‘It’s catastrophic’: Doug Brown, Glen Suitor mourn loss of Simon Fraser football program

Photos courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com. Photo edit: 3DownNation.

Two of the most recognizable alumni of Simon Fraser University’s football program are deeply saddened that the team has shuttered its doors.

“It’s unbelievable that this chapter is closed,” Doug Brown told 3DownNation on Tuesday. “There’s going to be a lot of people in shock and it’s catastrophic in terms of amateur football. The collapse of an amateur football program that has added so much character and history to pro football in Canada, it’s just unbelievable that it’s come down to this.”

Simon Fraser announced its decision to cancel their football program on Tuesday amid an inability to find new a home conference.

The team moved to the Lone Star Conference (LSC) in the southwestern U.S. in 2022 but didn’t have their membership renewed beyond the 2023 season. The school claimed to have “carefully considered all available options” for its future, though a U Sports spokesperson told Postmedia on Tuesday that Simon Fraser did not submit an application to rejoin their ranks.

Brown always assumed that Simon Fraser would simply move back to U Sports if they were unable to find a long-term home in the NCAA. The club competed in U Sports from 2002 to 2009 after being a member of National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) from the team’s inception in 1965 all the way until 2001.

“That’s what is so shocking to me is that instead of trying to explore other avenues they just shut the door,” said Brown. “It’s very shocking.”

Glen Suitor is optimistic that Simon Fraser’s decision to discontinue its football program will end up being temporary. In the meantime, he’s upset on behalf of the student-athletes who will have to make other arrangements if they hope to play in 2023.

“It’s really sad. I’ve been texting with some of the guys that I used to play with and wondering about whether there’ll be accountability for a really bad decision in my opinion, but that doesn’t solve the issue. I hope that this is a pause and a regroup and that they can reapply to U Sports,” he said.

“I believe that Canadian football players and Canadian athletes can compete with anyone in the world when given the opportunity. And there’ll be less opportunities now in our great game because of the loss of this program. I hope there’s an effort here to maybe put it on pause, regroup, see if there can be some new financing somehow and then try and apply to be included in the U Sports programs.”

Suitor is fearful that Simon Fraser’s collapse could lead to other organizations cancelling their football programs due to the rising costs affiliated with the sport. He wants to see leaders at all levels of Canadian football — youth, flag, high school, U Sports, and the CFL — come together and prevent any further erosion of the game in our country.

“I hope to see other programs meet immediately with their staffs and their administrations and say, ‘Let’s make sure that we don’t allow this to be a slippery slope.’ That we step back and we strengthen rather than start to have the discussions as to whether or not we should have football,'” said Suitor.

“We’re still a whole bunch of separate entities that are not competing, but are not really collaborating either. And that’s got to change.”

Brown recently ordered a new Simon Fraser t-shirt and hoodie directly from the school and couldn’t imagine the team disbanding before he got the opportunity to wear them for a game.

“I think they’re underestimating the kind of reaction or response they’re gonna get from alumni across Canada. Simon Fraser University football is the foundation and the basis of so many professional football careers, be it in the CFL or in the NFL,” said Brown.

“This is not a decision I would want under my name if I was an administrator at that school because it’s a colossal failure and it starts at the top.”

Simon Fraser has churned out some of the CFL’s most recognizable players over the last 60 years, including Lui Passaglia, Dan Ferrone, Dave Cutler, Rick House, Nick Mazzoli, Orville Lee, Bob Molle, Greg Frers, Angus Reid, Sean Millington, Obby Khan, Brown, and Suitor.

Active CFL players who came out of Simon Fraser include Michael Couture, Lemar Durant, Jordan Herdman-Reed, Justin Herdman-Reed, Rysen John, and Ante Milanovic-Litre.

“What a colossal failure and blight on that university and the athletic program, just a massive failure that I cannot overstate,” said Brown. “I think there should be consequences for administrators that are allowing this to happen and that have taken this leadership stance because I think it’s absurd.”

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.