Carleton Ravens football revival means business

(Left to right) Carleton Old Crow Society President Kevin McKerrow, Director of Carleton Recreation and Athletics Jennifer Brenning and Carleton President and Vice-Chancellor Roseann O'Reilly Runte, welcome back Ravens football at a news conference on July 6. The team is set to hit the field in fall 2013. (James Park Photo)

Football is returning to Carleton University with a new game face.

The long-anticipated Ravens football revival was officially announced on July 6. The team will hit field in fall 2013 after a 14-year hiatus.

“The students indicated that they really wanted football, alumni indicated that they would really like football, even the faculty said football would be fun. So what are we doing today? We are starting a football team,” said Carleton President and Vice-Chancellor Roseann O’Reilly Runte at the announcement.

The Carleton Ravens football team was cut in 1999 after the restructuring of the Department of Recreation and Athletics and the university administration. Since then, the Old Crow Society, Carleton’s football alumni chapter (established in 1965), have been working to revive the program.

Old Crow Society President and former Ravens offensive guard, Kevin McKerrow, has been leading this effort since 2001 when the Old Crows first attempted to revive the team without success.

“Certainly reviving the program has always been something I wanted to do but for quite a period of time, I realized the timing wasn’t right,” say McKerrow.

The right timing arrived in 2008 when Ottawa entrepreneur John Ruddy donated $2.5 million to kick start the return of Ravens football. The Board of Governors agreed to support the venture if the Old Crows raised $5 million to support the team’s startup.

“It really moved into high gear in the spring of 2010 when we established the steering committee and the subcommittee(s) composed of Old Crow and senior Carleton University representatives,” says McKerrow. “The next major step for us was when the Board of Governors formally approved in principle the return of football.”

The team will be fully funded by the Old Crows Football Inc., which will receive financial support through donations, sponsorship proceeds, gate receipts and ongoing fundraising activities. While this is the first time Carleton has used a business-based model to support a varsity team, other university athletic programs, including Laval football, have seen success with this approach.

“We aimed to attain a true partnership with the university that would see the football team be a full and supportive member of Carleton’s varsity athletics programming, while independently financed, governed and operated through our ongoing involvement. I believe we have fully realized our goal”, says McKerrow.

With the required funds raised and the team’s revival officially announced, some of the most important decisions will be made in the coming months.

The competition for the head-coach position will begin in November 2011 at the end of the Canadian Interuniversity Sport football season. McKerrow says the coach must ensure players have the same “positive” experience he and the Old Crows had when they played football for Carleton.

“It’s academics and life enrichment first and the coach will need to be clearly in line with those principles,” says McKerrow.

The Old Crow Society is currently in the process of hiring an operations manager who, among other tasks, will initiate player recruitment. Although a national recruitment process will take place, the team will focus on drawing in athletes from Ontario as well as the minor and high school football leagues in Ottawa.

“The effort to recruit starts now,” says McKerrow. “Hopefully there will be some experienced players from junior football and maybe the odd transfer from other schools, but there is going to be a period of time required to build a highly competitive team.”

The next tangible steps will include finalizing the construction of a press box, upgraded stadium seating as well as dressing, coaches and equipment rooms.

With many crucial decisions coming in the next year, McKerrow says he is most excited to see the Ravens hit the field for the first time in 2013.

“What I envision is a packed stadium with lots students, alumni and members of the community coming out and celebrating the return of our team.”

Director of Carleton Recreation and Athletics Jennifer Brenning says she has no doubts Carleton’s football program will kick off successfully, given the growing support for the sport across the city.

“Whether it’s through homecoming or the Panda Game, it will really help bring the community together,” says Brenning.

And what about Pedro the Panda? McKerrow says he anticipates the return of the Panda Game between Carleton and the University of Ottawa. While the Pedro the Panda trophy is believed to be with the University of Ottawa, the infamous stuffed panda has yet to be found.

“Rumours are swirling about Pedro, where he is and whether he is still alive and well,” says McKerrow. “Hopefully he will surface soon.”

For a complete list of the Old Crow Society members and Carleton faculty/staff involved with the revival of Carleton Ravens football visit:

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