Windsor Lancers
- Sherbrooke Vert et Or
- McGill Redbirds
In the 2019 season, the combined record of these four rosters was 7-25. This is the group you support if you are just happy to go out to a football game with your friends and you don’t want to worry about silly things like, the score, or who’s winning. Toronto has not made the playoffs in the 21st century, York has missed every year since 2005 and Windsor has missed for five straight seasons, and only made it out of the 1st round once since 2004. Sherbrooke holds the misfortune of being one of two teams to have never won a championship and in their last two playoff games were outscored 95-0. Now you might say, “The McGill Redbirds made the playoffs in 2019 though?” McGill did make the playoffs with a 3-5 record in RSEQ but proceeded to lose to the Montreal Carabins 31-0. In the Redbirds four playoff appearances since 2007 they have been outscored 167-11. If you just want to have fun and not worry about winning then one of these teams is for you.
Group 2: You want the struggling team that will occasionally give you a surprise playoff appearance
- Bishop’s Gaiters
- Alberta Golden Bears
- Regina Rams
- Queen’s Gaels
- Waterloo Warriors
Now the big difference between these clubs and McGill is they have more surprise to their success. Bishop’s missed for five straight seasons before upsetting Mount Allison in the 2019 semi-finals. The Golden Bears made the playoffs for the second time since 2011 in 2019 and only lost to the Huskies in a tight 28-23 game. Regina last won a playoff game in 2011 but had some strong seasons including finishing first in Canada West in 2016. Queen’s has fallen from the height of their 2009 Vanier Cup victory but they still managed to get playoff appearances in 2015 and 2017. Waterloo teetered on the edge of Group one having missed the playoffs in 13 straight seasons between 2004 and 2017 but have made it in back-to-back years including an upset win over the Ottawa Gee-Gees in the 2019 Yates Quarterfinal. Overall these are the teams that you should not expect much from but, they might surprise you.
Group 3: You want to be right in the middle of the pack
- Mount Allison Mounties
- Laurier Golden Hawks
- Saint Mary’s Huskies
- Manitoba Bisons
- Carleton Ravens
- Ottawa Gee Gees
- Saskatchewan Huskies
- Concordia Stingers
These are the mush. These teams are good and might do well but no one ever “expects” them to win. Mount Allison went to the Loney Bowl for four straight seasons and picked up a pair of Jewett Trophies in 2013 and 2014 but never made it to the big game and since then have struggled to find that gear again. Laurier peaked in the last decade with a 43-40 win over the Mustangs in the 2016 Yates Cup but proceeded to get demolished 75-32 the next season and otherwise have been playoff fodder for over a decade. Saint Mary’s managed to make the Loney Bowl in 2017 and 2018 but lost and surrounded that with four missed playoff appearances; the definition of a middle of the pack team. Manitoba is another team that surprised once, for them it was their 2014 Hardy Cup upset win over Calgary but otherwise, they have either missed the playoffs or lost to the Dinos in the semifinals since. Carleton Ravens 2.0 have made the playoffs four times in their seven seasons but have only served as warmup games for Western and Guelph as they’ve lost in the Yates semi-finals three times.
Since 2011 the Ottawa Gee-Gees have missed the playoffs only twice but have won just one game overall. Concordia has literally been the prep game for the Laval Rouge et Or in the playoffs since 2010. Saskatchewan picked up their upset win over the Dinos in the 2018 Hardy Cup but before that they had lost in the semi-finals in eight of the previous nine seasons. The Stingers matched up with Laval in five of their last six appearances, went 0-5 and got outscored 284-75. So overall this group is fine, they won’t disappoint you from the start like higher groups but if you want a winner this is not quite the group for you.
Group 4: You want a good team that will frustrate you
- Acadia Axemen
- StFX X-Men
- Guelph Gryphons
- Montreal Carabins
- UBC Thunderbirds
- McMaster Marauders
This group is just frustrating. Acadia won four provincial titles including after a perfect 8-0 2019 season but still have not manged to get to the Vanier Cup since all the way back in their 1981 championship. St.FX is right there with Acadia, three time AUS winners including back to back in 2015 and 2016 but another team that has been waiting in their case since 1996 to reach the Vanier Cup. Guelph has the honour of being a good team for seemingly always making the Yates Cup final but going 1-4 in their last five appearances with their only win coming in 2015. Montreal is the first team in this group to clear the Vanier Cup mountain with their 2014 title. At the same time though, the Carabins still remain second-fiddle in Quebec to Laval as they hold one Vanier Cup and three Dunsmore Cups to the Rouge et Or’s four and seven respectively. The UBC Thunderbirds are the next team to clear the Vanier Cup hurdle, winning in 2015 but they proceeded to follow it by losing the Hardy Cup to the Calgary Dinos in back to back seasons by 46-43 and 44-43 scores. That is the epitome of frustrating. McMaster is the final team in this group that holds a Vanier banner with their 2011 win. The frustration for them is they followed it up by losing two of the next three Vanier cups in 2012 and 2014 before finally winning a Yates Cup again in 2019 and then getting flattened by Calgary, 30-17 in the Mitchell Bowl.
Group 5: You just want to see your team win
- Laval Rouge et Or
- Calgary Dinos
- Western Mustangs
If you don’t care and just want to see your team win then this is the group you want to be in. Since 2010 Laval has taken home four Vanier Cups and seven Dunsmore Cups. Calgary picked up seven Hardy Cup titles across the last 10 years and holds the acclaim of being the reigning Vanier Cup Champions. Western’s title came in the 2017 Vanier Cup but they also grabbed four Yates Cup wins in the last 10 seasons. For those who live by the mantra that flags fly foreever then you want to join the fandom of one of these three teams.
So those are the five groups of U SPORTS football teams. As a Ryerson student I exist in the fun group of we do not have a football along with schools like Laurentian, Ontario Tech, UNB and UVic to name a few. As someone hoping to see U SPORTS return in the fall I would happily get behind any of these teams just to get to see them play again.