The place for fans of Canadian University Football

A Brief Introduction

Origins of the Game

Central Canada
- CIRFU 1898-1914
- Post WWI 1919-39
- Post WWII 1946-54
- A New Era 1955-66
- Ontario & Quebec 1967-79
- Ontario & Quebec 1980-

Western Canada
- WIRFU 1927-58
- WIFL 1959-1971
- CWUAA 1972-1998
- CW 1999-Present

Atlantic Canada
- Nova Scotia 1940-57
- NB and PEI 1948-57
- Atlantic Canada 1958-73
- AUFC 1974-Present

National and Regional Championships
- Introduction
- Churchill Bowl 1953-1964
- Churchill Bowl 1965-2002
- Atlantic Bowl 1959-2001
- Mitchell Bowl 2002-Present
- Uteck Bowl 2003-Present
- Vanier Cup 1965-Present

Conference Membership
- Atlantic
- Ontario
- Quebec
- West


A History of Canadian University Football
By Robert E. Watkins, B.A., M.Sc., Ph.D. - revised May 2006

A Brief Introduction

A few brief introductory comments follow regarding the background and preparation of the history of CIS football documents.

My interest in Canadian football goes back to 1948 when, as a youngster living in a small, somewhat isolated Northern Ontario town served by the Canadian Pacific Railway, I was exposed to the Calgary Stampeder Grey Cup Special which passed through town on its way to Toronto and the Grey Cup game. I was captivated by the colour, enthusiasm, good spirits and all-around good time everyone on board was having as they entertained the locals during the station stop. On their return trip, with the Grey Cup in hand, they gave us an even better show. This exposure prompted me to find out as much as I could about this thing called Canadian football (hockey I already knew about). Since that time I have been involved in football in many capacities--as a coach at the youth football level, as an on-field official and in several administrative roles with amateur football in the Ottawa and surrounding area.

Truth be told, however, Canadian university football has been my first love since I became aware of its existence in the 1950s during the heyday of the Senior Intercollegiate Football League (SIFL). The real love affair, however, began in earnest in 1964 when the then University of Alberta at Calgary (UAC), where I was a student, established a varsity football program and joined the Western Intercollegiate Football League (WIFL). This was followed by several years spent at Queen's where I would take my youngsters to watch the Golden Gaels play (from outside the stadium fence that is...being an impoverished graduate student with a wife and family to support didn't allow for such frills as paying for tickets). Also, in those days, god bless the institution, Royal Military College (RMC) fielded a varsity football team. Games were played at the RMC quad, admission was free and the competition consisted of a variety of teams different from those which played Queen's. As a result, I, and my kids, got to see a lot of good university football involving many different teams at a very reasonable cost, that is to say, for free. We loved it! Finally, while living in Ottawa with the kids gone or going, I and some like-minded friends were in the fortunate position of being able to attend games at both the University of Ottawa and at Carleton University. Oh, those wonderful Panda games!

Growing older and thinking back to those earlier times, I realized that I had not understood much about, nor paid much attention to, league structure and memberships and regional conference organization. For example, why had I not seen UBC play at UAC? Why were RMC's opponents mostly from Quebec and the Ottawa area and why were they different from those who played Queen's? Why did league membership often seem to change from year-to-year? Was there intercollegiate football in the Maritimes at the time? When I attempted to find answers to these and other questions, I was unable to find a suitable, reliable source. Thus was I motivated to undertake the necessary research to produce a document that would serve as such a reference source. The research for the main CIAU/CIS football history paper was begun in 1998. The bibliography following it lists the sources I have consulted. The main paper is written in condensed, point form rather than in narrative style. Perhaps one day I will find the time and energy to render the whole thing into a narrative.

Throughout the research my main interest has been to try to sort out which institutions have (or had) teams, when they played and against whom. This approach led to the unravelling of league and conference histories on a national basis. I was not particularly interested in dealing with the various personalities, no matter how prominent, associated with programs. Those who are interested in this aspect are referred to three articles of mine which are based on the main history paper and appear in the Journal of CFHA (Canadian Historical Football Association), Vol. 2, No.2; Vol. 2, No.3; and Vol. 3, No. 1. In these articles some, but far from all, such individuals are highlighted through brief outlines of their roles and contributions. Nor was I interested in listing championships, that is, the various league/conference, semi-final bowls or Vanier Cup winners over the years. Readers interested in this aspect are referred to the CIS Almanac or to John Hayman's CIS Football web-page for such lists and game scores.

The Conference Membership section is an attempt to present the content of the main historical sections in a very condensed, summarized and easily referenced format. It results partly from comments made by some reviewers of the main history sections who felt that they became too bogged down and confusing when trying to deal with the myriad details of conference membership changes, league/conference and regional association name changes, etc., over the years. I can see their point but I also feel it is necessary to have a source available that presents a comprehensive account of such details for those who may be interested.

Finally, I would like it to be known that I am open to suggestions, corrections, revisions and/or additions to the paper(s). However, for any such amendments to be taken seriously, they must be substantiated by reference to a credible and accessible source. Anecdotal evidence is not acceptable. To this end, I can be contacted by a personal message (PM) via the site, contact name: True North.


This portion of is a web adaptation of two papers prepared and updated by Dr. Robert E. Watkins.

©1998-2006 Robert E. Watkins, All Rights Reserved
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