What a shocker!
Erik Glavic, the football player who won the Hec Crighton Award as Canada's most outstanding player 15 months ago as a sophomore and led the Saint Mary's Huskies to the Vanier Cup in 2007, has left Saint Mary's. He's headed to the University of Calgary.
So why did he leave?
Was there some behind the scenes conniving?
What about the Blake Nill - Glavic connection?
Is there a problem at Saint Mary's?
Yes, there are questions aplenty.
Sure, students who play university sports do transfer. But most of them sit out a year and are not Hec Crichton winners!
Glavic did get into one game for the Huskies this past season, but after leading his team to a touchdown he came off the field and never played again. He still was hurting from a serious ACL injury that took place in the 2007 Uteck Bowl when he led the Huskies to a stunning 24-2 win over Laval in the national semifinal.
While he led SMU to the semifinal win, he could not play in the Vanier Cup that the Huskies lost to Manitoba 28-14.
Glavic came to Saint Mary's in 2006 and made an immediate impact sharing the quarterbacking duties in his first year and leading SMU to the AUS finals. He also showed football fans what he could do - run and move the ball.
In his second season, the 6-6 pivot did everything in leading SMU to the league title - winning the AUS MVP award and the Hec Crighton. He is only the second SMU player to win that prestigious award (Chris Flynn won it three times).
He also underwent surgery in January of 2008 for his ACL. It was a frustrating year and rehab was not easy. "It was the toughest thing I ever had to do and only I could do it," he told me back in the fall.
And with all that work, he was not ready for the start of the past season. He totally expected to be, and was disappointed. Once again, in national playoff competition (Mitchell Bowl), he found himself on the sidelines and unable to play as Western beat SMU 28-12 to advance to the Vanier Cup.
Then a few days ago he told his coach Steve Sumarah that he was leaving the program and heading out to the University of Calgary and would be joining the Dinos and - the man who recruited him to come to Saint Mary's - Blake Nill.
This is the same Nill who became a football coaching legend at Saint Mary's.
The same Nill who won six AUS titles.
The same Nill who took SMU to four Vanier Cup Finals in five years and capturing two of them.
Shortly after recruiting Glavic, Nill left Saint Mary's for Calgary to coach the Dinos. They now seem to be re-united.
It smells of tampering, but Nill says it isn't.
"Erik called me early this year and said he would like to join our program," he told TSN.ca. "We asked him if this is what he wanted to do and to make sure. In fact, I told him to take a few days and think about it."
Glavic indeed took a few days, thought about it and still wanted to go west.
The Dinos flew him out for a look. Then he returned to Halifax, walked into his coach's office and said he was leaving for Calgary.
He plans to start courses later this week and wants to play for Nill.
Now this has a soap opera feeling.
Did the University of Calgary recruit him to come?
Did Nill undermine Saint Mary's?
Were there any underhanded efforts by Calgary, Nill, and his coaching or recruiting staff?
And, why would a player who had so much success at Saint Mary's pick up and leave?
Nill is adamant that he or no one from his staff ever contacted him. "The call came out of the blue,' he told TSN.ca.
Now mind you, both Nill and Sumarah have heard rumours. "You hear rumours all the time but we thought nothing of it," Sumarah told TSN.ca.
This incident has produced some strain between Nill and Saint Mary's and may have put a dent in the great relationship between Nill and Sumarah. They have been great friends for over 15 years - ever since they both coached St. F.X. to the Vanier Cup in 1995.
When Nill took over the Huskies job from Larry Uteck in 1998, Sumarah was the first coach he brought over from St. F.X. Sumarah became the offensive coordinator and assistant head coach and ran the Huskies offensive juggernaut. This tandem led to the team winning title after title for the Huskies and four Vanier appearances in five years, something that had never been done.
And, while there was lots of competition for Nill's vacancy, it was Nill who lobbied for Sumarah to become the first Atlantic Canadian to take over a CIS program.
So, has the friendship been strained?
A terse "no comment," is what I got from Sumarah. "I hope not," was Nill's answer.
So, why did Glavic leave?
We tried to reach him five or six times but he chose not to return the calls. So that leaves speculation and there's plenty of that to go around.
Nill has known the Glavic family for a long time - nearly 10 years.
Nill is the one who recruited Glavic to Saint Mary's.
Maybe Glavic had a falling out with Sumarah.
Maybe Glavic knows that he will have competition from Jack Creighton
who, like Glavic, was very highly recruited from Toronto and took SMU to the semifinal.
Maybe there are more potential opportunities in Alberta following graduation then in Atlantic Canada.
The list could be very long.
One thing is for sure, is Saint Mary's has to find out why this marvelous student athlete - who has brought favourable national recognition to the university - left.
The only comment one can get from Glavic was a quote he gave the Chronicle Herald, Halifax's daily paper, was that he wasn't leaving a problem but moving to an opportunity.
"I have nothing bad to say about Saint Mary's. I went to war with my teammates for three-and-a-half years. But the opportunity and situation that was presented was one that not only for myself but my family and I felt I had to act on."
So, more questions follow. What opportunities? Are we talking about at the University on after graduation?
His family? Glavic is single.
Only he can answer and Glavic isn't talking.
One thing is sure - if Glavic can get healthy he will make the University of Calgary better. The western champs only lost four players, and who couldn't use a Hec Crighton winner?
As for the ties to Saint Mary's, Nill says his job is to recruit for Calgary and in this case it was a delayed Christmas present. "I would never recruit a kid while he is playing but when this gift came I could not refuse it," he told TSN.ca.
Glavic, who 22, 6-6 and weighs 230 lbs, hails from Pickering, Ontario and despite having surgery last January, says he is not 100 percent. He feels he may need six more months of rehab and would be eligible for three more years with Calgary.
As for a possible football situation that could take place later this fall, Saint Mary's is favoured to repeat as AUS champs and Calgary is in a good position to repeat out west.
The Uteck Bowl this year is held at Saint Mary's and the West will be traveling down East. Wouldn't a Nill-Glavic versus Sumarah-Creighton match up seem nice?
For TSN.ca, I'm Alex J. Walling.
Alex J can be reached via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org