Atlantic University Sport’s four football head coaches played defence this week, as those at a Halifax press conference – meant to promote the season starting – questioned the lack of Maritime teams in national top 10 rankings.
The Acadia Axemen’s Jeff Cummins, Mount Alison Mountie’s Kelly Jeffrey, Saint Mary’s Huskies’ Perry Marchese and St. Francis Xavier’s Gary Waterman were at the Halifax Metro Centre on Wednesday for this year’s AUS football media day, along with player representatives from their respective teams.
“Our product needs to be better,” Cummins said of last year’s AUS rankings and results. “There were times that … that we deserved to be in the top 10, somebody from our conference, depending on which week, because we were all so tight.”
The 2013 season saw Mount Allison win conference championship the Loney Ball, but fall to defending national champions the Laval Rouge et Or in the CIS semifinal Uteck Bowl. Saint Mary’s was edged 20-17 in the Loney Bowl, Acadia was ousted in the AUS semifinal and St. Francis Xavier failed to make playoffs.
Earlier this week, following pre-season action, Canadian Interuniversity Sport and Football Reporters of Canada released their first rankings of the 2014 season, with once again no Atlantic Canadian teams listed.
“People don’t see us across the country,” Cummins said. “It’s all in the hands of someone who’s probably never seen Acadia play a game of football, ever.”
While the AUS may be missing in national rankings, it’s not missing calibre and competitiveness, the conference coaches emphasized.
“In our conference, you don’t know who’s going to win,” Cummins said. “Laval is going to win in the Q, Western will win in Ontario and Calgary will win out west.”
Marchese, who has coached university teams in Ontario and Quebec, agreed “we’re not much different from all the other teams, in all the other conferences in Canada.”
Saint Mary’s hosts St. Francis Xavier in the season opener Sept. 5. Acadia's first game is Sept. 6 at Mount A.