It was a sad day yesterday (April 4), when Simon Fraser University (SFU) announced it would discontinue its varsity football program after nearly 60 years.
The program has a storied history, with many Canadian football greats getting their start in the red and white.
For me, though, I'm more concerned about the kids who dreamed of being recruited into a university football program as a way of completing school doing a sport that they loved — and possibly making a career out of it.
I have personal experience as a co-manager and fundraiser for high school football and I've seen how kids can grow through the discipline of teamwork.
I've also seen how a teenager lights up when they are being recruited.
I'll never forget the time when I was told by an SFU coach that my son could have a football career. I was bewildered and thrilled.
Instead, my son is working on developing a career in architecture, but the drive and goal-setting he learned from football and the recruitment process helped him immensely.
I also know from experience that it's costly to send your kids out of province to a football program — even on scholarship.
Post-secondary school is not inexpensive, and even those on scholarship at a Canadian school still have to cover living expenses.
The loss of a local university scholarship program will be a devastating blow for many Lower Mainland families who can't afford to send their kids to Calgary or Ottawa to play football and study.
Students can learn a lot from the recruiting process, as SFU notes on its football scholarship information website, because they have to create a profile, get noticed and gain exposure — just like you have to do to get a good job.
For students who were recruited to play at SFU next year, some of this hard work getting on the team may have been wasted if they can't get onto another team in time — at least that's what some Coquitlam students told the Tri-City News this week.
Discontinuing the SFU football program may also take away some of the drive and motivation from students in middle school or high school who are just getting into their school football programs.
For many of these youngsters, the chance of being another Angus Reid, an offensive lineman who played for the BC Lions, is how they get through school, while also taking part in exhausting football practices, exciting games and boring fitness drills.
These are the kids who may be struggling with their grades, or their weight, or being accepted; but they find a home in football.
Reid recently commented how his years at SFU playing for the Red Leafs (formerly, the Clan) helped him become the person he is today.
If I wasn’t lucky enough to grow up in schools that supported the sport of football and had coaches that worked hard to use that sport to raise young men - I wouldn’t be the person I am today. 🙏 forever grateful to be so lucky.— Angus Reid (@angusreid64) April 5, 2023
For those coming after Reid, the loss of the program due to there being no NCAA Div. II conference in which to play, will have long-term ramifications.
Perhaps a petition to restore the SFU football program could convince the university and U SPORTS to come to an agreement.
This petition may be a Hail Mary pass against all odds with just a second to go on the clock — but that's football.