U Sports football
Current season, competition or edition:
Current sports event 2024 U Sports football season
FormerlyCIAU football, CIS football
SportCanadian football
No. of teams27, in four conferences
Most recent
Montreal Carabins
Most titlesLaval Rouge et Or (11)
TV partner(s)
Vanier Cup
Official websiteusports.ca/en/sports/football/m Edit this at Wikidata

U Sports football is the highest level of amateur play of Canadian football and operates under the auspices of U Sports, Canada's governing body for university sports.[1] 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.[2]

Season structure

Regular season

The Calgary Dinos playing against the Alberta Golden Bears in 2006.

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, Canada West, and Quebec conferences, the top four teams qualify for the playoffs. In Ontario, the top seven teams qualify with the top team receiving a playoff bye 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.

The Laval Rouge et Or on offence against the McMaster Marauders in the second quarter of the 47th Vanier Cup.

Vanier Cup

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, Montreal, London, and Kingston have since hosted Vanier Cup games.


Atlantic University Sport

Institution Team City Province Founded 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 16 1

Canada West Universities Athletic Association

Institution Team City Province Founded 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 17 4
University of Calgary Dinos Calgary AB 1964 Ryan Sheahan 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 21 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 Princess Auto Stadium 33,422 12 3

Ontario University Athletics

Institution Team City Province Founded 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 35 8
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 Mark Surya 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 Darrell Adams 73,185 $1.88B Varsity Stadium 5,000 25 2
York University Lions Toronto ON 1969 Dexter Janke 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

Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec

Institution Team City Province Founded 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 Iadeluca 55,540 $276.5M CEPSUM 5,100 5 2
McGill University Redbirds Montreal QC 1898 Alex Surprenant 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 16 11
Université de Sherbrooke Vert et Or Sherbrooke QC 1971 Kevin Régimbald 35,000 --- Stade de l'Université de Sherbrooke 3,359 0 0


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.[3]

The Université de Moncton investigated a possible football program in 2011, due to the construction of Moncton Stadium in 2010.[4] 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.[5] 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.[6][7]

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.[8] 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.[9]

The University of Quebec at Trois-Rivières explored the possibility of adding a football program with the launch planned for the 2017 season.[10] The program would have been similar to Carleton University's in that there would be private funding from football alumni, but operated by shareholders.[11] As of April 2015, $800,000 of the required $3 million had been raised in support of the varsity sport at UQTR.[12] The capacity of the football stadium would then be increased from 2000 to 6270 seats.[11] 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.[13][14]

Proposed interconference consortium

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.[15][16]


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".

Professional advancement

U Sports players in the CFL

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.[17] In 2022, 205 former U Sports football players were featured on CFL teams' rosters on opening day.[18]

CFL Draft

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.[19]

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
2023 72 57 4 Michael Brodrique LB Montreal Carabins
2024 74 47 4 Benjamin Labrosse LB McGill Redbirds

NFL Draft

There have been 15 U Sports players drafted into the National Football League with Giovanni Manu being the most recent.[20][21]

Year Round Pick NFL team Player Position School
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
2023 4 124 Baltimore Ravens Tavius Robinson LB Guelph Gryphons
2024 4 126 Detroit Lions Giovanni Manu OL British Columbia

U Sports players in the NFL

As of 2023, U Sports had produced 41 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):

  1. ^ a b Nicknamed Redbirds since November 2020.

See also


  1. ^ "U SPORTS Identity". U SPORTS.
  2. ^ "Record 208 U SPORTS alumni on CFL opening day rosters". U Sports. August 5, 2021.
  3. ^ "Carleton football veteran celebrates team's revival". Archived from the original on 2011-07-11. Retrieved 2011-07-07. Carleton football veteran celebrates team’s revival
  4. ^ http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/story/2010/07/26/nb-iaaf-games-moncton-legacy-610.html University ponders legacy after IAAF games
  5. ^ http://telegraphjournal.canadaeast.com/sports/article/1402895 U de M continues to study viability of university football
  6. ^ http://dalnews.dal.ca/2010/03/22/football.html Pigskin promise
  7. ^ "RedBombers.com is available at DomainMarket.com". RedBombers.com is available at DomainMarket.com.
  8. ^ Sports (9 May 2013). "UBC Okanagan makes the grade with Canada West". Kelowna Capital News.
  9. ^ "Canada West defers decision to add football at UBC Okanagan". 17 July 2014.
  10. ^ A new university team from 2017
  11. ^ a b ICI.Radio-Canada.ca, Zone Sports-. "Le retour d'une équipe de football universitaire à l'UQTR?". Radio-Canada.ca.
  12. ^ "Les Patriotes de l'UQTR revivront". TVA Sports.
  13. ^ "CISFOOTBALL.ORG : The home for fans of Canadian University Football". www.cisfootball.org.
  14. ^ "CIS Helmet History: UQTR Patriotes".
  15. ^ "Is CIS football 'super league' in the works?". TSN.ca. 24 February 2015. Retrieved 26 February 2015.
  16. ^ "Dube still chasing national university football series". Saskatoon Star-Phoenix. Retrieved 26 February 2015.
  17. ^ "199 CIS grads on CFL opening-day rosters - U Sports - English". en.usports.ca. Retrieved 2017-07-04.
  18. ^ "Seven McGillians among 205 U SPORTS alumni on CFL opening day rosters". McGill Redbirds and Martlets. June 11, 2022.
  19. ^ "Ottawa's Pelehos chosen second overall, 60 U Sports players selected in 2022 CFL Draft". U Sports. May 4, 2022.
  20. ^ "Manitoba's Onyemata becomes 12th CIS player drafted into NFL - U SPORTS - English". presto-en.usports.ca.
  21. ^ "Giovanni Manu Selected by the Detroit Lions in fourth round of NFL Draft". U Sports. April 29, 2024.
  22. ^ "Antony Auclair".
  23. ^ "Chargers Promote CB Tevaughn Campbell to Active Roster". Chargers.com. October 29, 2019.
  24. ^ "Colts Sign TE Nikola Kalinic to 53 mans roster".