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Not-for-profit raises more than $5 million to support new team

AFTER A FIFTEEN year absence from the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) football conference, the Carleton Ravens’ have hit the field again.

Years of poor performance on the gridiron and financial constraints from the school caused administration to pull the plug on the football program in 1999.  But the newest sets of Ravens are set to take flight, without a penny from the university.

Local not-for-profit Old Crows Football Inc.which has doubled as the Carleton football alumni society since 1965, is funding the team. Since the Ravens’ football team disbanded, Old Crows have not just been working to get the team back onto the field, but to turn the Carleton football program into one of the best in the country.

One of the leaders behind the revival movement is Old Crows president John Ruddy, who donated $2.5 million to get the campaign started back in 2008. Ruddy is also the president of the Trinity Development Group and a partner in the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group, the team that brought the Canadian Football League back to Ottawa.

Ruddy’s investment kickstarted a funding drive, which shifted to a higher gear in 2010. Old Crows’ establishment of a steering committee made up of football alumni and university representatives shaped the vision for the program.

The committee and university decided to model their program after Laval University’s extremely successful football program. The Rouge et Or have taken six out of the last 10 Vanier Cups and are number one in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) rankings at the beginning of the 2013 season.

A large part of Laval’s success has been attributed to one of the highest budgets of any CIS sports team—a $2 million commitment largely funded by private donors. With 8,000 season ticket holders and routine sellout crowds of 12,000, their supporters back up Rouge et Or both financially and in the stands.

The budget doesn’t include the television rights received from their home games; the pre-season is broadcasted on either Radio-Canada or RDS.

While the Ravens haven’t reached the same funding level as Rouge et Or have, Old Crows have raised more than $5 million to help fund the team for the next five to six seasons.

The group estimates that the team would not have to sell one ticket for the next five years and the team would still be fully funded. It’s estimated that the total annual budget will exceed $1 million per season, with $800,000 going toward the team’s operating budget and $200,000 toward continued improvements of the Keith Harris Stadium.

The budget is set to be the highest of any OUA team—almost doubling the McMaster Marauders’ $600,000 last year, and they were the championship winning club. f