Stingers stars, past and present, were in attendance last Friday afternoon as football coach Gerry McGrath introduced a group of young men he hopes will lead Concordia in the future.
Liam Mahoney of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (pictured on the right), and Cory Watson of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (left), among other former Stingers now in the CFL were on hand to welcome the 18 newest recruits to the Concordia Stingers football program at a luncheon at the Perform Centre.
The recruits certainly have a local flavour to them; 17 of the 18 have experience playing in the CÉGEP system.
Coach McGrath believes that players coming out of CÉGEP can be more valuable than out-of-province recruits, as often times the players are ready to step into important roles immediately.
“The best players in Quebec are in the CÉGEP system,” said McGrath. “[Players from Ontario] are usually a year or two behind. You expect a kid from Ontario to have an important role in his third year, but the CÉGEP kids can come in right away.”
While the atmosphere around the event was optimistic and upbeat, McGrath did speak about some of the difficulties Concordia faces in the recruitment process, further explaining his comments from last year about the unfair financial advantage Laval has.
“We can compete, but there are obstacles that make it difficult,” he said. “As I look at my five losses from last year, two of them are to Laval and a third in the playoffs. What I’d like to see is everyone in the country have a minimum and a maximum [budget] so that every team at the top of their cycle [of players] has a chance to win a national championship. I think every great league has that type of [balance]. I think it’s important that the CIS gets to that point.”
As it presently stands, Laval gets private funding from a corporation whereas the Stingers rely solely on funding from Concordia.
Finances isn’t the only uphill battle McGrath and his staff face when recruiting. Language and the program’s reputation are also factors in the decision of recruits. McGrath, though, thinks Concordia does have some advantages over schools such as Laval and Sherbrooke.
“Well first of all [a team] can only dress 48 players, so you have to ask yourself [as a recruit going to a premier program] are you going to be one of those 48?” he said. “Second of all, the school plays a large role in it. Finishing school and being bilingual is a great asset for any young man.”
While Concordia has had success producing great individual talents, such as the CFL players on hand, and most recently Max Caron, winner of the defensive player of the year award, the school is hoping to take the next step: competing for national championships.
“We send as many people to the pros as any school,” said McGrath. “We now need to get to the point where we develop 40 or 50 great players so we can have the depth that Laval or Montréal has.”
A full list of the recruits can be found on the Stingers’ website.