Football at Sault College

December 8, 2023

Touchdown! Sault College is expanding its varsity athletics program to include football. The addition is effective the 2025 season.

“Sault College Athletics is thrilled to announce its entry into the Canadian Junior Football League, marking an historic moment for Sault College and the community of Sault Ste. Marie. The newly formed team, the Sault College Cougars, is set to kick off its inaugural season in the summer of 2025, bringing the excitement of college football to the heart of Northern Ontario,” relayed Sault College president David Orazietti.

The Cougars will compete in the Ontario Football Conference division of the CJFL where they will face grid opponents that include the likes of the Quinte Skyhawks, Greater Toronto Grizzlies, Windsor St. Clair Saints, London Beefeaters, Hamilton Hurricanes and the Ottawa Sooners.

The competition within the OFC is known to be intense with the winner of the OFC advancing to the Canadian Bowl for a shot at the national championship by going up against the top teams from the Prairie Conference and the British Columbia Conference.

According to Sault College athletics director Paul Orazietti, the school is committed to building a competitive football program and the plan is for the Cougars to feature a large roster of 65 players from student athletes between the ages of 18 to 23.

David Orazietti, Sherri Smith and Paul Orazietti

Orazietti, a former local high school football standout who went on to play the game collegiately before becoming the associate head football coach at the prestigious University of British Columbia, is set to lead the Sault College football program in its formative years.

“Our goal at Sault College is to invest in sports programs deeply rooted in the local community, and football complements this,” noted Orazietti. “Sault Ste. Marie boasts incredible local talent, and with this addition, we hope to provide our local high school players with the opportunity to pursue both a post-secondary education and a post-secondary football experience while remaining in their hometown or in Northern Ontario.”

Orazietti added that Sault College envisions football “becoming a major cornerstone of campus life contributing to the vibrancy of student engagement. The sport will also be a primary focus for the proposed new turf field and track planned at Sault College, creating a dynamic space for both athletes and fans.”

Football was a potential target for Orazietti when he first took over as the Sault College athletics director from Scott Gray in 2018. He said football now being a part of the future at Sault College is in a large way due to the establishment of the sport at younger levels in Sault Ste. Marie.

“This comes on the backs of a great many local coaches that have built up these great programs from the minor level to the high school level through the summer football level,” Orazietti said. “This opportunity at Sault College does not exist without those other community programs that have been here for decades. There is a great synergy there, all the way from our minor football, through high school, through the Sault Sabercats, and through the Sault Steelers.”

Sault College has also committed to having its own football field on campus. The field is slated to be part of the new sports facility that was recently given the thumbs up by the Sault College board of governors.
“It meshes well with our vision of what we’d like to see with varsity athletics,” Orazietti said of the plan to have a field being on the school’s campus. “We are not there yet with the turf field in terms of all of the research and study that needs to go into it, but long term, my personal opinion is that it will happen. It will be really exciting to walk out the back door of our new athletics building onto a new turf field with a new varsity football program.”

In the meantime, Orazietti said the decision to debut the Sault College football team for 2025 as opposed to next year gives the school additional time to iron out all of the necessary details without being rushed.

“We do not want to step on to the field and not put our best foot forward,” Orazietti said. “2025 gives us a much more realistic chance of being competitive out of the gate.”

Sherri Smith, who is the vice president of academics, innovation and student success at Sault College, gave her take on the addition of the football program.

“The addition of our new football team not only elevates our athletics programming, but it also offers our students an opportunity to engage in high level sports while pursuing their academic goals. This aligns with our commitment to providing students with educational experiences that extend beyond the classroom. We are excited to see how the Sault College Cougars will enhance our campus life, foster community engagement, and open new avenues for student growth,” continued Smith.

“We want to build a college with strong student culture, student life and a critical component of that is varsity athletics,” added Smith. “A football team changes the dynamic of a college campus. They are such a large team, but you really rally behind them. The fact that we will have a turf field to have home games on is really going to significantly and profoundly change our college.”

Orazietti said the team roster will have its share of local players when play kicks off.

“We are definitely going to be building our core from local community players to Northern Ontario players and then provincially and nationally from there,” Orazietti said.

OFC rules permit three American players on rosters, in addition to three international players. The team plans to use those roster spots as well, Orazietti said.

Sault College currently offers a number of varsity sports programs for both men and women.

There are men’s teams in baseball, curling, golf, hockey, indoor soccer and outdoor soccer. Meanwhile, Sault College has women’s teams in curling, hockey, indoor soccer and outdoor soccer.

The Sault College women’s team is the reigning champion in the American Collegiate Hockey Association.