Footballís rumours are just rumours

By Chris Cochrane
Published in the Halifax Chronicle-Herald on November 3, 2008

THEREíS no doubt that the AUFC could use one or two more football teams, increasing the stability and variety of the four-team conference.

The conference offers a good product with its present membership of Saint Maryís, St. Francis Xavier, Acadia and Mount Allison.

The interlock deal with Quebec teams helps to spice up what might otherwise be an overly predictable season. The Mount Allison reversal of fortunes means all four programs now appear stable. And the increased popularity of football at high schools across the Maritimes ensures a larger local player pool and greater future fan base.

There are clearly good things happening in the AUFC.

Yet an expanded AUFC would be the sign that football is back in a big way here. It would add competitive security in the event the Quebec conference at some point didnít want to continue interlock. And even if the interlock does remain, a larger AUFC would be much more attractive to the existing four clubs and to the fans.

Maybe itís because thereís such a strong desire for more entries in the AUFC that rumours of former members getting back into the fold simply wonít die.

The most often mentioned returning teams havenít had football for a long time. Dalhousie University last fielded a team in 1976, University of Prince Edward Island in 1979 and University of New Brunswick in the 1980 season. Since Cape Breton left the AUFC in 1990, the once busy conference has learned to live with being a four-team operation.

Yet even after about three decades without football at those universities, any hint at a revival of the football program can cause a stir.

For example, speculation on UNBís football future continues. There was an article in a local paper there recently discussing the topic and hinting that a private group there hoped to make it happen.

About a year ago, there was a petition at UNB to bring football back, in part motivated by a new artificial turf playing field. At the time, UNB athletic director Kevin Dickie said a business plan looking at the return of football had been created, but nothing developed after that. No doubt the cost, estimated at $250,000 for starting a program and an annual $250,000 to operate it each season, was the hurdle. Dickie did note at the time that outside funding would be necessary for such a project.

There was also speculation a few months back that UPEI might be interested in getting back into the game after plans for building a stadium for the 2009 Canada Games were finalized. Yet itís the same story on that front, nothing has materialized to date.

At Dalhousie, a return to football remains a popular topic of discussion every few years. But the problem again is funding. There have been modest alumni pushes at Dal to bring back the program, but when the discussion gets around to funding, at the student and university level, the push generally loses momentum.

AUS officials concede that the topic of football expansion was discussed at their meetings earlier this year. Yet insiders say not a single potential new AUFC member created any impression that such a move was on or even near the horizon.

Sure, all AUFC football schools would love to see a couple of the old teams return for obvious reasons. But on an official level, that doesnít look to be happening.

Until thereís something tangible, AUFC fans, especially those at schools without football programs, can only dream when they hear the latest rumour.