Football returns to Holland College

For the first time in three decades, Prince Edward Island will have a college football team taking the field.

1st Island football team in 30 years

For the first time in three decades, Prince Edward Island will have a college football team taking the field.

The Holland College Hurricanes Football Club will join the Atlantic Football League next fall. The last college football team on the Island was the UPEI Panthers, who disbanded in 1979.

The Atlantic Football League began last fall with three teams based at colleges or universities in New Brunswick. Next year, Dalhousie University in Halifax will also field a team.

The Hurricanes will be open to players between the ages of 18 and 24, including Holland College students, UPEI students and the broader Island community.

Holland College held it's first pep rally Thursday for the team, complete with a spirit band.

"It's kind of like what you see in the football movies," student Kelsey Cole said. "So, hopefully, we'll have the same spirit."

Holland College team recruiters were getting a clear indication that they'd have no trouble putting a team together.

"I was really anxious to play football," student Morgan Ellis said. "Like, there's not much after you leave high school."

Michael O'Grady, vice president of strategic development with Holland College, said students are eager to have a football team.

"The No. 1 question we've been asked over the past several years, coming from young prospective male students, is: Does Holland College have a football team?" he said.

Pat O'Brien, commissioner of the Atlantic Football League, said the quality of play in the league is high.

"Typically, these teams are made up of some of the better players in their own communities — a lot of all-stars. No one makes any of the teams automatically, so it's high-calibre football," he said.

Holland College will contribute $5,000 a year to the football team, O'Grady said, with another $35,000 coming from corporate sponsors and individuals.

"As soon as we indicated our interest in starting up a football program here a number of private citizens and businesspeople put their hands up and said, 'We want to help,'" he said.

"If we can attract two students to Holland College that otherwise wouldn't have come here because of football, we have our costs covered. So, very low risk."

Holland College plans to hold open tryouts for the team in late August, and all it needs now is a home field. O'Grady said three potential sites in the area are being considered, and home games might be rotated among them.