In a first for UW, East-West Bowl to be hosted on May 11


UW will be hosting the 2024 East-West Bowl for the first time. The university football event has not taken place in Waterloo since it was first hosted by Laurier over 20 years ago, heightening pressure for UW sports faculty and athletes who have been working to prepare for this event for months. 

Athletes from all Canadian university football teams will be arriving in Waterloo on Monday, May 6 to begin the week-long event, which includes training, evaluation from Canadian Football League (CFL) coaches, practice game days, an athletes banquet, a coaches clinic, and a game on the final day.

The coaches clinic is scheduled to take place from Friday afternoon to Saturday morning,  May 10-11, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. It will be open to all youth sports and high school coaches seeking to improve professional development in the field. Fourteen of the 27 U football coaches plan to speak at the event, offering professional insight and answering questions from other coaches. “This is about professional development, and being the best coach you can be. You can’t just be in your own little box, you know,” said Chris Bertoia, head coach of the UW football team. “You have to go outside your box and learn different things, because the game is ever changing, and so are the kids.”

A total of 100 of Canada’s best university football players will be attending the East-West Bowl, with a minimum participation of three athletes from each of the 27 Canadian U football teams. Athletes will be competing to make the 2025 CFL draft, as the event is one of their greatest opportunities to be noticed for their athletic qualifications. Their skills will be evaluated by CFL scouts, managers and coaches based on their performance on the field and on exercise days. 

“It wouldn’t be such a massive event if there wasn’t a direct, ‘Hey, this is your route to get noticed by CFL scouts,’” said Matthew Fraser, UW offensive line coach. “In the end, if you’re good enough, scouts are going to find you, this is just a great way for them to get an early glimpse at you, to get yourself on their radar.”

The East-West Bowl gives university athletes a springboard into higher levels of athletics. “Forty-seven U sports players were drafted of the 74 players drafted in the CFL draft,” Bertoia said. “I think 38 of those 47 players played in last year’s East-West Bowl.” 

This importance is part of the reason why the event has gone on since 2003 (except for 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic). However, UW was the only school who offered to host the event this year, as costs for preparations have become a major challenge for universities to fit into their budget. “Prior to COVID – in 2010-2011, we were able to get $10,000 a team from the CFL. So $90,000 of funding for this game. The CFL cut that in half,” Bertoia said, “There’s budget cuts everywhere, so for a lot of teams, it’s a non-starter. For a lot of universities, it’s a non-starter.” 

UW is aiming to revive an event that otherwise may not have taken place without the initiative of its directors and organizers. Improving the experience for athletes with the reintroduction of an athletic banquet (which was cut in recent years), increasing outreach with social media sports creators who will be interviewing coaches and athletes, and creating a positive brand image for UW are all essential focuses for the organizers. “Our goal is that they leave campus with a great impression of what we’re doing here, because that’s what builds our brand, ultimately,” Bertoia said.

The East-West Bowl will take place at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 11 at Warrior Field. Tickets can be purchased online.