Canadian university athletics are largely unpublicized and unprofitable, but they shouldn’t be.
Recently, Queen’s football lost a close game to the Western Mustangs, giving up a touchdown in the dying seconds of the game. The shock of the moment incited a blood curdling scream from a Queen’s announcer. A clip of this reaction went viral, and was soon plastered across sports media outlets across North America.
The press was great exposure for U SPORTS, and Canadian athletics in general, but its virality didn’t stem from grassroots Canadian sports media. Paradoxically, most Queen’s students learned about this moment from large American media outlets like ESPN and Sports Illustrated.
This conveys the lack of exposure and commercialization—factors which drive revenue for athletics, benefiting audiences and athletes alike—most Canadian universities and media outlets afford their university athletes. Without a substantial platform for their talents, Canadian student athletes may seek opportunities for greater exposure at institutions abroad.
Take collegiate sports in the United States as an example. They’ve built a brand people are curious to watch, allowing schools to sell TV rights to large networks, ultimately creating interest within collegiate sports.
The result is the ten largest stadiums within America all housing collegiate teams. Michigan Stadium—the largest venue in the nation—has a capacity of 107,601 people, despite a total enrolment of 51,225 students and a population of 121,536 in the surrounding city.
Queen’s University boasts similar numbers with an enrolment of 28,142 and a population of 136,685 within Kingston. However, Richardson Stadium has a capacity of just 8,000.
The difference is attributable to the revenue each university can generate outside of internal sources.
Contrary to Queen’s, Michigan doesn’t charge students an annual athletics fee—its athletics department generates the necessary funds to sustain all its operations. Revenue comes in the form of TV contracts which pay $80 to $100 million per year for the rights to broadcast games.
Currently, the majority of Canadian athletics are broadcast on league or school-owned websites, or not at all. Following teams and universities is a hassle, and requires extensive knowledge to understand schedules and playoff formats.
University sports are nowhere to be found on large broadcasters. They miss out on opportunities to generate public excitement about their leagues, ultimately losing the profits that would accompany public support. Annual athletics fees substitute this lost revenue but are an additional financial burden on students, supporting a system that’s failing to find diversified revenue streams.
Professional leagues based entirely in Canada have succeeded in profitability, and the CFL and CHL serve as examples. Both are a large part of Canadian sports culture, and their profitability has allowed better facilities and benefits for their athletes and audiences.
There’s no shortage of talent in Canadian athletes, but unless U SPORTS and Canadian athletics take steps to build a brand and increase revenue for programs, Canada’s university athletes may rather take their talents international.
Herbert is a third-year computer engineering student and The Journal’s Senior Photo Editor.
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