|Current season, competition or edition:|
2022 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)
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 2021, there were a record 208 U Sports alumni on CFL rosters.
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.
Main article: Vanier Cup
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.
The Université de Moncton investigated a possible football program in 2011, due to the construction of Moncton Stadium in 2010. In May 2011, the athletics department submitted a feasibility report to the school's president and are based part of their decision upon how the fans in Moncton received the Uteck Bowl in 2011. The 2011 Uteck Bowl was not well supported in Moncton, and there has been little support for a team since.
A club team league, the Atlantic Football League, features four-to-five universities, depending on the season. There is hope this may 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 explored the feasibility of starting their own football program, partnered with the CJFL's Okanagan Sun. UBCO would have partnered with the Sun in much the same way that the University of Regina was paired with the Prairie Football Conference's Regina Rams.
However, UBC-O lacked a stadium on campus. The Kelowna city-owned Apple Bowl Stadium did not meet the guidelines required for entry into Canada West football after a conference site visit in 2014.
The University of Quebec at Trois-Rivières explored 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. However, the UQTR Board of Regents refused to commit to the proposal. 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 eight 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 their 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||1,700||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||Corey Grant||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||20,025||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||Steve Sumarah||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||4,000||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, 2021, 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 60 players from the U Sports drafted was recorded in the 2022 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|
|2022||74||60||6||Zach Pelehos||OL||Ottawa Gee-Gees|
As of 2021, U Sports had produced 38 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 13 U Sports players drafted into the National Football League with Deane Leonard 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[a]|
|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[a]|
|2016||4||120||New Orleans Saints||David Onyemata||DL||Manitoba Bisons|
|2022||7||236||Los Angeles Chargers||Deane Leonard||CB||Calgary Dinos|