By Bird Bouchard
The Windsor AKO Fratmen have a new home and new owners.
St. Clair College’s Student Athletic Association has purchased the Fratmen football organization, a partnership described at a press conference Friday as “the first of its kind in Ontario.”
"As the first student owners of a junior football team in Ontario we are very excited to add this group to the sports park of the mix of college sports,” said SAA President, Kshitij Punj. “We look forward to the challenge of being regularly involved with the operation of this team.”
According to Punj, the acquisition of the Fratmen will also give students firsthand experience at learning what it takes to run a sports team.
“We will play whatever role an owner plays,” said Punj. “We'll be working really closely with the coaches. We're just happy we bought the team and now we'll take everything step by step and work closely with the managers and the coaching staff to see what else we can offer them.”
Punj, along with members of the SAA board, also unveiled concept jerseys and a new football helmet for the upcoming season.
AKO will call the soon to be completed St. Clair College Sports Park home as early as the 2020 season. Construction of the $20 million complex is set to be finalized in mid-summer with the facility featuring a full artificial turf playing surface that is illuminated for evening play, a 1,500-seat capacity stadium seating, including a media press box along with a jumbo interactive scoreboard.
The Fratmen are the longest-running amateur sport organization in Canada which began in 1929. They have won three national championships during that time. Former Fratmen player, coach and now defensive coordinator Mike Morenci believes another championship is coming soon.
"We fully expect to be playing in the national championship this year in the new park," said Morencie.
Rostered players on the football team who are enrolled full-time in the fall semester at St. Clair College will continue to enjoy a $1,250 scholarship with access to several other bursaries and financial aid opportunities. However, student status at St. Clair College is not required in order to be a player on the roster.
Punj estimates 10-12 players on the current roster are enrolled at St. Clair College but hopes to increase that number.
The team will continue to play in the Ontario Football Conference which is part of the Canadian Junior Football League with a fall season stretching from August to November. The current Fratmen coaching staff will remain intact and recruitment is already in full swing.
Head Coach Mike Lachance will announce his coaching staff in the coming weeks. He will be assisted by Joe Cleroux who will be retained to assist with league matters and compliance.