Red Bombers return to UNB today
Published Saturday September 26th, 2009 by Chris Fox of the Daily Gleaner
Larry Wisniewski is the man bringing football back to the University of New Brunswick.
Wisniewski, a sociology professor at the school, is the general manager of the new UNB Red Bombers club football team, which begins play tonight.
Though not the varsity Red Bombers of the 1980s, Wisniewski has high hopes for this 2009 incarnation.
He recently chatted with reporter Chris Fox about the team, his excitement level for the coming season and the newly created Atlantic Football League, in which the Red Bombers will play.
Q: What was the last movie you saw and the last concert you went to?
A: Oh, I don’t even know. I am much more inclined to do neither of the above. What I am inclined to do is to go to my garden and work there or to go out with the dogs for a long walk.
I read books, walk dogs, garden, but do not get to movies or go to concerts.
Q: What is the excitement level like right now?
A: Right now, I couldn’t really tell you.
I am so busy running around doing a thousand little things and anticipating what the next catastrophe will be, but it does seem to be growing.
There are two sides to me – the side which is eternally optimistic and looking forward to a fine turnout Saturday, and the side which is saying let’s wait and see.
One of the most interesting things I think will be in finding a way to blend the enthusiasm and the initial energy about what is happening into a season-long commitment.
Nothing would make me happier than to sit at Chapman Field and see the stands filled and the players having a great time.
Q: Are you hoping to capture some of that old Red Bombers mystique?
A: Yes. Some of them (former UNB football players) are coming, and we hope quite a few.
That is important. I am hoping the new players will see them and understand what it meant to those players of the past to be part of a football program at university and that they will see the possibilities of continuing their support of football at UNB in order to achieve that.
I am also hopeful that the fans and the people at the game – young and old – will get a sense of how much can be gained by coming on campus at UNB, enjoying the fall and participating in the university community and in sports at UNB.
Q: What is this team going to mean to the developmental and high school football programs locally?
A: We hope it fills sort of a missing gap for them.
We have really strong programs that have been growing over the years at the pee wee, mosquito and minor levels and our junior varsity and high school programs have grown as well.
We have three high school programs that are doing very well indeed, and we just want this to be the missing piece in that football chain which will give them an opportunity after high school to stay play football while going to university.
Q: How did this league come about?
A: It started in part because of the efforts to organize a movement to CIS (Canadian Interuniversity Sport) admission with a group from Ottawa that failed to materialize.
The university just wasn’t prepared last summer to engage in that kind of activity for any of a number of reasons.
When that did not work, a number of people sat down and said, “What do we do now?” and to everyone’s credit at the table, the thought of club football came up and we began sitting down, having meetings and talking about how it might work.
That lead to the development of a league, a constitution, a set of by laws and a financial budget, which, earlier this summer, gave us the foundation in which we began the organizational challenges of each community coming up with the resources and the organizational structure they needed.
That took a fair bit of a time, especially the financial part, and we did not get it resolved until the end of August when we had three weeks to get everything up and going.
Q: Any players in particular people will be excited to see on the Chapman Field turf?
A: I think it is going to be fun to see how it all works.
It is going to be a little bit disorganized, a little bit fractured and we in particular have only had two or three weeks of practice time, so it will take the league three or four games to hit its stride and for the players to sort of emerge.
Q: Is this a trial run towards CIS (varsity level) football at UNB?
A: Yes, that might be a long-term objective, but I am not focused on that at all.
My focus is on creating opportunities athletically for students at UNB.
It was part of what my experience was at university, it was part of what I thought was an important part of the university experience along with a library of guest speakers and academic programs, and I thought it would be useful, especially at UNB where we have had difficulty getting student participation and enthusiasm generated for all our sports, to create more opportunities.
Down the road if we can improve some facilities and generate enough interest in terms of community participation, and, most importantly, student participation, we can look again to see where we are and where we want to go.
Reporter Chris Fox is a journalism graduate of St. Thomas University. Q&A appears each Saturday.