Making the (Historical) Grade

The sports world is becoming a statistician’s dream.  Dreams that include lots and lots of numbers and equations and funny mathematical symbols, like this: °S‗Þ.  OK, I just made that symbol up and, in all likelihood, that is not a nightmare for a stats geek.  Rather, it is a relatively spasmodic fantasy.  The gurus of SAS (which stands for Statistical Analysis System, a.k.a. Sports Analytic Solutions, a.k.a. the dudes that prepare all the major leagues stats) are rolling in numbers as they cater to the new and improved sports fan.  One whose pursuit of (or whose cheering of the pursuit of) statistical breakthroughs has elevated athletes to the status of the Olympian god; and the sports industry to  the status of Gordon Gekko.  In fact, one noted statistician derived the following formula to compare national rankings at the Olympics: P = 100(1-logx/logn), where P is the number of points, x is the placement of the athlete/team, and n is the number of contestants in the event.  Because… math.

In this statistically embellished light,  we will historically examine CIS and CCAA’s performance metrics for the 2015 Fall Semester.  Considering this season has just come to a close (cross country, lacrosse, field hockey, football, rugby, and soccer), I think it’s a good place to start.  So I’ll do a relatively in-depth run-down of where everybody stands in these rankings.

If for anything else, you at least have some stats to refer back to.

Cross Country

X-country running is one of two autumn sports offered by both the CCAA and CIS (the other being soccer).  The Men’s CIS 10-km ‘ships began in 1963, the Women’s 6-km event was added in 1980, and the CCAA debuted both sexes in 2004.  The University of Guelph Gryphons have outrun the CIS Cross-Country Championships to such an extent that Old Jeremiah should permanently be decorated in muddy running shoes.  Guelph has racked up a whopping 26 of the possible 87 men’s and women’s x-country championships in CIS history – AND 23 of the last 34 since 1999.  It may be recent domination, but something is cooking on Gryf Campus (an interesting phenomenon that will be developed in future posts).   The next highest win totals is the U of T Men with 9, but those were mostly pre-1980 when the Varsity Blues were deserving of the term “varsity” in their name… How the mighty have fallen.  Also of note, the OUA schools have (understandably) ran away with combined wins (62), with the RSEQ (Sherbrooke Men, 1992) and AUS (Dalhousie Women, 2004) with only one each.  [NOTE: Cross-country champions are based on team results, so you don’t have to have the fastest runner in the country to win].

The CCAA is a little more balanced, with only one school having earned 4 championships (Lethbridge Men).  This year the Collège Lionel-Groulx Women won their first team ‘ship, making them the RSEQ’s first Women’s National Collegiate winners.


Football, as they say everywhere else, has a little more championship parity except for UBC (13) and FX Garneau (8) in CIS Men’s and CCAA Women’s, respectively.  CIS’s Sam Davidson Trophy (M) was first awarded to the Memorial Sea-Hawks in 1970 (this happens to be Memorial’s only CIS championship), while the Gladys Bean Trophy ( W) was hoisted first in 1987 by UBC.  The CCAA men’s championship started in 1983, and the women’s in 1991.

Also of note, soccer has the most defunct schools that have previously won:  Loyola University (now Concordia University, CIS, M 1973 ); University College of the Cariboo (now Thompson Rivers University, CCAA, M 1998, W 1999); Vancouver Community College (no athletics, M, CCAA, M 1992 and 1993, W 1991); Malaspina University-College (now Vancouver Island University, CCAA,  M 1983, W 1993).  I’m actually not sure why or when VCC cut it’s athletic department and I am waiting to here back from one of their representatives.  And, yes, there used to be an institution named after caribou… spelled incorrectly.

Women’s Rugby

The quest for the Monilex Trophy has, arguably, the most well balanced playing field.  Six different schools have won the relatively new trophy since its inception in 1998.  Alberta (6), St. Francis Xavier (4), Lethbridge (3), Guelph (2), Western (2), and most recently McMaster (1) have all won.  The future is bright for this sport, as more and more schools are starting programs for their students.

As some of you may know, men’s rugby is not an officially sanctioned CIS (or CCAA) sport.  Title IX, the athletic gender equality policy, has to balance out football, a male sport with 7 teams-worth of players.  Therefore, female student-athletes represent their schools in field hockey and rugby.  This is actually one of the trickier topics in university sport: How to justify the large costs of a football program at the expense of other sports (men’s rugby, lacrosse, baseball, rowing, etc.).  There are, however, university rugby clubs that compete against other schools, but there is no official league.  There is also an official Rugby 7s league (both W and M), but it is not  recognized by CIS.  In fact, we should call these non-official associations something.  I give you: 3SCUL (Somebody Should Sanction these Clandestine Unrecognized Leagues), or to be simpler, SCULs.

Field Hockey

Only five schools have ever won the McCrae Cup, first awarded in 1975.  Toronto (11), UBC (17), and Victoria (11) have won all but two titles – Dalhousie (1976) and Alberta (2004) – so it’s fair to say that it’s a three-team race.  UBC, however, has won the last five titles.  It seems as though field hockey has turned into a BC sport, of sorts.  Thanks to Field Hockey BC and the likes of UBC and UVic, 10 out of our 13 National Team ladies are from BC, as well as 18 of our 22 men (affectionately known as the Red Caribou).  Yes, there is men’s field hockey, and they recently qualified for the Rio Olympics.  By the way, I kinda take back my earlier comment about U of T, as they most recently won the 2010 McCrae Cup.  But not really.


Football.  Football.  Football.  Where do I start?  Given the presence of the Canadian Football League, American football is somewhat of a national sport, isn’t it?  Think about all the efforts and resources that are put into university football alone.  It is a traditional, old-boys sport and if your athletics department wants to be seen on the scene, then you better have a football program.  In all likelihood, the future of the CFL depends on students staying interested in CIS football, because that’s your base.  All that said, from a historical perspective, university football has a few stories to tell.  Let’s look at the numbers.

The 51st Vanier Cup on November 28th will be a culmination of 6 bowls, 27 teams, and 118 years of history.

The Yates Cup, awarded to the Ontario conference champion, was first handed out in 1898!!!  Western has won 30 times, U of T 24, Queen’s 22, and McGill (which used to compete in the OUA) 10; which makes sense as these are some of the oldest universities west of Québec City.  Out of the 11 OUA schools, only Carleton and York have never won a Yates Cup.  The second oldest regional bowl, the West’s Hardy Trophy (1959), has been won by all CWUAA teams at least 8 times, except Regina (only once in 2000).  So you could say the west is relatively even, aside from the Rams who, ironically, are the only CIS school to have a separate team name for their football squad (all other teams are the Cougars).  Next up is the Jewett Trophy, which has been awarded to the winner of the Loney Bowl in Atlantic Canada since 1960.  St. Mary’s takes this crown with 24 victories, but with only 4 teams now (UNB last played in 1980) it is a less-than-competitive division.  Lastly, the Dunsmore Cup has been competed for in Québec since 1980 with Laval football factory-ing it’s way to 12 conference titles.

The Uteck (formerly Churchill) and Mitchell (formerly Atlantic) Bowls are the semi-final events leading to the elusive Vanier Cup, and they are fed by the four geographical conferences.  Since the Uteck and Mitchell Bowls are not geographically based, we will look at total semi-final wins.  Western has, not surprisingly, pulled off the most victories with 12.  Following the Mustangs, there are four schools (Calgary, Laval, Saskatchewan, and St. Mary’s) with nine bowl wins – giving the St. Mary’s Huskies an absurd 37.5 Win-% in Uteck/Mitchell Bowls and highlighting the weak AUS conference.  Twenty-three different schools have won at least one Uteck or Mitchell Bowl, making the two aforementioned OUA schools, along with the Windsor Lancers (shared a Yates Cup in 1975*), and Bishop’s Gaiters the only teams to have never played for the Vanier Cup (as well as defunct UNB).

There have been 18 different national champions since the Vanier Cup was first hoisted by the Toronto Varsity Blues in 1965.  The most successful program in Vanier Cup (and therefore CIS) history is that of the Laval Rouge et Or.  Between 1999 and 2013, Laval won 8 Vaniers, losing only one to McMaster in 2011.  This dominance, incidentally, coincides with Jacques “Big Business” Tanguay swooping in to make the program a professional machine.  Perhaps it’s the Montréal Carabins budgetary “cap space”, as well, that has now put them atop the RSEQ and CIS football worlds.  Although, we’ll see what happens on Saturday.  All that said, the real unfortunate aspect of CIS football is the disproportionate conference sizes (OUA 11, CWUAA 6, RSEQ 6, AUS 4), which take away from the overall competitiveness of this prestigious sports award.


My favourite trophy title is by far the Baggataway Cup, which has been handed annually to the CUFLA champion since 1985.  The Canadian University Field Lacrosse Association is a great example of a SCUL.  It’s well-organized, good quality sport, and has lots of dedicated coaches and players.  So why doesn’t the CIS jump on board?  Because it’s a SCUL, that’s why.

The Brock Badgers have historically ransacked this event with 18 titles, but have not hoisted the Baggataway since 2009.  I like this.  It shows that the sport is developing and there is a little more parity to the league.  Don’t get me wrong, I like dynasties, but they don’t work in SCULs, I guess.


Another great SCUL.  Unfortunately, the Canadian University Rowing Association does not have their stuff together as much as the CUFLA, and I could not find any historical information in my research.  From what I gather, Rowing Canada runs the show and there are a fair amount of university rowing clubs that do compete.  The Western Mustangs swept the field – or combed the water? – at the national championships this year, winning both Men’s and Women’s titles.


This is an interesting SCUL, but one with even less information available.  The Canadian Collegiate Baseball Association combines both university and college teams, which is an interesting concept that should truly be explored in future.  Maybe a CCAA-CIS merger?  Anyways, the McGill Redmen recently beat the Holland Hurricanes in the 2015 ‘ships.  That’s all I know.


All in all, the history of CIS and CCAA sport is interesting to know, and as much as I do not want to give in to the stats-hungry sports fans of our generation, looking at the list of champions is a good place to start.  In summary:  UBC is truly a sports powerhouse (NOTE: They are facing the Carabins in the Vanier Cup this year); Guelph owns long-distance running; Soccer, the most multi-cultural and international game, happens to also be the most well-balanced fall sport; Field hockey and British Columbia are twins; Laval is a football machine; and the SCULs round out the autumnal sports scene.


Let’s do this again at the end of winter semester…

O Canada