CIS National Interlock: “We need behaviour that is pushing the game nationally” (VIDEO)

Since the news broke over the Christmas break about a working proposal called the “Northern Football 8 Series” (CIS National Interlock proposal), there has been mixed reaction across the country.

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In a special edition of Krown Countdown U that will be made public on Tuesday afternoon, Project Partners Jim Mullin and David Dube provide some clarity as well as make a plea to fans and student-athletes.

“Jim and I have been conversing about this for a couple of years now,” commented Dube of how this working process began.  “We have been involved with Canada West football; of course Krown Countdown and the vision came to say what we can do to promote the game nationally, thinking first and foremost about fans and the student athletes.”

David Dube

During the broadcast, Dube explained his role in the project as well the vision behind the proposed CIS National Interlock.

“The idea of an interlock came up,” said Dube.  “My role in it really, aside from clearly making a commitment to being a funding partner was really strategic, was figuring out the practicality and the strategic vision of what does a television contract look like, what does a schedule look like, what makes a compelling case for television because CIS has been on television for nationally a long time.”

“We thought if we could come to the table with something that will eliminate most of the obstacles that have been stopping it from being on television.”

As CanadaFootballChat.com previously reported, a meeting where the proposal was presented took place with CIS coaches in Toronto this past December. When news leaked out of this meeting, there was some outcry and resistance, Dube used the Krown Countdown U platform to explain the rationale behind the move.

“Some people were off put by the meeting we had with coaches in December and I think people deserve an explanation for why we would meet with the coaches,” elaborated Dube.  “We really thought that these coaches are the experts.”

“When an athletic director gets a football specific question, who do they go to? They go to their experts, which is their head coaches.  We wanted to bounce some ideas off of them, start a conversation with them about it, and see if there was any willingness on their part so that if an AD brought this proposal to them, they would say “I am interested”.  If it wasn’t going to pass with the coaches, then we knew that we would have no chance. So if asking for advice offended people, I can’t help them with that.”

CWUAA 2014 Hardy Cup Champions Manitoba Bisons

Among the conferences that would be the prime participants in the interlock, only the Canada West has publicly supported the notion.

“I congratulate Canada West, who is very open,” added Dube.  “I know Jim [Mullin] was given an opportunity to discuss it with them and came away with a unanimous vote in favour of it.”

However, Dube and Mullin were surprised by the reaction from participants as well as the public.

“Ultimately, the experience thus far has been very disappointing,” voiced Dube.

Montreal Carabins 2014 Vanier Cup Champions Group Photo

For one thing, the RSEQ conference felt things were moving too quickly.

“I really don’t have anything to say to them,” replied Dube of the RSEQ’s thoughts.  “That’s their statement.”

“They clearly felt uncomfortable or that it was too fast.  They seem to indicate there is merit.  The issue is the speed.  The opportunities in 2015…I’ll engage in a conversation with willing participants who can set aside any biases and say can we move forward, but the real opportunity – it was right here, right now. Will it be there in 16, I’m not sure.”

For Dube and Mullin, there was a sense of urgency to act upon it.

“Where I come from, and I do understand it’s different in a university setting,” explained Dube.  “When you see an opportunity and we saw a unique opportunity in 2015 in the media landscape, we wanted to take advantage of it which means moving quickly and decisively.”

Mount Allison versus Saint Mary's 2014

One conference that is not represented in Year one of the proposal is the AUS.  However, they do factor into the equation in Year 2 (becomes Northern 10).  AUS Executive Director Phil Currie issued the following statement to Krown Countdown U about the Northern 8/10 series.

“Any and all comments regarding CIS football and its future will come jointly through the CIS football task force,” said Currie.

In response to what is perceived as lack of AUS presence in the working proposal, Dube offered insight as to how the Conference would be engaged in the series.

“Northern 8 was growing to Northern 10 in year 2,” elaborated Dube.  “It was always the proposal.”

“We want it to be national, but it can’t be a quota system.  It’s got to be “earn your way in” and it’s the best on best.  You can earn your way into this and people will fall out of it.  You may think it will always be certain teams.  That’s not the nature of sports.  If I was in Atlantic Canada and I know their fervent fans of college football and I love the coverage out East because it small schools and they punch way above their weight.  They’ll qualify.  It’s not an arbitrary decision made by anybody’s part.  It going to be a formula – how you get in and how you relegate it out.”

However, there has been positive reaction from the stance of elevated exposure in media markets.  Overall, this series could fill a major gap that currently exists with regards to television coverage.

“There was an interest in it because the media landscape has some voids in it, unique ones this year,” expressed Dube.  “This happened to align which we thought the stars were aligning perfectly to bring college football back on television.”

“They made it exceptionally clear that it had to be the best versus the best, which made us very happy because our proposal is actually that.  It has the very best.  You put your best product forward, you expose it to millions of Canadian fans who are currently watching the CFL and don’t really know where these Canadian players come from. We have all these rosters, 196 players in the CFL come from Canadian schools and yet, we are not exposing the product to those fans.”

Western Mustangs 2014 Training Camp

While the working proposal will not come to fruition in time for the 2015 CIS season, Dube remains optimistic and wants to engage in discussions. However, he has made a plea to CIS teams, coaches and players who would be directly impacted by this series.

“I’m always prepared to have a discussion,” said Dube.  “In fact, I welcome it but what we need to do is make sure if we’re going to have a discussion that didn’t happen this time, that the players, the participants, need to have a bit of an attitude change.”

“Frankly, we need behaviour that is pushing the game nationally, that thinks about growing the game and that doesn’t break down into what I consider the politics of self-interest.”

Carabins 2014 Uteck Bowl Champions 1

Equally, he made a plea to fans of the sport to help the cause.

“I think there is still tremendous potential to grow the game nationally, to get it back on television and show people what it’s all about,” elaborated Dube.  “I think the student athletes deserve that experience and I would ask those fans  “Fans if you want national television, if you want the best versus the best, student athletes if you think you deserve that opportunity, send a letter to your AD, have a conversation with about it.””

“This is a football community that has got to come together to make this happen.  That would be my challenge to the fans and their rabid, great fans. We just don’t have enough of them.  When we expose the game to more people in this country, I think people will be stunned at how many more fans we’ll gain.”

huskies ubc wk 3

As for the next step for Dube and Mullin, they will begin a collaboration of sorts with the Canada West Conference.

“We’re going to work with Canada West on how to package, market and grow the game in Western Canada,” said Dube.  “It’s going to be a great product in Western Canada.”

“We have tremendous parity in the conference and getting better all the time so we’re going to work with them.  I can guarantee you this, we’re going to make sure 100 percent that it’s successful and see the way we do things.”

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