Parity is the fuel to the OUA’s engine

Wide array of competition key to Canadian athletic progress

Credit: 
Journal File Photo

Before the season started, the expectations for the Queen’s men’s rugby team were clear: championship or nothing. 

They weren’t ambitious expectations.

The Gaels have won the Turner Trophy five times in the last six seasons. This year, they’ve dominated in all six of their games—including a rematch of last year’s OUA Final with Guelph, which they won handily 40-13. Frankly, it’s a remarkable streak considering the levels of year-to-year turnover in collegiate sports.

While the inherent lack of competition isn’t a problem for the Gaels, it’s a problem for the OUA and U Sports, the provincial and national governing bodies of university sport in Canada.

In 2016, Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) was rebranded as U Sports with aims of turning the governing association into a business. Leaders of the change cited an untapped opportunity to draw the Canadian public’s eyes towards their students athletes. Plenty was left for the public to interpret—making the association a business was the most apparent shift towards the modern idea of an athletic association being profitable.

The decision to rebrand was a clear attempt to bridge the gulf-sized divide between the CIS and NCAA, the United States’ university athletic body.

U Sports continues to understand it’s a peak they’re far from reaching.

But what surpasses every website revamp and corporate restructuring U Sports makes, is their ability to consistently deliver a quality product: the sports and competition.

As such, the men’s rugby team presents one of the biggest barriers for the OUA and U Sports in their push for progress. 

The alarming lack of parity in the league makes it fun for Queen’s fans, but only a handful of fanbases—Guelph and Laurier, specifically—will have a glimmer of hope in their eyes when the men’s rugby playoffs roll around. And for the common spectator, there’s not a lot to cheer for at all.

It’s a critical factor  completely |antithetical to U Sports’ idea of progress. It squashes the idea of putting out a product that sells.

Some leagues have managed to accomplish this. Currently, the OUA’s football standings hold four teams with six points and two with eight. Arguably U Sports’ marquee sport, they brought in over 10,000 spectators for last year’s Vanier Cup and had it broadcasted nationally.

While U Sports will never be the NCAA or create such a renowned event like March Madness, there are aspects they need to try to emulate. 

The allure of March Madness—the NCAA’s massively popular basketball tournament—comes from the upsets and unpredictability. If U Sports and the OUA can emulate a small piece of that, there’s grounds for progress.

U Sports’ mission is the right one. Canadian student-athletes deserve the recognition they’re starting to get, and it’s because of this remodelling that it’s slowly happening. But there’s a difference between bringing awareness to past and present students and drawing real genuine interest from the average person. 

It’s not an easy task, and it won’t happen overnight. But it can start with some simple, tight competition. 

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