Humbled by Humboldt


It may not be the Big House, but at least it’s pretty.

This is it. The big one. The sport to rival them all. Finally, I was going to see live college football. Yeah, soccer and hockey are all well and good, but this is the real deal. If I was going to find school spirit at SFU, it was going to be at a football game. This is where the magic happens. At least that’s what ESPN tells me.

The SFU Clan’s home opener was against last year’s GNAC champion, the Humboldt State Lumberjacks. It was going to be tough. SFU was winless thus far, losing their first two games by a brutal 115-10 combined score. But I knew that if the Clan reached deep down within themselves, they could put up a good fight and-

Whoop! Humboldt State just scored. No worries. We just need to get it together and-

D’oh! They just scored again. It’s okay. We knew this was gonna be tough, but-

Whammo! It’s 21-0 and the 1st Quarter isn’t even over yet!

Hoo boy, this got ugly fast.

Yes, it was a beatdown. Humboldt State emerged victorious, winning 56-24 in a game that was never in question. The Clan are now 0-3 and this is starting to look like another hopeless season where all we can hope for is a fluke win somewhere down the line. The defense couldn’t do anything to stop Humboldt State and got run over throughout the game. After a putrid first half, the offense at least managed to collect themselves enough to get some solid points on the board. Backup runningback Jalen Jana, the game’s lone standout for the Clan, had a phenomenal game, exploding for 262 yards that included a 52-yard rushing TD and a 14-yard TD pass. The kid’s got game, so I hope the Clan quickly figures out how to make good use of him. Because clearly we need all the help we can get.

(You know you’re grasping for something to be hopeful about when you’re talking about what worked in a game you lost by 32 points.)

Joining the NCAA has not been kind to the SFU football program. Since becoming a member of the Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC) as a Division II school in 2010, the Clan currently sports a 14-47 record and hasn’t won a game since October 18, 2014. Their best record was 5-6 in 2012 and they’ve yet to make the playoffs. Despite their boasts about being the only Canadian school in the NCAA, the Clan are quickly establishing themselves as the Cleveland Browns of GNAC, and SFU’s inability to put together a decent football season makes me wonder if the move was perhaps not the wisest decision after all.

Despite the lackluster performance on the field, I did appreciate the athletic department’s work to make the game experience as enjoyable as possible. Hosted in Swangard Stadium, a decent off-campus facility and the former home of the Vancouver Whitecaps FC, the Clan provided all the bells and whistles they could muster: cheerleaders doing actual cheerleader things, bench players greeting fans as they entered the stadium, local high school football teams running minigames at halftime, and even a contest featuring SFU students attempting to hit a 35-yard field goal to win free tuition.1 And in return they got a decently-sized crowd to turn up, consisting mostly of players’ families, but there were a fair amount of current SFU students there as well.2 For those who couldn’t make it to the game, SFU even provided a surprisingly decent YouTube stream for the game with commentators and everything.3 Basically, if you’re an SFU student, you have no excuse for missing out on the experience.4

Of course, you can only put so much lipstick on a pig. It’s not fun watching your team get their teeth get kicked in. It’s especially not fun when you know, deep down, that they never really had a shot in the first place. How do you build enthusiasm around a losing cause? The athletics department’s marketing and events teams are clearly trying to make these football games as fun as they can be, but at the end of the day, the team itself needs to be entertaining. And they can be! As I noted before, the Clan has shown that they have some talented players that are fun to watch. But you gotta win games, and it’s gotten so bad that right now fans would settle for the “glory days” of that 5-6 season. When SFU, a school of 35,000, can’t compete with a school of 8,000, a change clearly needs to be made.

The potential is there. Any team can turn things around. Humboldt State, the school that just pounded the tar out of the Clan, went winless in 2013, then won a championship just a couple seasons later. It can be done! But in the meantime, you can dress it up all you want, but there’s only so much you can do to sell a bad team. Vancouver is a fickle sports market. We’ll rave about a winner, but losers are forgotten in an instant. Put together a team that wins games and you won’t need all that extra stuff to market the Clan.

And please do it quickly. Homecoming is coming up.5

NEXT WEEK: I travel to the Bill Copeland Sports Centre to watch SFU Hockey host those ding-dang-diddly Trinity Western Spartans for their final preseason game of the year.

  1. They failed. 
  2. The crowd wasn’t even close to reaching stadium capacity, so there’s still a ways to go. 
  3. It was significantly better than the stream put on by Idaho State a couple weeks ago, so kudos to SFU for putting in the effort. 
  4. Unless, of course, you don’t actually like football. Heathen! 
  5. October 1st at the SFU campus! Be there! 

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