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

The Western Intercollegiate Rugby Football Union (WIRFU) 1927-1958

  • 1920 - the Western Canada Intercollegiate Athletic Association (WCIAA) was formed with the Universities of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta as charter members

  • 1922 - inter-university exhibition football play began; the Hardy Trophy, donated by Professor Evan Hardy of the University of Saskatchewan (known as "the father of western inter-collegiate football"), was awarded to the winner of the annual series between Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta

  • 1923 - the University of British Columbia (UBC) joined the WCIAA

  • 1927 - the WIRFU consisting of three of the four WCIAA universities and featuring regular scheduled league play was established with the Hardy Trophy awarded to the league champion, UBC joined the league in 1928

  • All four universities fielded Canadian rugby football teams before 1927, certainly in the early 1920s if not before--Alberta first established a varsity football program in 1910, Saskatchewan in 1914, UBC in 1924, while Manitoba is known to have won the Hardy Trophy in 1923 and 1924 and had fielded a varsity team in 1920

  • In the early years of the WIRFU, member teams' schedules often incorporated games with intermediate, senior and professional teams within their respective provinces or they (e.g., UBC) participated in leagues south of the border as well as playing against each other; this was necessitated by the high travel costs associated with the large geographic distances between member schools

  • There was no competition for the Hardy Trophy in 1925, 1932, 1940, 1942-1943 and during the period 1949 to 1958

  • UBC did not participate in WIRFU play during the years 1935, 1941 and from 1946 to 1948

  • Each of the four western provinces had their own autonomous Rugby Football Unions, WIRFU teams were required to compete against other (e.g., city) teams in their respective provincial Unions in the quest for the provincial championship, the right to move on to the Western Canadian championship and subsequently, to challenge for the Grey Cup

  • Unfortunately, no WIRFU member was ever successful in the quest to represent the West in the Grey Cup game; they did come close however, for example, in 1926 Alberta narrowly lost to the Regina Roughriders in the Western Canadian championship game; in 1927, UBC lost a two-game, total points series against Regina for the championship; in 1934, Alberta lost in the semifinals of the Western championship

  • Several times over the period between 1920 and 1952, the western universities (UBC in particular) challenged the CIRFU/SIFL of Central Canada to a national intercollegiate championship game but were rebuffed by the latter ostensibly due to the lateness of the season and the pressure of studies

  • 1930 - UBC participated in the first Canadian football game ever played at night under lights when they traveled to Hamilton to play a pre-season game against the Hamilton Tigers of the Ontario Rugby Football Union (ORFU), UBC lost the game 38-1

  • 1947 - in an effort to help the WIRFU increase interest in Western Canadian university football, the University of Toronto Varsity Blues of the SIFL toured Western Canada in September and October of that year, playing two intra-conference exhibition games against Saskatchewan and one against Alberta; Saskatchewan was defeated 65-0 and 41-0, Alberta was defeated 19-5; the tour marked the first time a CIRFU/SIFL team played western university squads; unfortunately, the games had the unintended effect of demonstrating the discrepancy in level of play between the two leagues

  • 1949 to 1958 - Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba disbanded their football program during this time period, UBC maintained its program playing a schedule featuring American schools

  • 1949 - an interesting piece of trivia concerns the ceasing of football operations by Alberta coinciding with the re-establishment of the professional Edmonton Eskimos football franchise which had been dormant since the late 1930s--the university donated their football jerseys to the Eskimos thus establishing the tradition of the professional club wearing green and gold colours

  • 1953 - the first bowl game between a Western Canadian university team and a CIRFU/SIFL representative took place; it was an invitational pre-season match between McGill and UBC for the newly established Churchill Bowl and was played at McGill's Molson Stadium, McGill won the game 22-4

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