The Herald's writers have been devoting a lot of words lately to the AUS/Q Interlock:

Monty Mosher from yesterday:

Future of football interlock murky

By MONTY MOSHER Sports Reporter
Wed. Sep 9 - 4:45 AM

With a new CIS football season about to get under way, Atlantic University Sport is optimistic it can maintain its interlocking football agreement with Quebec for another contract.

But the future of the arrangement, in place since 2002, is murky at best with Quebec lukewarm to a continuing relationship.

AUS executive director Phil Currie recently had meetings with his counterparts in Quebec and came away hopeful an agreement could be reached with the current contract over at the end of this season.

However, a full three-year rotation with all the teams playing each other is unlikely.

"There will be some changes," Currie said, unwilling to share details of the AUS proposal to continue the marriage. "Right now we’re in discussions and there is nothing concrete, but we’re moving in a positive direction."

Quebec conference chairman Tom Allen, a former head coach at Bishop’s, said a number of Quebec schools aren’t overly interested in going forward with the arrangement.

There are also concerns on the Quebec side that the AUS hasn’t helped itself through expansion since 2002 when both leagues were co-dependant with four members each. Quebec has expanded to six.

"Some of the institutions feel it’s run its course," said Allen. "Sometimes at the end of the day you just call an end to something. I think travel is getting a little long in the tooth for some people."

Currie believes the best hope for football in the AUS is expansion. The conference has operated with Saint Mary’s, St. Francis Xavier, Acadia and Mount Allison for nearly 20 years.

"We need to work on our own backyard in terms of the potential for expansion in Atlantic Canada," said Currie. "I don’t think we’ve ever really worked with the (AUS) members to position it and present it properly. I think there are a lot of misconceptions out there in reference to football and cost."

Currie points to the new Atlantic Football League — a university club-level circuit operating in New Brunswick — which could provide the roots for expansion.

Allen said Quebec is sensitive to the AUS being at the minimum number for a league, but his league members are anxious to foster their own rivalries. Some QUFC schools have advocated for a 10-game home-and-home schedule within the conference.

Some Quebec coaches have muttered privately that bus trips to the Maritimes each fall have been a needless interruption.

The interlock was first promoted by head coach Blake Nill during his time at Saint Mary’s. He feared the four-team AUS was too fragile and the conference needed the competition offered by the top Quebec clubs.

"They are in a different situation than we are with six versus four teams," Currie said. "They recognize the fact that we continue to need interlock … although they aren’t interested in the status quo."

"Back then we were four and they were four and we both needed each other," said Allen. "I’m not saying we still don’t need each other, but it’s not as a high a priority now in Quebec because we are six. I would say there is some reaction that there hasn’t been any growth in the Maritimes."

Discussions will continue through the fall with the hope of announcement around the Vanier Cup in November.

( [email protected])

And from today, Chris Cochrane doing one of the things Chris Cochrane does best, parroting Monty's column of the previous day:

No time for AUS to be complacent

By CHRIS COCHRANE Sports Columnist
Thu. Sep 10 - 4:46 AM

THE FOOTBALL interlock agreement between Atlantic University Sport and its Quebec counterpart has seen significant benefits for both sides over the years.

When the AUS and QUFC conferences reached that deal back in 2002 to have their teams compete against each other in regular-season contests, with the results counting in their respective standings, it was a partnership born in part from desperation.

At that time the two conferences were each four-team circuits that had become too predictable. The interlock agreement brought a change to the usual offering. Instead of seeing the same three opponents for the entire regular- season schedule, teams in both conferences suddenly had new challenges.

Fans in the Atlantic conference had the opportunity to watch a powerhouse club like Laval test a local team. Fans in Quebec had their opportunity to finally see national contender Saint Mary’s test their best clubs.

It was a win-win situation for both sides during the early years of interlock. The highlights were easily those games when the best teams clashed, providing the type of entertainment usually reserved for national playoff time.

But over the past few years there have been signals from Quebec that the interlock appeal was waning there.

It’s an understandable position. Football has taken off in Quebec; fans there are turning out in larger numbers for the university game. Since the start of interlock, the Quebec conference has expanded from four to six teams, giving players and fans more variety in their own local schedule.

As the Quebec league adds more teams and more of its top contenders become of national calibre, it’s a stronger league that no longer has many of the problems interlock was designed to help fix.

Meanwhile, in the Atlantic conference, teams may have become too complacent while basking in the benefits of the interlock. I haven’t seen any concerted official effort in this conference to take advantage of the interlock honeymoon — and that’s what it’s been since no one really believed it would last forever — to ensure the Atlantic conference emerged stronger on the day interlock ended.

In an interview with Herald football reporter Monty Mosher this week, AUS executive director Phil Currie was optimistic that a new interlock contract could be made once the present deal ends after this season. Yet, even if a deal is finalized, don’t expect interlock to retain the same form. It’s more probable that any new interlock arrangement will be a watered-down version featuring fewer games.

Currie made a great point this week, an overdue one in fact, about the pressing need for the Atlantic conference to seek out an expansion team or two of its own, to get its numbers above the four-team level. Basically, the Atlantic conference needs to do what the Quebec conference has done in recent years.

There are several possibilities for expansion in the Atlantic conference. And the climate for expansion is getting better. Football, at the minor levels, has grown across the Maritimes in recent years. That’s a great incentive to push for the creation of more university programs, especially in those regions where there are strong feeder systems and the game is gaining in popularity.

The bottom line is that even if a new contract is signed, interlock probably isn’t in for a long future. The AUS should be ready for that inevitability. The best way for the AUS to prepare is to lead the effort to identify and encourage, in any way possible, the addition of a couple of new teams to the AUS football fold.

( [email protected])

Chris Cochrane is a columnist with The Chronicle Herald sports.