Tyler Crapigna, Aram Eisho and Kevin Malcolm have been selected in the fifth and seventh rounds respectively, and for Assistant Coach Jon Behie, these selections are well-deserved.

“It’s certainly not a shock that any of those guys got selected,” said Behie.

The highest-scouted CFL prospect of the three was Tyler Crapigna, who was selected 40th overall by the Calgary Stampeders.

His success and drafting eligibility is something that the coaches saw coming early on in his collegiate career.

“Tyler was one of the highest-scouted recruits as a kicker that we’ve ever brought in, and he certainly lived up to that billing” said Behie.

“We had assumed throughout his career that he would be selected for the CFL draft at some point.”

Behie notes Crapigna’s ability to keep calm under pressure as a valuable asset that he is carrying with him in to the draft.

This quality of his was on full display in the 2011 Vanier Cup Championship final when his dramatic final kick is ultimately what got them to win the Cup.

“He missed that first (kick) in regulation, and then bounced back and kicked the winner probably 15 minutes later, that’s a good attribute for a kicker is a short memory and he’s got that.”

Crapigna’s potential was recognized by the coaching staff years ago, and his preparation, skill and experience in high-pressured situations are an added bonus for him in the draft.

“He’s been preparing for this for a long time and he’s definitely ready,” added Behie.

Aram Eisho, on the other hand, was picked 56th overall in the final round by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Eisho, who was named to the Marauders roster for three years, brings both accolades and lots of energy to the 2014 draft.

“He’s very, very accomplished,” said Behie.

Eisho was a standout linebacker in high school, and was the CJFL defensive player of the year for three years in a row.

More recently he was named the OUA defensive player of the year and President’s trophy recipient in 2012.

“He’s a straight-up gamer, and a guy that’s going to bring a lot of energy to the next level , and his enthusiasm for the game is definitely on display anytime he steps onto the field,” said Behie.

The Marauders have benefitted from Eisho’s competitive drive and enthusiasm in their consecutive Vanier Cup final runs, and his heart and passion for the game of football is something that will not go unnoticed by the Blue Bombers coaching staff.

Lastly, offensive lineman Kevin Malcolm was the final player chosen in the draft, selected 65th overall by the Ottawa Redblacks.

“Kevin does one of the hardest things to do, and that’s throw a football between your legs while upside down, fifteen yards, and he does it very, very, very well,” said Behie.

Malcolm has never missed a snap in his four seasons as a Marauder, which is something that the Ottawa Redblacks have recognized and appreciate.

“It’s such a valuable thing, and some teams may take it for granted,” said Behie.

“But I’m glad Ottawa saw that and understands that it is a difficult thing, and that (Kevin) could have a great career just snapping a football,” added Behie.

Over the last two years, the Marauders have been able to produce eight CFL prospects, with last year’s draft consisting of Matt Sewell, Ben D’Aguilar, Mike DiCroce, Spencer Moore and Michael Daly.

Behie credits the athletes for their dedication and hard work that they have put in that has led to their recognition from the CFL.

“It’s safe to say that they might have been in this position, and probably would have been in this position no matter what school they chose, and that’s because they’re extremely talented football players and great guys,” said Behie.

The players have also been able to maximize their potential through the renowned facilities and programs that McMaster has in place.

“We offer opportunity through our systems that we run and through our schemes to prepare them mentally for the next level, and the way we structure our strength and conditioning and the facilities that we have to offer are all considered world-class, and that certainly contributes to them reaching their potential as well” added Behie.

The ability of the Marauders coaching staff to recruit these accomplished and talented athletes also does not go unnoticed, as the coaches showing an interest in these players has given them both confidence and interest to come to McMaster in the first place and to work hard to make the roster.

Once they make the roster, the rest is up to them.

For Crapigna, Eisho and Malcolm, the hardest part of the draft is underway.

They are currently trying out for their respective teams and need to make an impression early.

Although they will have to work extremely hard at try-outs to prove themselves and to stand-out as players and people, Assistant Coach Behie has all the faith in the world for his athletes.

“They just have to keep doing what they’ve been doing. They’ve gotten to this point through hard work and perseverance and dedication to the game of football, so if they just keep going with that, they’re going to be just fine, because all three are extremely talented young guys.”

Take a look through basketball rosters at almost every level - house league, university, and international. They all feature someone titled “team manager” or some variety of the term.

There is no real information in those four syllables, though. Team managers are ubiquitous and necessary in basketball circles, but the job description varies from team to team. In a game where positions like centre and small forward are beginning to veer away from their traditional sense, the team manager is on the opposite end – there has never really been a tradition.

Ask Anne Marie Thuss, - team manager for Canada Basketball’s Senior Women’s National Team, starting with the national sport organization in 2000, and assistant coach with the McMaster women’s basketball program – what her job entails and she echoes the above sentiments.

“My role can best be defined by doing anything that’s required, quietly, so that the coaches and support staff can maximize their energy to do their job and athletes can minimize distractions,” said Thuss.

That is a humble description for a job that can be incredibly stressful. Thuss tells stories about taking back roads in China with a bellhop to a house in order to access the Internet and communicate with Canada Basketball officials that the team has arrived safely and everything is okay. She boasts that she can get water, ice and laundry done in five different languages. Thuss would give a kiss to a transportation officer in the Dominican Republic to ensure that her team would have priority in the organizational hell that was the D.R.’s bus terminal.

Really, as a team manager with Canada Basketball, she has to be the feet on the ground to make things happen and to solve a problem. You could not train someone to do this job in a classroom – they would have to go out and experience it.

Those hardly capture what she has done as the behind-the-scenes maestro. Colleagues at Canada Basketball always say the same things about her, unsolicited; “Anne Marie is so calm. I don’t know how she does.”

Bottom-line: Thuss gets shit done.

“As a manager, you have to be a calm in a storm. You’ve got to have enhanced emotional intelligence and problem-solving skills,” said Thuss.

She started out with Allison McNeill, who was coaching the junior women’s program. Canada Basketball wanted someone who could relate to that 16-17 year-old group, and Thuss worked in high schools. She had seven years of assistant coaching experience at York University with Bill Pangos and his women’s team, so Thuss fit the bill. Doing stats and acting as a “sounding board” as Thuss puts it, a role was carved out for her in the Canada Basketball sphere. Shortly after, McNeill was moved up to coach the senior women’s program and asked Thuss to join her on the bench for the premier Canadian women’s team.

And the experience was, in a word, awesome. Thuss speaks glowingly about working with McNeill and now McMaster alumnus Lisa Thomaidis, referring to both as world-class coaches and giving credit to them for her growth as a leader.

But Thuss goes beyond someone who is an expert problem-solver – during games she is tasked with analyzing offensive production and making recommendations in game. A Math major, Thuss says this is the biggest strength she brings to the bench, as she is able to quickly turn around a piece of work.

And do not underestimate the importance of a calming presence on the bench. With McMaster, Thuss is typically the first person a post player will come talk to after picking up a critical foul in a game. She can mellow a player out and help them make adjustments on either end through a quick chat on the bench, and this was key in Mac’s success this season.

In 2013, the Canadian Senior Women’s National Team held training camp in the Burridge Gym and Thuss brought in some of the younger Marauder players to watch the practices. She describes it as a positive experience for them, to see how Canada’s top athletes bring a certain extreme intensity to every single possession.

But you would not know any of this stuff about Anne-Marie Thuss unless you asked. Towards the end of the interview, she asked for this story to “not be a big deal.” She did not want the attention - a modest request from someone who is integral to success.

It is a move that should have happened years ago, but nonetheless, it is here.

In a press release, Ontario University Athletics (OUA) announced a partnership with Stretch Internet to create OUA.tv – the central home for streaming the league’s football and basketball games. Previously, individual schools would broadcast the games on their websites. McMaster used their athletic domain, marauders.ca, to stream games, while some schools used YouTube services or alternative domains. More sports will be added in the future, per the OUA, and championships for volleyball, rugby and soccer will be featured.

With OUA.tv, fans don’t have to scour through Twitter feeds to find stream links or deal with a bombardment of ads on athletics pages. Instead, it’s a one-stop shop. According to the press release, you only have to go to one place to watch the game of your choosing.

OUT WEST
To say this is a positive step for the league would be an understatement. Atlantic University Sport and Canada West have already successfully implemented similar programs and as the reality is fewer and fewer students are buying cable packages, the OUA’s desired market cannot watch the broadcasts on Sportsnet. When the Score was more than just a website and super-app, they would stream games online and put together a fantastic product, but that ceased when Rogers bought out the channel and rebranded it to Sportsnet 360.

But the relationship between Sportsnet and OUA football appears to have follow the same trajectory of a summer fling – beautiful at the start, full of effort and promise, before slowly falling apart and becoming nothing worth maintaining. While nothing is official yet, the OUA released their football schedule in April, but Sportsnet was not mentioned in the press release once.

And that is probably for the better anyways. OUA.tv may seem unconventional in comparison to a TV deal, but there are a ton of awesome nuggets that come with the new program and a seeming lack of handcuffs. For one, games will now be archived immediately after the conclusion of the game, meaning you can easily access a highlight or catch up on a game that you missed. This is especially beneficial for media who may not have been able to catch the game but still want to report on it, or die-hard fans that want to be able to watch all games. Last season, games were all played on similar timelines – usually 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. tip-offs – making it impossible to catch both games if you were attending one.

There will also be live stats with the game, catering to a new generation of fans who use statistics to understand the game more than ever before. Live stats also means that you will not have to turn up the volume and pray the announcing crew gives you the score once a minute. Muting without consequences. 

And if those were not enough to perk your ears, Stretch Internet stated that you can use Google Chromecast or Apple TV to stream the game to a television, which is one of the minor aspects of the announcement but could actually be one of the widely appreciated aspects in five years. If you’ve ever had more than two people try to watch a game before, I am sure you know what I’m talking about. A 13 to 15-inch screen does not cut it for an intense playoff basketball game. On the other end, you’ll be able to watch games on tablets and smartphones – an embracement of modern digital culture.

THE CATCH
For all the positives, there remain some questions. While the issues range in importance, the wary student audience will magnify any obvious quirk or negative aspect to OUA.tv. One of the major problems will be streaming quality.

Right now, that quality varies from borderline unwatchable to 720p. Ryerson and Queen’s have put together very professional products, while others schools have been a downright embarrassment. You can imagine the OUA will put some pressure on those schools to beef up the quality, but that could be a tough ask of those with smaller budgets.

Then, there is the issue of staffing the broadcasts. At McMaster, the department struck a deal with Mohawk to use co-op students to take the lead on broadcasts. A major shout-out is in order for the athletics and recreation group since the broadcasts were sleek, had multiple camera angles and were orchestrated well. But not every school has that luxury, and it remains to be seen how a school would be able to corral the bodies necessary for doing a broadcast.

Finally, the problem of commentary: the OUA press release states that all games will have a play-by-play and commentary team. Sure, this seems like a minor issue and it was mentioned above that live stats mean you can mute them. But a broadcast team should not be bad to the point of muting. Avid followers of CIS athletics probably have a sore neck from nodding, and the criticism is true. Broadcast teams are usually one or all of the three: uninformed on the sport or league, biased, and/or reluctantly broadcasting. Having someone with any of those three qualities drastically diminishes the professionalism of the product, and it would probably be better to have just the sounds of the gym than two talking heads.

A BETTER PRODUCT
And really, that is what the OUA.tv project comes down to: a move towards a professional product. All major sport leagues have this kind of system to accompany their television contracts, and the OUA joins that company with this deal. The content will never come close to the level of the pros or their NCAA counterparts, but the production just might. OUA.tv could be a catapult, taking a league that is largely an afterthought in the minds of students into the conversation of something worth paying attention to, and possibly, eventually, paying for.

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