By Joel Wass
According to McMaster University football team, the word ‘Polytechnic’ isn’t the only thing absent at Ryerson this fall.
“A school without a football team is definitely missing out right now,” says Marauder running back Kyle Pyear. “You never know what’s going to happen [at a university] football game. It’s just an exciting sport to watch.”
Mac assistant coach Jason Riley says it’s more than excitement that Ryerson is lacking.
“A football team becomes part of the social fabric of the university,” says Riley. “It’s such a team-oriented sport and there are so many more players involved compared to other teams that I think a lot of students really get into it.”
After the recent success of the Rams basketball, volleyball and hockey teams, Rye High athletes have graduated from varsity pretenders to Ontario University Athletic contenders.
Unfortunately for student athletes, their achievements have often been overlooked and ignored by their schoolmates.
The majority of people who attend Rams home games are either related to or are writing about the athletes.
Kojo Aidoo, another running back on the 7-0 Marauder squad, says football at Mac has a large fan base because of the sport’s physical nature.
“Not to say that other [athletes] don’t work as hard as we do, but [football players] prepare diligently all week to come on the field and perform,” says Aidoo, the winner of 200 Hec Crighton Trophy, awarded to the most outstanding football player in Canadian Interuniversity Sports. “[Football] is like theatre. We rehearse and then finally we put on the big show.”
Although Ryerson’s theatre program is here to stay, RAC and athletic program director David Dubois says the only varsity football team that will ever be kicking around will be of the European variety.
“We just don’t have the facilities for a football team,” says Dubois. “I’ve never even considered adding football. It just can’t happen.”
With a confined downtown campus, students are more likely to see pigs than pigskins flying at Ryerson.
And while the men of the gridiron are a big hit at McMaster, Dubois doubts that football could ever grab the attention of Ryerson students.
“Honestly, what else is there to do in Hamilton?” says Dubois. “They don’t have the Raptors, they don’t have the Leafs, the Blue Jays, the Argos. Ryerson is in a completely different situation.”
Dubois could be right, considering the football teams at the University of Toronto and York University have less fan support than the Montreal Expos.
Despite the heavy competition from the professional sporting world, OUA football has invaded the minds of a few Ryerson sport junkies.
“I’m a big football fan,” says Errol Fraser, the leading returning scorer on the Ryerson men’s basketball team. “I wouldn’t mind having a football team at our school because it would bring more athletes here.”
Fraser says the 50 athletes that a football team brings could help the camaraderie in Ryerson athletics.
“I know the volleyball guys because we share the same locker rooms, but I don’t know any other athletes that well,” says the six-foot-two Fraser. “I’d love to know the other athletes.”
Fraser says some teams feel isolated because there are not enough events organized at Ryerson to unite the sporting community.
“We’ve never had a sports rally,” says Fraser. “We’ve never had something to announce to everyone that we’re here. If we had a homecoming we could make it an annual event.”
At McMaster, homecoming is more than an annual event. It’s an annual extravaganza.
During this year’s homecoming, five sky divers jumped from above McMaster’s Les Prince Field and soared into the stadium prior to the Marauders showdown against the Golden Hawks of Laurier University.
“Our homecoming attracts a lot of people,” says Pyear, who leads the country in rushing yards. “It brings in a lot of support to our school. We had [alumni] flying in from all over the country and from the States and everything.”
In addition to football, McMaster’s homecoming weekend also included home games for the school’s soccer teams and alumni showdowns for both the men’s and women’s basketball teams.
Ryerson already has alumni basketball games, but Dubois says athletics would love to organize a similar homecoming event.
“Right now we’re still trying to build our alumni database,” says Dubois. “Once we have addresses and e-mails added we can start thinking about starting an athletic homecoming.”
While sports rallies could be in Ryerson’s future, Dubois is adamant no touchdowns will ever be scored between Gerard and Dundas Streets.
Howeverm McMaster football players say they would love to have Rams fans on side.
“We can use all the backers we can get,” says Pyear. “We’d love to have a bigger fan club. That would be amazing.”
Although they can’t exactly teach a course on Egerton Ryerson’s contributions to public education, the Marauders are aware of basic Ryerson trivia.
“I know that [Ryerson] used to be a college and now it’s a polytechnic institute,” said the first-year quarterback John Behie, who apparently did not read the first sentence of this story. “You guys are called the Ryerson Rams.”
Although Dubois isn’t cheering for the idea of rooting for another school, he says he won’t block Ryerson students from making the hike from the big smoke to the big smoke stack.
“If students want to go to Hamilton to watch football more power to them,” says Dubois. “I have other priorities though.”
McMaster University president Peter George says the idea of Ryerson jumping aboard the Mac truck could become the best thing to connect Toronto and Hamilton since the QEW.
“I think it’s a great idea, not everybody can have a football team,” says George. “I’m good friends with [Ryerson University president] Claude Lajeunesse. I better call him before the next home game. If he can’t come we’ll put a cardboard cutout of him in the stands.”
Although Lajeunesse is not known for his enthusiasm, a Marauder-Rams connection is something that excites him.
“Peter George is a great friend of mine and a fantastic guy and I would love to do anything to help him get more people at his games,” said Lajeunesse who appeared happy to be discussing an issue that didn’t relate to the double cohort.
Lajeunesse declined George’s offer to make the trip last Saturday to McMaster’s 72-0 spanking of the Varsity Blues, but he is interested in attending the Vanier cup if the number two nationally ranked Marauders advance to the championship game.
With the deadliest offence in the country, the Vanier Cup is definitely in McMaster’s striking distance.
“We hope to keep the ball rolling and just keep pumping it to teams,” said Pyear. “We play an exciting game of football, you never going to know if we’re going to pass or if we’re going to run. We keep the fans on their toes.”
You usually only need your hands and toes to count the fans at Rams games, which is why Lajeunesse says he would prefer to see students supporting Ryerson teams before they run over to the big Mac bandwagon.
“We’re investing money in them, we’re investing energy and more importantly the students are investing a lot of their time,” says Lajeunesse. “Being on a team at [the university] level is just as hard as working 25-30 hours a week. It’s very demanding. I would suggest we honour our athletes and show up at [Ryerson] games.”