UBC accusations a “witch hunt” says Nill

Less than a week after winning their first Vanier Cup since 1997, some controversy has surfaced regarding the UBC Thunderbirds.

It is surrounding the recruiting tactics used by the CWUAA team to lure ’14 #CFC100 top ranked QB Michael O’Connor into signing with them.

Last winter, the quarterback from Ottawa, Ontario became available to teams after he left NCAA Division 1 team Penn State Nittany Lions.  In December, O’Connor announced he was leaving the Nittany Lions after redshirting the previous season with the team. The Thunderbirds and head coach Blake Nill immediately began courting O’Connor.

O’Connor signed with the Thunderbirds last February.

Globe and Mail’s Alan Maki and David Edner have called into question the tactics used by UBC.

At issue are the ways the Thunderbirds courted him, which included a trip to Seattle to see an NFL playoff game and dinner with NFL Hall of Fame pivot, Warren Moon.

While there have been no formal complaints lodged against the Thunderbirds, suspicions have been raised whether the team’s tactics in O’Connor’s case goes against the CIS recruiting regulations.

Nill called the accusations a “witchhunt” and stated UBC will be better off when the regulations are more streamlined.  UBC football alumni stated that they had done everything properly saying “We’re not stupid”.

However, CIS regulations are old and need updating.  The current regulations state that teams cannot offer incentives beyond a 50 dollar limit.

The CIS task force has been working towards putting into place new recruiting policies and a proposal is expected to be voted upon and passed by the board of directors in the coming days.  It would be enforced as early as the New Year.

Michael O'Connor threw for 449 yards against Saskatchewan on Friday night

Michael O’Connor threw for 449 yards against Saskatchewan on Friday night

Previous to the Thunderbirds and Nittany Lions, O’Connor played high school at the IMG Football Academy in Braneton, Florida, where he was training with former Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke. O’Connor also attended Baylor Prep in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  Previous to playing football south of the border, the Ontario quarterback suited up for the Ashbury Colts of the Conference of Independent Schools Athletic Association (CISAA), where he led the team to a junior conference title.  Additionally, he played for the Orleans Bengals of National Capital Amateur Football Association (NCAFA).  The Bengals won the league’s ‘A’ Championship in 2010.

O’Connor has been honoured for his exceptional play on the field throughout his career.  Those achievements include:  Colts MVP (2010), Championship MVP (2010), All-Star MVP (2010), top Junior player at the New England Patriot’s Football Camp (2010), top Senior quarterback, and player at Patriots Camp (2011), invite to the Top Prospects Camp at the University of Oklahoma and honours for his performances at NUC combines in Rochester, Delaware, as well as the University of Syracuse Camp.

CIS-NCAA transfer rules allowed O’Connor to play immediately for the Thunderbirds.  Since he redshirted his season with the Nittany Lions, the CFC # 1 CLASS 2014 pivot had all five years of CIS eligibility remaining when he joined the Thunderbirds in February.

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