[b]Some of the best young talent in Canadian university football will return to London for the eighth annual East-West Bowl.
It's the second year in a row TD Waterhouse will stage the showcase for university players and Canadian Football League coaches and scouts.
The six-day event is used as an evaluation tool for CFL teams and gives the participating players an opportunity to play against the best draft-eligible players in the country.
Western Mustangs coach Greg Marshall is a big believer in the game, even though last year it didn't draw.
"We didn't get as big a crowd as we thought we would get," he said. "I don't mind if we don't make money. I don't want to lose money doing it. When you look at the time and the resources we threw at it, it was pretty significant. But I really believe in the idea behind it for the players. I'm willing to do it because it's good for the kids across the country and for football."
Marshall said aside from the chance for players to get evaluated, the opportunity for coaches to get together is important.
"Through the year you say, 'Those coaches at Western,' or 'Those coaches at Laval,' but this way you get a chance to know them," Marshall said. "We don't have that many kids playing university football, but they are spread out over a large area. To get into a situation like this, is good for us."
Marshall also believes it's a good opportunity to highlight the university. While the crowd at the game might not have been big, everyone was satisfied with how the week was organized.
"Coaches came up to me and were appreciative of it and I had all the players came up to me and say, 'Coach, it was awesome this year. We were really treated well,' " Marshall said. "The student-athlete was really appreciative, which is why we are doing it again."
Pat Sheahan, head coach of the reigning Vanier Cup champion Queen's Gaels, will lead the East team, which will include players from the Quebec and Atlantic conferences, as well as from Queen's, Ottawa and Toronto.
Blake Nill, whose Calgary Dinos reached the CIS final last fall, will be head coach of the West squad, which will be comprised of players from the Canada West conference as well as Western, McMaster, Windsor, Laurier, Waterloo and York.
A committee of CIS head coaches selects the participants from a pool of players nominated by their schools. Every CIS football program is represented by three or four players, most of whom will be eligible for the draft the following year.
The game will be played Saturday, May 8, at 1 p.m.
Scouts and coaches will be testing players and there will be a variety of clinics available for local coaches and players throughout the week.
"Even though the kids here know where they are going to school, they go back and talk up the event," Marshall said. "Most of the kids in Ontario know we have a pretty good facility, but the word has gotten around at some of the other provinces that we have a great location here and great facilities."
East-West Bowl tickets
On sale soon; $15 for adults and $10 for students, youth and seniors. To place a hold on tickets, call 519-661-4077. Also on sale within the next 24 hours at www.westernmustangs.ca.
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