Back in the early 1980s, Jay Prepchuk, who would go on to serve on both the UBC and SFU coaching staffs, was a record-setting pivot for Simon Fraser. (Photo property SFU athletics 2021. All Rights Reserved)
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Having grown up in the game, Simon Fraser’s 1980 Shrum Bowl MVP Jay Prepchuk, a former UBC and SFU coach, cherishes the return of the grand game!

BURNABY MOUNTAIN — If there’s one area that any wannabe Shrum Bowl historian will find tough sledding, it’s determining the reasons why the series stuck to either U.S. or Canadian rules for extended periods of time throughout its history.

For example, as local broadcaster and Football Canada president Jim Mullin points out, the reason the first four games (1967-70) were played under American rules was that UBC was still playing a large number of its games against U.S. foes each year, dove-tailing perfectly with the fact that the new SFU program was determined to make its way against an otherwise all-U.S. schedule.

By the time the eighth edition of the game rolled by in October of 1980, the Shrum Bowl was in its fourth straight of what would be six straight years under Canadian rules.

That season, Simon Fraser won for the fifth time (5-2-1), and the quarterback of the winning team, despite his distinct lack of three-down experience, led his team to a 30- 3 win.

Why weren’t the two teams alternating rules each year, as had become the custom prior to the Red Leafs move to join UBC in what is now U SPORTS for a number of years in the early 2000’s?

“I am not sure why,” said Jay Prepchuk, one of the most enduring figures in the B.C. football community and the MVP of Shrum Bowl VIII. “But I can tell you one thing… I didn’t mind at all. I actually liked that big Canadian field better. Yes, you had one extra guy, but for me it was kind of like the Red Sea parted. I just went ‘Whoa, this field is gigantic.’”

Saturday’s game, of course, will be played under U.S. rules on the SFU campus. The last time that happened was in 2009.

Interestingly enough, Simon Fraser seemed to make a habit of playing at least one early-season Canadian foe per season during Prepchuk’s playing career on the hill, allowing them to gain a little more crispness as they prepared to move to Canadian rules against UBC.

And in that 1980 Shrum Bowl, Prepchuk went 12-of-19 for 184 yards, and three touchdowns, including a 51-yard strike to Dave Amer in the third quarter.

“That game, winning that game at Empire (Stadium) was the highlight of my career,” Prepchuk admitted earlier this week.

Former record-setting SFU quarterback Jay Prepchuk, pictured in 2021 fall training camp during the second of his two seasons as Red Leafs’ quarterbacks coach, calls the 1980 Shrum Bowl the highlight of his career as an athlete. (Photo by Howard Tsumura property of Varsity Letters 2021. All Rights Reserved)

And although it’s been a dozen years since the game has been played, and the younger athletes may not fully understand the enormity of the rivalry between the alumni of both schools, Prepchuk says it won’t take but one meeting to make everything crystal clear to both sides.

“Absolutely… no question, especially at this time of the year with the seasons being over for both teams,” said Prepchuk. “It’s for total bragging rights. I don’t think it’s going to take any time at all to have this rivalry as intense as it should be and can be. They are going to go right at.”

Clearly, he is one of a handful of locals whose life has been ingrained in the crosstown classic.

Prepchuk, who both quarterbacked and coached North Vancouver’s Handsworth Royals, was for the past two seasons the quarterback coach at Simon Fraser where he worked closely with Red Leafs’ starter Justin Seiber.

Prepchuk, of course, was also the quarterbacks coach at UBC for three seasons (2016-18) where he worked with B.C. Lions quarterback and Vanier Cup winner Michael O’Connor.

And, he was also the head coach at UBC for three seasons and went 1-2 in three Shrum Bowls against SFU, including a 48-21 win in 2000 under Canadian rules at Thunderbird Stadium, a victory which had knotted the overall series at 11-11-1.

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