The Toronto sports media have never met an axe they couldn’t grind—especially when it involves the Toronto Maple Leafs. Contrary to what you might’ve read, however, the Leafs actually are not the worst franchise in the history of professional sports. We know they haven’t made the playoffs since 2004; the way they’re covered in the local media, however, you’d think they hadn’t won a single game since 2001.
Which brings us to the University of Toronto men’s football team—another local sports team that wears blue and white, but one that is actually on the verge of setting an all-time mark for futility.
Saturday’s 50–7 loss to the Ottawa Gee-Gees was the Varsity Blues’ 43rd in a row (they’d already opened the 2007 season with a 42-17 loss to the Waterloo Warriors in the inaugural game at the new Varsity Centre). The current Canadian Interuniversity Sport record for consecutive losses is 47, set by the York Lions. Barring any unforeseen events (i.e., a win), U of T will break it on October 13 against the Western Mustangs. Coincidentally, October 13 would mark the six-year anniversary of the team’s most recent victory: a 13–11 squeaker over the Windsor Lancers. Since then the Varsity Blues have gone more than five full seasons without registering a win. They’ve gotten close—they even took York to overtime in 2005—but haven’t quite sealed the deal. As a consequence, a new recruit who joined the team in 2002 or 2003 would’ve likely graduated by now without experiencing the thrill of victory a single time.
The 2003 season was especially rough: not only did the team not win, they never even got close. In eight games, U of T was outscored by an astonishing 438–42 margin. They didn’t score a single point until their fourth game of the season. By then, they’d lost their first three games by a combined score of 183–0. Allowing 183 points in three consecutive games of a sport that isn’t basketball is mind-boggling; not scoring a single point in a sport (or at least a variation of a sport) that’s noted for its high scoring is almost as baffling.
It’s a sad state of affairs for a once-proud football program that won a national championship as recently as 1993. Neate Sager, who runs the excellent sports blog Out of Left Field, effectively crystallizes the school’s plight: “Recruiting is tough when faced with poor facilities, few fans, high admission standards, and the reality Toronto probably has the highest cost-of-living for students, which crosses the Blues off the list of many players from average middle-class backgrounds, a description which applies to most football players.” He might’ve added: “Also, they haven’t won a game since October 2001.” It’s a vicious cycle—the team can’t win without better players, but they can’t attract better players without first improving the program. And so The Streak continues, with no immediate sign of a reprieve: the Blues’ next two opponents are Laurier and McMaster, two of the most powerful teams in the Ontario conference.
Their next opponent after that is the York Lions. The Blues’ biggest rivals also represent their best chance at a victory in 2007. A win would end The Streak at 46, one short of the all-time record; we readily acknowledge the inherent schadenfreude associated with watching a team making a run at an all-time futility mark, but we think it’d be even nicer watching them pull off a win. If not, then Toronto will have a team in blue and white uniforms that epitomizes futility in their respective sport. And much to the chagrin of the local sports media, it won’t be the Maple Leafs.
Photo of the Varsity Centre by gbalogh from the Torontoist Flickr Pool. Photo of the dropped pass from the Varsity Blues Football website.