UR Athletics has decided to end its participation in the Camp Good Days Courage Bowl, a charity event that benefits children with cancer. The department has professed its commitment to focusing on the Liberty League schedule. Courtesy of UR Athletic Department

After a long period of speculation about UR’s future participation in the Camp Good Days Courage Bowl, UR Athletics has finally reached a verdict:  The University will play in one more Courage Bowl and then end its participation in the event.

The annual football game between the Yellowjackets and the St. John Fisher College Cardinals, which has been played annually since 2005, benefits Camp Good Days and Special Times, an organization that provides summer camp for children diagnosed with cancer. Last summer, the non-profit was able to host over 1,500 children free of charge, due largely to fundraising initiatives like the Courage Bowl.

As part of the Courage Bowl, children from Camp Good Days are selected as honorary coaches and cheerleaders, giving them a unique opportunity to experience a collegiate football game from the sidelines.

Camp Good Days founder and Cardinals assistant coach Gary Mervis said that St. John Fisher plans to keep the Courage Bowl alive, seeking out a new opponent to take UR’s place. No potential colleges or universities have yet been announced to fill this role.

According to UR Athletic Director George Vanderzwaag, the primary motivating factor behind the University’s decision was to place a greater focus on UR’s Liberty League schedule, especially with a new college – Springfield College – joining the league next year.

“In terms of football, effectively competing in the Liberty League is the primary goal,” Vanderzwaag said. “The decision to change our football schedule was driven by these considerations.”

Vanderzwaag did acknowledge that there has been some negative reaction to the announcement, saying that it was a “difficult decision” which he feels “is reflected in some strong feelings that have been expressed in the media.”

Comments from St. John Fisher athletic director Bob Ward, however, suggest that relations between Fisher and UR regarding the Courage Bowl may have soured leading up to UR’s decision to end participation in the event. Ward could not be reached for comment, but in a Nov. 1 Democrat and Chronicle article on UR’s decision to leave the bowl, he was quoted as saying that “sometimes things don’t seem as good now as they did when you began” and that he “[doesn’t] think [UR] is concerned with one football game.”

Additionally, rumors have arisen regarding the role that the lack of competitiveness in recent Courage Bowls played in UR’s decision. The ’Jackets have never beaten the Cardinals in the seven-year history of the bowl, and, across that time period, St. John Fisher has averaged over twice as many points per game as UR. The Yellowjackets were crushed in last year’s contest by a score of 52-3.

Vanderzwaag downplayed such speculation, but UR’s senior quarterback Braezen Subick expressed dissatisfaction with the way the Courage Bowl has been run in recent years, saying he felt that the bowl has “strayed from its core values” and that it has become “a St. John Fisher production.”

“Coming from a winning high school program, I understand how to win and what it is like to beat a team every year. Basically, I know what both sides feel like,” Subick said. “The issue is that the main message — the Camp Good Days’ kids  —  is being put to the back burner … Until this ‘Fisher Bowl’ returns back to the ‘Courage Bowl,’ it’ll be tough for any team to get fulfillment from this game.”

Still, Subick expressed that he is saddened by the fact that UR’s run with the Courage Bowl is ending.

“It is obviously upsetting that Rochester will no longer be participating in the Courage Bowl,” he said. “As a football team, we have shared great memories playing games with the kids at Camp Good Days. They inspire us.”

According to Vanderzwaag, although UR will no longer support Camp Good Days through the Courage Bowl specifically, UR Athletics is looking for alternative ways to continue working with the organization.

“We are particularly interested in the idea of giving more children the type of game day experience that we have modeled with the Courage Bowl,” he said. “We can do this with many of our other sports and can continue to this with football.”

Fleming is a member of
the class of 2013.

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