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Ready for some football? Sault College to field varsity team

Local post-secondary institution will join the Canadian Junior Football League in 2025; school athletic director Paul Orazietti will serve as the team's first head coach
From left: David Orazietti, Sault College president; Sherri Smith, Sault College vice-president academics, innovation, and student success; and Paul Orazietti, athletic director of Sault College.

It’s not officially happening until late-summer 2025, but another football team is taking shape in Sault Ste. Marie.

Sault College announced on Wednesday that the post-secondary institution is the newest member of the Canadian Junior Football League.

The school will be a part of the CJFL’s Ontario Football Conference, joining six other established teams in the league.

For Sault College athletic director Paul Orazietti, football was a potential target for him when he first took over the job in 2018.

Orazietti said that Wednesday’s announcement comes in part 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 the college doesn’t exist without those other community programs that have been here for decades.”

Orazietti said the decision to enter the Sault College team in 2025 as opposed to 2024 gives the school additional time to iron out the necessary details to have the team ready to compete.

“We don’t want to step on 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.”

The team will also be playing on campus, comprised of a 65-player roster entirely made up of Sault College students between the ages of 18 and 23. Sault College’s new home field is planned at this point to be behind the current health and wellness building. The field will be part of the new sports facility recently approved by the post-secondary institution’s board of governors.

“It meshes well with our vision of what we’d like to see with varsity athletics,” Orazietti said of the field being on campus. “We’re 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’ll 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.”

“We want to build a college with strong student culture, student life and that’s a critical component is varsity athletics,” added Sault College vice-president, academics, innovation, and student success, Sherri Smith. “A football team changes the dynamic of a college campus. They’re such a large team, but you really rally behind them. The fact that we’ll 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 things kick 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.

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

The CJFL doesn’t have a specific academic requirement for players.

“Most likely our students will need to be full-time students to be able to play,” Orazietti said. “That’s not the case for all of the opponents that we play who are not affiliated with colleges. For us, it makes sense that if you’re playing for the Sault College Cougars that you’re a Sault College student.”

Orazietti said the college has a good working relationship already with Sault Minor Football, including the Sault Sabercats teams as preparations begin for the new Sault College team.

The hope is that the new team will also create some added excitement at the high school level with potential opportunities for players.

“There’s a great synergy there, all the way from our minor football, through high school, through the Sabercats, and through the Steelers,” Orazietti said.

As far as coaching, Orazietti said he plans to take on the role as head coach “for the first few seasons.”

“Not because there isn’t fantastic local coaches, there’s some amazing local coaches that could actually fit the bill,” Orazietti said.

He added that previous OJFL experience, as well as at the university level, played into the coaching decision.

“I want to make sure that this program gets off to a great start and I’d like to see that piece through,” Orazietti said, adding that the plan would then be to hand off the reins to another local coach.

“In the interim, I’m going to try to seek as many good, knowledgeable local guys as I can to be involved in the coaching staff,” Orazietti said.

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Brad Coccimiglio

About the Author: Brad Coccimiglio

A graduate of Loyalist College’s Sports Journalism program, Brad Coccimiglio’s work has appeared in The Hockey News as well as online at in addition to regular freelance work with SooToday before joining the team full time.
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