Students at Carleton University may not have to go without a football team for much longer, with some slating the possible return of Ravens football as early as the 2012 season.
There are three committees made up of Carleton staff and alumni who are working together to ensure that everything is taken care of, and football can return to Carleton.
Kevin McKerrow, president of the Old Crow Society, Carleton’s football alumni organization, has been named chair of the steering committee and believes that a team could be fielded as early as 2012.
“We still believe we’re on target to finding the solutions of these categories by the end of this year,” McKerrow said. “We’re firming up plans for facility needs, and the governance model is progressing well which will firm relations between the university and alumni.”
The three categories he is discussing are those that the committees are focusing on, which include fundraising and finding a suitable location for the team to play.
McKerrow believes that this latest effort has brought the university closer than before in bringing football back, and thinks a large part of that is the interest from alumni, support from the student body and the commitment of the project’s lead donor.
“For us that played years ago, there is a desire to see football return and to see the team play and represent the university,” McKerrow said. “There is also strong support from the student body, [proven by] a student survey in 2008 that said students want to see a football team.”
But bringing a football program back to Carleton requires more than just high hopes, it requires two big needs: money and a proper place to play.
Jennifer Brenning, Director of Recreation & Athletics at Carleton, says that while the university will indirectly support the program and provide facilities, the football program will be financed 100% outside of the university, much like the very successful Universite d’Laval.
Brenning says that the decision to fund the team externally is because Carleton has some of the lowest student ancillary fees in the province, and therefore do not generate enough revenue to field a football team.
“There is support from the campus community, however, I do not believe that the students would want to increase their fees to support a football program as tuition continues to rise,” Brenning said through e-mail. “We do not receive central administrative funding for our programs, therefore, we cannot afford the addition of a football program, in particular a program that can compete in OUA [and] CIS.”
She does say that should the program return, Carleton will be hoping to have their team play at the university, in contrast to the city’s other team, the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees who currently play their home games at the municipally owned Frank Clair Stadium.
“We are looking for an on-campus solution,” Brenning said. “We currently have a full CFL-size turf field with lights, we have seating for 2000 [spectators], and we are reviewing plans for locker rooms and new bleachers to hold 3000 spectators.”
Carleton’s football program was cut in 1998, following a stretch of poor performances on the field, after some success in the mid-eighties.
Ontario University Athletics’ Executive Director, Ward Dilse, says that Carleton’s desire to join OUA shows the strength of OUA football.
“It shows how important OUA football is to Carleton, which is fantastic,” Dilse said.
He also said that if Carleton can get a team fielded, it would be advantageous to the league as well. “By getting another team, it will help the league by how valuable it is to our sponsors, and that it creates growth from attendance and TV viewership.”
Brenning thinks that bringing a football team back to Carleton would be advantageous to the school to increase visbility, alumni engagement, enhanced school spirit and pride, and of course, the revival of the classic Panda Game, the annual rivalry game between Carleton and cross-town foe Ottawa.
For Carleton to reach their goal of fielding a team in 2012, they would have to submit their intent-to-enter by this coming May, according to Dilse, as OUA has a fifteen month intent-to-enter period.
Should Carleton get back on the field in the coming years, they will be the team with the longest hiatus to be successfully revived.