VANCOUVER — It had one of the best names ever… you know, one of those names which so quickly became unforgettable, earning a place in our sports vernacular so accepted that we never, ever considered its eventual demise.
Yet now, after two decades at the centre of most every conversation about high school football in this province, ‘Subway Bowl’ is no more.
No, not the actual championship of B.C. high school football, but the precise name of the annual month-long post-season celebration of Grade 8, junior varsity and senior varsity football in our province, the one capped with Championship Saturday that first weekend in December at B.C. Place Stadium.
“The fact that it was called ‘Subway Bowl’, you didn’t have to explain that to anyone,” B.C. Secondary Schools Football Association president Travis Bell said earlier this week. “You knew it was the high school football championship in B.C.
It was news which those within the high school football community were expecting after the fast-food restaurant giant officially formalized its branding ventures around national, rather than regionally-based, sponsorship platforms. ”
The rise in visibility of high school football in this province during the Subway Bowl era, when you consider it has annually staged its championships at B.C. Place Stadium over that entire span, and for a decade-plus had its championship game televised on Sportsnet, has been dizzying.
And now, with news that player registration among its ranks has increased by over 30 per cent from 2019, those who have served as the caretakers of the game say they will greet new potential sponsors with a feeling of shared, win-win purpose as they piggy-back off the momentum of the Subway Bowl era.
“With the amount of people involved, and the community that football creates, I think when people leave the sport after high school they hold it dear, and any associations like that, they carry with them,” said B.C. high school football Triple-A rep Farhan Lalji, who was the one responsible for getting Subway to sign on as title sponsors 20 years ago this past September. “Any company stands to benefit from that.”
Indeed, it’s hard to deny the importance that football, as an ingrained part of its culture, puts on loyalty.
And to that end, while B.C. high school football helped Subway plant its roots in the fertile soil of the student-athlete/sports-and-education community, the spin-off was clearly a tight spiral in the other direction as well.
“They have helped us grow our sport and grow our profile,” added Lalji. “The game was televised on Sportsnet for 11 years and that really helped to raise the profile of our sport and we hope that when another sponsor takes over, that we can take it to an even greater level. And I think it would be ideal if we could find a B.C. brand.”
Bell, for his part, is ready to trumpet what B.C. high school football hopes will be its most meaningful era ever.
“We did a good job of branding it, and I think it had a positive impact on the branding of Subway as well,” he says. “I also think it is a great opportunity, with our sport on the rise, for another individual or corporation to back our great sport.”
When the new 2022 season kicks off in September, it will have been 21 years since the Subway Bowl deal was signed, and that’s not too shy of the 25-year span many measure as a generation.
Yes, it’s been that long.
Long enough, in fact, that this season’s crop of graduating high school seniors will have grown up not knowing the event as anything but Subway Bowl.
Even for your author, a grizzled but proudly-decorated Lifetime Member of B.C. High School Football, it’s hard to think of the championships without that name, one which for me has always signalled the start of the holiday season.
Yet what’s most important here is not to mourn the loss of Subway Bowl, but to celebrate the resiliency of B.C. high school football.
As it comes out of two of its toughest seasons on record, it has broken the huddle with an assured game plan, one which will always play to its strengths as vehicle to improve the lives of its student-athletes.
Adds Bell: “ That’s a win-win for our student-athletes and whoever decides to come on board and support us.”
And hey, can’t wait to hear the new name.
If you’re reading this story or viewing these photos on any website other than one belonging to a university athletic department, it has been taken without appropriate permission. In these challenging times, true journalism will survive only through your dedicated support and loyalty. VarsityLetters.ca and all of its exclusive content has been created to serve B.C.’s high school and university sports community with hard work, integrity and respect. Feel free to drop us a line any time at firstname.lastname@example.org.