After two failed drafts—and about two months later than usual—the Queen’s Golden Gaels finally know that they will open the 2015 football season at home on Sunday, Aug. 30, against the Carleton Ravens.
Now Queen’s can get down to the more important consideration: When will it hold Homecoming?
Ontario University Athletics finally released its schedule for the coming season Tuesday, and from the Cart Before the Horse file, apparently the university has been waiting for it to pick a date to hold its annual reunion. While it’s true that the football game is always the marquee event of Homecoming, and the only point at which all the class reunions intersect, typically the way it’s worked is the Homecoming date is set a year or more ahead of time, and Queen’s asks the league to give it a home football game on that Saturday. The good news is the folks who booked a hotel room for every weekend in the fall, just to be sure, soon will be able to give up the ones they won't need.
Now that the schedule is out, it can be said that Homecoming will either be the weekend of Oct. 3, when the Guelph Gryphons visit, or Oct. 24, when the Gaels will entertain the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks. The folks in Alumni Affairs can pick their poison: Do they hold Homecoming on the earlier week, and risk fair weather conducive to a street party? Or do they hold it later, in the hope of poorer weather putting a damper on the street festivities, while they risk freezing the rich, old alumni at the football game to the point where they can’t quite make their frigid fingers open their wallets?
Homecoming certainly won’t be held on Sept. 12, when the perennially bad Waterloo Warriors will be in town, which this year is the Saturday at the end of Frosh Week. Students won’t need another excuse for a party then.
We can be pretty sure that the Guelph game will be the Homecoming match. It seems only fitting that the fellow who gave $10 million to kick-start the fundraising drive for the new stadium—Guelph coach and Queen’s alum Stu Lang—be present for the last reunion game at the old one.
This year the Gaels will hit the road for games at Ottawa (Sept. 6, the Sunday of Labour Day weekend); Western (Sept. 19), Toronto (Sept. 26) and York (Oct. 17). Queen’s will have a bye on Thanksgiving weekend (Oct. 10).
(Please note that by playing on the Sunday of Labour Day weekend, instead of Monday—which has become the tradition—the deep thinkers at the OUA have scheduled games on opening day of the NFL season. You wouldn’t think anybody not named Laval—where they’d sell out the stadium even if the pope were preaching down the road—would be foolish enough to go head-to-head for the favour of football fans against the NFL, but there you go: Both Ottawa teams decided to give it a try.)
By luck of the draw in an 11-team league where teams play an eight-game regular schedule, Queen’s will not play either Windsor or defending Yates Cup champion McMaster.
There are a couple of other quirks to note in the 2015 schedule:
• Carleton and Ottawa play at home, at the same time, on the same day, three times this year. Ottawa’s fourth home game is the Panda Game, against Carleton. So much for maximizing the exposure of university ball in the nation’s capital.
• Once again Toronto will face York in the so-called Red-Blue Bowl—the imagination ran wild there—and Laurier and Waterloo will meet in a game just as cleverly titled the Battle of Waterloo. In a league that should be striving for competitive balance, where a true round-robin cannot be played, each team should miss each of the other opponents in a regular rotation, but in the 16 years since Queen’s and Ottawa moved to the OUA to create a 10-team league, Toronto has always played York, and Laurier has always played Waterloo. Just try and get a logical answer to that question from anyone at the OUA whose first responsibility should be competitive integrity. (If the tradition of those games is so important, let them be played as exhibitions in seasons when they don’t happen to fall in the regular schedule. Two of the teams in that equation are perpetually awful; it’s not fair to the others in the league that they always appear on their cross-town rivals’ schedules.)
• The schedule makers may be seeking drama by scheduling McMaster versus Western for the final weekend of the regular season. Last year’s Yates Cup finalists meet Sept. 19, when McMaster visits Guelph.
• If you work from the premise that McMaster, Guelph and Western, last year’s top three teams, figure to be good again, and Laurier is the up-and-comer, Ottawa undoubtedly has the toughest schedule, missing two creampuffs: Waterloo and York. McMaster gets perhaps the easiest—with respect to travel, at least—in that the Marauders don’t play Carleton or Queen’s and they play Ottawa at home. The Mac schedule does score high on difficulty, though, with Western, Guelph and Laurier all on the calendar. Queen’s schedule might just be the most advantageous, with games against the other four teams that didn’t make the playoffs last year: The three Queen’s beat in its 3-5 campaign (York, Toronto and Carleton) plus 1-7 Waterloo.
• The 108th Yates Cup game will be played Nov. 14, and the OUA champion will host the Quebec conference champion in the Mitchell Bowl, a national semifinal, the following weekend.