No regrets for Bishop's Gaiters after leaving Quebec conference
More learning opportunities, better team spirit with AUS conference, says team management
Management, players and fans of the football team at Bishop's University seem to agree that joining the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) conference was the right thing to do.
The Gaiters have lost five out of six games so far this season, but the acting athletics director said games are tighter and the team is now competing on a more level playing field.
"We'd like to win more football games and we will, but at the end of the day it's about our student athletes having a great experience," said Matt McBrine.
When Bishop's announced it was leaving the Réseau du Sport Étudiant du Québec (RSEQ) to join the AUS conference in December 2016, it was big news on the athletic front.
"In the last 20 years, we only had three winning seasons,'' said McBrine.
David versus Goliath
Teams like Laval University's Rouge et Or and the Montréal Carabins have a higher student population to draw from and can offer scholarships that Bishop's simply can't afford, said McBrine.
''The football program at Bishop's is roughly $350,000," he said. "Most of the other programs in Quebec, it's north of $1 million."
The athletics director at Laval University, Christian Gagnon, admitted the way things are done now is not ideal, even though his team has won nine Vanier cups in the last 20 years.
Gagnon said athletic directors from all universities in Eastern Canada will meet in the next year and discuss how to increase competitiveness and create opportunities for smaller universities to play against larger ones.
''One day maybe we'll have a big eight conference, but if we do we have to find money for all universities,'' said Gagnon.
Fans, players on board
The Gaiters charter a plane to fly east for half their games while other opposing teams head to Lennoxville, Que. by bus once in the season.
Quarterback Mathieu Demers said the team is adapting.
''For sure we'd like to be better but it's football and now we have to focus on the second part of the season."
Fans at the game, which finished with a score of 37-27 in favour of St. FX, told CBC News the games are more fun to watch and give players the chance to grow and learn.
Despite the last few losses, McBrine agreed.
"This whole notion of fair play and collegiality and level playing field, that is exactly what is happening right now in the AUS football and that's great.''
With files from Rebecca Martel