Animal Bowl


With eight seconds still on the clock, the fans are already on the field and they’re taking the southern goal posts out of the ground. The northern goal posts — away from the play — are already gone, taken out by anxious fans while there are still two minutes left.

That capped off a day filled with fights, riots, smoke bombs, and mayhem. And a football game.

SFU easily won the Gordon Shrum Trophy in the first football matchup against their natural rivals: UBC. Though the score was only 32–13, it wasn’t much of a game according to some of those watching. To some, it was a disgrace.

“I can think of no good reason for continuing this game next year,” said Denny Boyd of the Vancouver Sun. “I think it was lousy football and the behavior of both student bodies was juvenile.”

But to others, it was a lot of fun. The man himself, Gordon Shrum, said the crowd had “exuberant spirit.”

And perhaps to Boyd’s chagrin, the game did continue — amidst the chaos and scheduling conflicts — and became the defining symbol of the rivalry between the two schools.


[dropcap]T[/dropcap]o begin, we’ll have to go way back. Many now know Gordon Shrum as the inaugural chancellor of SFU, and perhaps as the father of the institution. Those from the 1960s are more likely to remember him from his time as chairman at BC Hydro, and as a master manager with a keen ability to get things done.

Lesser known, however, are his contributions to football.

Shrum arrived at UBC in 1925 as a member of the faculty of physics, coming fresh off a stint as a research assistant at the University of Toronto, where he gained fame for liquefying helium. The UBC football team was founded the year before.

“He was an academic,” said Fred Hume, a UBC historian. “But he also had an interest in football, and had really liked the American model.”

“He liked the idea of football bringing alumni back, [creating] school identity, spirit, all of those things.”

Shrum, who did not come from a football background, and was a self-described “novice” in sports such as basketball and rugby, explained in his autobiography, “I had always been a strong supporter of student athletics…Growing up on a farm, I had never had an opportunity to participate in sports, and I regretted this all my life. I wanted to give others a chance to participate at a high level.”

Before long, in addition to his duties as a professor, he became involved in administration, quickly gaining a reputation as a skilled organizer and a hard worker, sitting on an estimated 30 committees.

Influential during the building of UBC’s first sports stadium in 1937, Shrum tried to build up all UBC sports, not just football.

He raised money for the athletics program, he hired top-tier coaches, and even tried to recruit top-end talent. In 1953, Shrum hired Don Coryell to coach the Thunderbirds — Coryell would go on to become a head coach in the NFL twenty years later. Shrum also assisted in attempting to recruit future San Francisco 49er fullback John Henry Johnson, who retired fourth in all-time pro rushing yards.

However, Shrum’s dream for an American-style football program would run into many roadblocks. UBC was more into British university traditions, centered around soccer and rugby, and as Hume puts it, “not playing sports for the glory of the school” as US universities do. And though the school had other means of financially enticing student athletes, the school did not hand out athletic scholarships — a policy that Shrum wanted to change.

The UBC football team struggled, as Shrum couldn’t quite do what he wanted. His hire, Coryell, would leave the university after two years with a 2–16 record, going back to the US, where he would later be credited with innovating the pass offence. John Henry Johnson predictably did not end up at UBC.

If only Shrum could have his own university, where he could make the rules. In 1961, Shrum was forced to retire from UBC as he was 65 years old, the mandatory retirement age — however, he had other ideas. Then-premier WAC Bennett put Shrum in charge of BC Electric — now BC Hydro — and in charge of the Peace River Dam Project.

Shrum did a good enough job, that in 1963, Bennett called him up again for a new project — to build a new university. Now, Shrum could do things his way.

At this new institution, they would give out athletic scholarships, play against American schools, and make the other Canadian universities mad.

Thus, a rivalry was born.


[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n 1965, Shrum appointed Lorne Davies, a former coach at UBC who had both playing and coaching experience in the US, to head SFU’s athletic department. Davies would also serve as the head coach of the football team for its first eight seasons.

The SFU Clansmen burst out of the gate without a league, as the Canadian collegiate system wouldn’t allow them to play because of their athletic scholarships. SFU played surprisingly decent football for a first year institution — with a 2–3 record in the 1965 season — but were left without any real rivals, and as of yet, no bowl game or playoffs to look forward to.

Shrum wanted the Clan to eventually compete in the Rose Bowl. Considering the minute funding and the fact that they weren’t even in the right league, that was not even a remote possibility.

However, the perfect rivals were right here, about 30 kilometres away: UBC.In 1966, Davies called off a UBC-SFU football game, as well as a basketball game between the two schools.

However, in 1967, it was game on — the two schools would meet and play American rules football. The date: October 16. The venue: Empire Stadium (then home to the CFL’s BC Lions). The prize: The Gordon Shrum Trophy, and of course, the right to be called the best in BC.

The year prior, UBC head coach Frank Gnup — who was actually hired by Shrum in 1955 — had reportedly boasted, “Tell SFU to come around in 10 years or so when they’re ready and we’ll  have some laughs,” calling SFU, “that elementary school on the hill.

By the time the game did come around though, both sides made the case that they were the underdog. The general consensus, however, was that UBC would win, as they were the more experienced football team. In addition, there was a considerable age gap between the two teams.

“We were playing guys who were a lot older than us,” said SFU’s Dave Cutler, a kicker and linebacker who would go on to a 15-year CFL career with the Edmonton Eskimos, noting that UBC had many guys already in their mid-20’s. “They were the cream of the crop in Vancouver in terms of football teams, and we were just the upstart up the hill. To play them was a huge honour, because we were playing one of the best teams in Canada.” clanbirds

A number of players had previously left SFU for the UBC program.

The two schools really took to the game, which drew an interest for university sports not seen before in BC. And it didn’t take long for the antics to begin.

Early one morning, SFU officials found that their practice field was defaced with the letters “U-B-C” burnt into the grass. In retaliation, some SFU students went to the UBC agriculture barn and spray-painted the cows with “S-F-U”, and released them onto the streets.

On the Sunday before the game, the UBC engineers kidnapped SFU’s student president, Art Weeks, taking him to UBC, with the intention of exhibiting him at the Monday night matchup. However, on Monday morning, some SFU students went and rescued the president, with The Peak reporting that it took only four SFU students to take on the 10 engineers holding him captive.

When the red-jacketed UBC engineers marched onto the SFU campus, and into the AQ, defensive back Jim Jardine noted that some football players had to be stopped from physically assaulting them.

“We had a number of coaches intercept members of the football team who were fully prepared to remove engineers,” he said. “That wouldn’t have gone over well.”

SFU fans, for their part, organized a pre-game bonfire before being bussed to the game, where it was rumoured they would burn an effigy of UBC’s head coach.

While the student body got into the antics around the game, for Shrum, the game was “the realization of a recurring dream which many of us had had at frequent intervals during the past 40 years.” In the program for the game, he continued, “Big time collegiate football has at last arrived in British Columbia. This is only the beginning.”

“The wholesome spirit of rivalry between UBC and SFU is good for both campuses, and I hope it spreads to the whole gambit of academics, intramural, and extramural activities.”

Before the game, Shrum paid the SFU team a visit, and his presence intimidated the lot.

“He was a really tall guy, he was about 6’3, 6’4, I remember he had a really long overcoat,” Cutler explained. “I can’t remember what he said, all I remember thinking was this was a big deal, we weren’t playing for marbles here, this was for the whole enchilada.”

This — plus a shoot-em-up movie that the team went to the night before (for “motivation” and so that the coaches could keep tabs on the players) — left the players fired up, ready to face their “Goliath” in front of almost 15,000 fans.

“We were a band of brothers and we were all going after the same holy grail,” said Cutler.

pullquote3 copy[dropcap]S[/dropcap]hrum kicked off to start the first ever Shrum Bowl at 8 pm, which followed parading UBC Queen candidates in convertibles, cheerleaders from both sides, and the Dal Richards band. The game did not start without incident though.

The engineers — who had purchased a block of 800 tickets — arrived, led by Lady Godiva on a white mare (a topless woman on a horse). As part of their entrance, they shot smoke bombs at the Simon Fraser east side stands.

The game itself was a little bit of a disappointment — at least for those UBC fans there actually to watch a game of football. SFU quarterback Wayne Holm took the game into his own hands, running three touchdowns himself, and passing for another two.

The slight underdog took clear control of the game, leading 32–0, not surrendering a score until 11 seconds had gone off the clock in the fourth quarter when UBC finally put up a touchdown. According to The Peak, UBC’s Ron Ritchie netted the team’s second touchdown after he “took a Clan punt on his own 25 yard line and took it back for a touchdown, running right past the last Clan defender who had his back turned to the play, arguing with a UBC player.” The game concluded 32–12 with SFU taking home the Gordon Shrum Trophy for the first time ever.

The antics did not end with the pre-game hijinks. The crowd took over as the main source of entertainment in the first half after the engineers “kidnapped” an SFU student. As SFU supporters rushed to his aid, a melee broke out in the northwest corner of the field. It took police 15 minutes to get things back under control.


The halftime show was headlined by a marching band from Bellingham, WA, but the fans easily supplied their own entertainment. An engineer ran erratically across the field with a highly productive smoke-torch; students hammed it up on the end of a chorus line; and a student dressed up to resemble an ape to taunt the engineers.

At the end of the game, orange smoke bombs were thrown onto the field. And yes, fans dashed away with the goalposts before the game even ended — though when the second one was taken, officials decided to call it a day, ending the game with eight seconds still on the clock.

While an untold amount of bottles, water bombs, and eggs were thrown, there was only one report of an injury. An SFU coed was struck by one of the smoke bombs — apparently rotten egg gas in balloons — and was led to a first aid station. She returned to watch the remainder of the game with a patch over one eye.

The rough and tumble atmosphere was hardly contained to those watching the game. There were a total of 45 penalties — 21 to UBC and 24 to SFU — and at least two players were tossed out of the game.

The event itself garnered mixed reactions.

“I must say that the display put on by both universities and the UBC engineers at the game on Monday night certainly deserves reproach,” wrote “P. Morgan,” a second year arts student in a letter to the editor of The Ubyssey.

“If this is what it represents, I feel digusted [sic] and ashamed to be a student at this university.” Shrum, however, loved the event, praising the “exuberant spirit,” despite “the actions of a few boorish, unidentified rowdies.”

Regardless of popular opinion, with the excitement over the first UBC-SFU football matchup, it appeared to be on its way to becoming an annual institution. And that it did — for another four years.


[dropcap]O[/dropcap]n October 21 1968, the second annual Shrum Bowl was held, and this time expectations were that the game was clearly in SFU’s favour.

“We became the guys to beat,” explained Cutler.

And SFU did not disappoint — winning the game 27–7. By the first half, the Clan were up 21–0, and Davies was so confident of a win that backup quarterback Dave Syme finished the game.

While SFU did not disappoint, the event wasn’t the spectacle the first one was. Only 5,187 fans showed up to the second contest — nearly a third of the fans from the first. The antics — the  UBC engineers were once again led to their seats by Lady Godiva and did a lap at halftime which provided a comical moment when her horse stopped halfway around and refused to move — were there, but naturally, with the lesser crowd, quieter than the year before.

“It never, ever had what the first one had,” said Chris Beaton, who played right tackle for the Clan and would go on to become the longest tenured coach in SFU football history.

A clear dominance by SFU led to less fans coming out to the games, and growing animosity between the two teams.

Shrum Bowl III would be the first game that UBC did not lose, ending in a 6–6 tie. It was finally a game that SFU and UBC appeared as two equals — UBC even had a chance to win it with a last second field goal kick. It was at the end of the game though, and with no timeouts left, UBC ran out of time without kicking. The newness of the bowl was apparent when there were no rules laid out about overtime and the game merely ended in a tie when the clock ran out. 


The rainy weather, however, likely downplayed whatever goodwill the competitive UBC squad brought. Attendance decreased from 4,001 to 3,131 from the third to the fourth bowl.

And whatever goodwill game number three earned, was completely wiped off the table when SFU would put up their biggest beatings yet in Shrum Bowls IV and V, dominating UBC 61–6 and 42–0 respectively.

These losses left UBC bitter, with then-assistant coach Tom Thomson telling The Ubyssey before Shrum Bowl V in 1971, “We do studies, then play football,” insinuating the belief by UBC’s personnel that SFU’s athletic scholarships and lower entrance standards were the reason for SFU’s much greater team.

“We shouldn’t have beaten them but the score shouldn’t have been that bad,” Frank Gnup told the media following the 1971 game before adding “I don’t think they’ll play the Shrum Bowl anymore.”

While Davies met with UBC to schedule game six, a week after the fifth, due to its lopsided nature the Shrum Bowl was called off. Though a good portion of the blame was placed on the gap between the two teams, it also didn’t help that the Canadian Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAU) — the league that UBC played in — decided that it didn’t want its members playing SFU.

The Shrum Bowl was dead. The dream was gone.


[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n 1978, the Shrum Bowl had been dormant for seven years, and now it was about to see its first revival. Gnup who had coached UBC for 18 years was fired in 1973, and sadly passed away three years later of a sudden heart attack. After one season under coach Norm Thomas, Frank Smith would arrive as the new head coach of the Thunderbirds in 1974. Despite going 1–8 in his first season, Smith would take UBC football new heights.

Though Gnup was seen by many of his players as a father figure and mentor, according to the UBC Hall of Fame he had learned to accept that “UBC’s players were those who came to school for an education first, football second.” shrumbowlattendance

Smith changed that. In a short time he was able to turn UBC around, leading them to a Hardy Cup (the Canada West conference trophy) victory in 1976. Smith was taking the Thunderbirds in the direction that Shrum had dreamed of while at UBC.

It’s only fitting that he’d be the one to lead UBC into battle against SFU once again.

In May 1978, the Canada West (UBC’s conference in the CIAU) decided to let UBC (and its other members) to once again play against SFU. But the deal for a new Shrum Bowl was far from done. Animosities over the layoff hindered negotiations. Disagreements over which sets of rules the game would be played under — SFU suggested alternating rules each year, while UBC insisted on Canadian rules (which SFU criticized, as UBC was responsible for BC high schools playing American rules in the 40s). The game looked like it might never happen.

Then UBC president Doug Kenny and SFU chancellor Paul Cote came up with an idea: a one-year, no future commitment deal for charity — the proceeds of the game would go to the United Way. The two sides couldn’t argue against charity, and Shrum Bowl VI was to be held Saturday, November 25. 

The one hitch was that this game was to be played under Canadian rules.

UBC wasn’t the only team that looked different on the sidelines — though still the athletic director, Lorne Davies had stepped down as SFU’s coach in 1972.

The week before, UBC had lost the Vanier Cup game (the CIAU championship) and now had to play an exhibition match against their crosstown rivals. “It’s kind of difficult to come back from winning the Grey Cup and then have to play another game against somebody who isn’t in your league,” said Smith.

The fans were back and over 12,000 fans crowded into Empire stadium to see the two teams. And this time, with a UBC team coming off of their best season in history, and the Clan’s historical dominance, it was bound to be good.

It ended up being close, as predicted. UBC’s quarterback Dan Smith played very well and threw for two touchdowns. SFU, on the other hand, earned most of their points off the foot of Walter Passaglia, the brother of CFL star and former SFU player, Lui Passaglia.

SFU would surrender their first Shrum Bowl, largely because of a failed fake-punt on their own 20. UBC capitalized and scored a touchdown to win 22–14.

Perhaps thanks to the fact that UBC won and was competitive, the game returned as a yearly event.

Even the fans came back the year after: 12,420 fans attended Shrum Bowl VII — and were treated to a 4–3 (for UBC) borefest of a game in poor weather. Because of the torrential downpour that accompanied the game, passing wasn’t an option and it therefore became a kicking contest.

The charity aspect may have deterred some of the shenanigans that were prevalent in the original series. The games were still rowdy — there was fight on the field in 1981 between students of both schools that interrupted a halftime presentation put on by United Way featuring wheelchair athletes showing off where its aid goes — but overall, it seemed a calmer event.

Unlike the 60s, where SFU never lost a game and UBC’s only solace was a tie, UBC seemed to have an upper hand in these contests. After UBC won the first two upon resumption of the bowl, SFU would destroy UBC 30–3 in 1980, but UBC repaid the favour swamping SFU 33–1 in 1981.

In 1982, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind who would win the game.The Thunderbirds had their best season in history up to that point, and just the week prior to the contest they had made it to the College Bowl and won their first Vanier Cup.

While SFU was perhaps the most competitive opponent the T-Birds faced all year, UBC still racked up a 14–0 lead in under eleven minutes of play. When the heavy rain started however, so did SFU’s game. Robert Reid led the charge and scored a touchdown and racked up 100 yards on 15 carries.

The bad weather didn’t allow much scoring in the second half. UBC ended their stellar season by proving they weren’t just the best team in the country, they were the best team in the city.

It seemed as though the game was now truly between two competitive rivals, and that there was some good football. Perhaps the event would finally be the annual game that Shrum dreamed of.

However, it was only a matter of time that scheduling problems would arise. According to The Province, “the CIAU put the kibosh on the game’s late November date” — right after the Vanier Cup. They didn’t like the attention SFU was taking away from UBC’s CIAU priorities — notably, they were unhappy in 1981 when three UBC players skipped their All-Canadian awards in Toronto to practice in Vancouver for the Shrum Bowl.

Once again, the Shrum Bowl would rest.


[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he Province reported that after a “lengthy lobbying period” by Frank Smith with the CIAU, that UBC got a bye week in the second week of September 1987.

And finally, the game would become the annual event so dreamed of before, with the teams playing 22 games in 23 years (with 1994 being the only victim of scheduling difficulties). Instead of taking place at one neutral stadium, the game would alternate between home fields: Swangard Stadium for SFU and Thunderbird Stadium for UBC.

And while the games of the late 70’s and the early 80’s were relatively quiet, the “exuberant spirit” came back in a big way.

For the 1987 contest, The AMS (UBC’s student society) tried to bring their fabled ‘Trojan Horse’ into Swangard but were stopped by police who worried that it might cause a riot.

Earlier in the day the 30-foot horse had been distributing condoms at the AMS barbeque and there were big plans to drive it around the stadium. The RCMP didn’t let it past the gate and AMS director Tim Bird and Don Isaak were forced to spend the next hour and a half dismantling their creation which took over a week and a half to build. They only got to watch the last few minutes of the game.

SFU fans for their part, burned a UBC flag.

The contests of the 1990’s really brought out the rivalry in fans.

The year? 1996. The place? Thunderbird Stadium. The game would turn out to be a 25-15 victory for SFU, dominated by the offensive line.

It began innocently enough in the stands — SFU fans drowning out UBC’s chant, “U-B-C” with “K-F-C”. Thanks to apparently inadequate security and an inattentive RCMP detachment, things quickly devolved.

“[There] was never, ever an outside company that did security,” said Steve Frost, SFU’s current sports information director who has followed the game through a number of capacities throughout the years. “It was always the rugby club, or the wrestling team was the security, so they were in charge of policing themselves.”

“Insults began to fly back and forth, then eggs. Then the battle was on,” wrote John Oswald in The Peak.

One UBC fan decided to cross no-man’s land and take on the SFU crowd by himself. “This individual was justly rewarded for his efforts with a severe pummelling at the hands of the kilt-clad Clan supporters. After this, three of the kilt-clad lot lifted their kilts and mooned the T-Bird supporters in ‘Braveheart-ian’ fashion.”

And nothing says fun like drunken sod fights. When eggs ran out, fans started tearing up the sod field to throw at each other. Some disgruntled UBC fans started throwing sod at the Clan bench — they were not thrown out of the game. However, SFU fans who shielded the players and retaliated were — home team bias. The Clan moved their bench to the opposite side of the field in the second half. In the second half, some UBC fans snuck up on unsuspecting Clan fans from behind, and hurled eggs at them.

Some drunk guys from SFU wearing kilts decided to go beat up the Thunderbird and at least tore off his “head”. These same fans defended McFog the Dog — SFU’s new mascot at the time —  from the same fate, outnumbered two-to-one apparently.

And it wasn’t just antics and drunken shenanigans, the games brought out true school spirit.

“You could feel university sport mattered,” said Farhan Lalji, and analyst with TSN who worked as the Sports Information Director at SFU between 1991 and 1994. “There was Shrum Bowl week, there were events on campus prior to the game.

“Football kind of has that event mentality that it can bring.”

And the game on the field was something to watch too. Though the games were mostly technically exhibition, the two teams didn’t look at it this way.

“In football, there really are no exhibition games,” said Lalji. “This isn’t soccer, we don’t play friendlies.”

Beaton and Frank Smith were the coaches for some of the best matches — with Beaton coaching SFU from 1983, before the Shrum Bowl resumed, to 2005, while Smith coached UBC until 1994, when his son Casey took over.

Beaton, who served on Smith’s coaching staff in the 80’s before returning to SFU as head coach, recalled, “There was only one thing Frank Smith wanted to do, and that was beat SFU.”

Smith denied that it was the only thing he cared about — pointing out the team’s Vanier Cup wins as a highlight of his time at UBC — however, he noted that it was a “key game” and the effect the game had on recruiting. 

The game also saw the rivalry of Canadian football versus American football, Canadian university athletics versus American university athletics.

“There was a unique quality to the game when both universities were playing different rules, in different leagues, with different philosophies,” recalled Lalji. “There was just that natural debate between what was better.”

When the game started back up in 1987, the game was exclusively played under American rules. That was par for the course until the 1994 cancellation. When the game came back in 1995, it was still played with American rules at Swangard Stadium, SFU’s home. However, in 1996, an agreement was reached to alternate rules depending on the home team — SFU would obviously have American, and UBC Canadian.

That stayed the same until 2002 — when SFU joined the CIS (formerly the CIAU), the Canadian league.

Much of SFU’s competition in the NAIA, the American league they had been competing in, had jumped ship to the NCAA Division II, and at the time SFU wasn’t able to make the jump, so they came back to Canada.

Now the games were more or less just another game. SFU played UBC twice in the season, though they still hyped up one of the games as the Shrum Bowl.

“I think it really lost a lot when SFU joined the CIS,” said Lalji.

In many ways though, the game was more important than ever — playoff implications were on the line. The October date consistently held for the Shrum Bowl meant that a win or a loss often meant the difference in making (or missing) the playoffs.

“It was awesome because standings were involved,” recalled Beaton. It was no longer just about bragging rights.

But the stint in the Canadian leagues was short-lived. In 2009, SFU was accepted into the NCAA, and played their last season of football in the CIS. Though they’d play one more game in 2010, while SFU was playing exhibition games in the NCAA, this would put an end to the two-plus decades of a near-annual matchup between SFU and UBC.

With one dream accomplished — joining the NCAA — the other seems dead.

For now.


[dropcap]T[/dropcap]hough the two schools have spent much of their histories — and much of the Shrum Bowl’s history — in separate leagues, when this new separation came, they couldn’t find a way to play the game.

In August of 2011, it was announced that for the first time since 1994, there would be no Shrum Bowl.

It didn’t help that the number of bye weeks — weeks off, where the two interleague teams could theoretically play — in the Canada West conference (UBC’s conference) was reduced from two to one. With only one bye week, in recent years UBC has vetoed the idea of playing on the one bye week to rest their players.

““UBC and Simon Fraser both want to play the game,” then-athletic director Milt Richards told The Peak earlier this year.

Last year, it had appeared that progress had been made towards Shrum Bowl XXXIV, when the two schools had reached a verbal agreement that they would play the Labour Day weekend, providing it was open.

However, the NCAA did not approve of the game this time.

“We approached the NCAA for a waiver to play the game prior to the start of the Division II schedule during the September Labour Day weekend,” Frost told The Peak in February. “This weekend is traditionally reserved for the opening of the Division I season. The NCAA denied our request.”

“The thought is that, if the NCAA would allow us to start a week early, that would be a big advantage over other schools,” Richards explained.

There did appear to be progress towards a game played in December, alongside the Subway Bowl, in BC Place, however, as of yet, nothing has been announced.

“More than anything, I just think that it was a very important event in the amature sports landscape, province-wide, regardless of sport,” said Lalji, who also was the former president of the BC High School Football Association.

The game cultivated school spirit, and fostered what Shrum called, “a wholesome spirit of rivalry,” and really gave something students and athletes to look forward to when it came school time.

Whether you were into watching a good game, playing football, or simply wanted some reason to care about the school, the Shrum Bowl was a great event. Perhaps soon this recurring dream will be realized again.