Tsumura: UBC football booster Sidoo aims for Vanier Cup game in Vancouver

As crazy as it sounds, in the span of 12 months David Sidoo has turned Vancouver into CIS football country.

Now Sidoo, the driving force behind the resurgence of UBC Thunderbirds football says that in the near future he would like to see the nation’s showcase collegiate game, the Vanier Cup, played in Vancouver.

“We have great plans and I just finished talking to the university, and (UBC) president Martha Piper is interested in looking at it,” said Sidoo, who through his leading efforts with the 13th Man Foundation, has not only injected the major capital required to make the Birds a national contender, but has done so as a passionate alumnus of a program he helped lead to the 1982 Vanier Cup title.

“We just finished having a meeting, and she asked me, ‘Do we have a shot at it?’”

Considering how doggedly Sidoo pursued and ultimately hired one of the most successful CIS coaches of the current generation in Blake Nill — a man who has miraculously guided UBC to this Saturday’s Vanier Cup final against Montreal (10 a.m., Sportsnet 360) after inheriting a 2-6 team — you have to like UBC’s chances.

Sidoo’s efforts this past year alone have led to the recruitment of former Penn State redshirt Michael O’Connor as the team’s starting quarterback, upgrades at Thunderbird Stadium, and the construction of the football team’s new $1.1-million Learning Centre for Academic Assistance.

CIS sources indicate that future Vanier Cup sites for 2016 and 2017 could be announced soon, and that while they have heard nothing official from UBC, having the game played at B.C. Place by as early as 2018 isn’t out of the question.

Given the level of recruits Nill is capable of bringing to the Point Grey campus, and the fact that O’Connor would be a seasoned, fourth-year pivot by that point, it’s an opportunity the program can’t afford to miss.

“That would be fantastic,” said Sidoo, a wealthy industrialist who went on to play in the CFL after finishing his UBC career. “It would definitely be a real coup, because of Michael and all the young players Blake is bringing in here. We’re going to have a solid foundation, so at some point we’d love to host the Vanier Cup here in Vancouver.”

Jim Mullin, the voice of Canada West football broadcasts on Shaw TV, served as the Vancouver director of the Vanier Cup when the game was played here in 2011.

Despite having two eastern teams playing in the final — Hamilton’s McMaster and Quebec’s Laval — Mullin’s efforts led to a complete lower-bowl sellout crowd of 25,000 at B.C. Place.

“I think it could do phenomenally well,” said Mullin. “I think a good trial model to build fan support would be to get the Shrum Bowl (UBC vs. SFU) on line in 2016 so you could test game readiness in a facility like B.C. Place for two years before you bring the big national event in.”

Nill, who on Saturday becomes the first coach in Canadian history to lead three different programs (St. Mary’s, Calgary, UBC) to a Vanier final, said Monday from the championship site in Laval that a strong CIS presence on the West Coast is essential to the health of the game nationwide.

“It’s critical to be strong on the West Coast, just like it is critical we’re strong on the East Coast, in Halifax,” said Nill. “So we need to be bringing marquee events to Vancouver, and UBC would be a tremendous place to run a Vanier Cup from.”

(Photo: David Sidoo, centre, a member of UBC’s 1982 Vanier Cup-winning team, has played a major role in the renaissance of the Thunderbirds’ football program. Bob Frid/UBC athletics - Bob Frid)

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