The 2014 Varsity Blues football season is regarded as the year of record-breaking individual performances, rather than the year of wins. The three-month football season, which started August 15 and ended October 18 in a game against the Waterloo Warriors, didn’t play out as coaches and teammates had expected. The Blues finishing with a record of 2-6.

Training camp in August dealt with competition and a new strategy. Luigi Costanzo, the Blues’ new offensive coordinator, and Kevin Eiben, the new defensive coordinator, were at the helm calling offensive and defensive plays for the Blues while fourth-year head coach Greg Gary evaluated the talent. He was pleased with what he saw during the first week.

“Last year [2013] felt good, but this year seems right,” Gary said at the beginning of the season. “The feeling’s different in the program.”

There were many spectacular performances and achievements made by Blues players this year. Fifth-year quarterback Simon Nassar broke U of T records in highest completion percentage (63.93%) and most completions (205), and led the Blues to 3,772 total offensive yards.

Aaron Gazendam broke a CIS record for longest punt (101 yards), which is the fourth-longest punt in the history of American and Canadian football.

Second-year running back Levi Noel was named to the second team all-Canadian CIS team with his outstanding accomplishments. Noel led all players in the OUA and CIS with 126.3 yards per game and finished the season with a total of 758 yards off 49 catches.

Even though most players did very well on offence, their defensive counterparts had a difficult time withstanding the power of other CIS teams, which led to disappointing losses. The Blues’ defence allowed 40.1 PPG and was 23rd of 27 teams in yards per game allowed (518.6). Reality hit hard once they finished their first two games of the year, losing to Laurier 53-17 and Guelph 50-18, games they thought they could win in training camp.

The brightest point of the season for the Blues as a unit was beating their rivals, the York Lions, 70-0 at Varsity Stadium.

After that high note, the team collapsed with a four-game losing streak to take away any hopes of making the playoffs for the first time in 20 years. Although they did finish the season with a win against the Waterloo Warriors, beating them 61-13 at Varsity, the season was disappointing for Blues players and fans.

Coach Gary believes that the team will accomplish more if everyone buys into the program. “Instead of being the team that beats the bottom-feeders and loses to the top teams, we’re striving to become one of the most dominant teams in the league,” he says. “We want to bring back the winning tradition.”

This offseason, the Blues are taking their poor season very seriously—if anyone is not committed each and every day, they will no longer be invited to participate with the team since their attitudes and athletic abilities could hurt the team once the 2015 season begins. “Compete”, “education”, “accountability”, and “tradition” are the four words posted in the team’s locker room to remind them of what is expected of them and what it means to be a part of the storied team and institution.

Simon Nassar believes in those four words wholeheartedly and believes his team will be extremely competitive next season.

“‘Compete’ means looking at the man across from you and doing anything in your power to beat him,” says Nassar, arguably the best quarterback in the CIS. “‘Education’ means finishing your schoolwork so you can not only play during the season, but graduate from such a great school. ‘Accountability’ is taking responsibility for yourself so you can be a reliable resource to the team. And ‘tradition’ means respecting the past players and coaches who built this team into what it is today.”

The Blues will work this offseason diligently, putting in hours lifting weights and practicing in the dome at Varsity Stadium in preparation for a 2015 campaign starting in September.

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