Atlantic Bowl defeats by sneaking past St. Francis Xavier 7–0 to earn a berth in the Vanier Cup against the Alberta Golden Bears. The Vanier Cup had been inaugurated in 1965 as an invitational bowl game, but 1967 marked the first time the game was formally recognised as a national championship game with systematic playoffs. The game itself was a defensive battle, dominated by turnovers. McMaster trailed by one point in the final minutes and penetrated the Alberta zone to the 17-yard line. A game-winning field goal seemed inevitable for the Marauders but rather than take a safe running play to kill time, Waring baffled nearly 16,000 in attendance by letting off a quick pass. The ball fell into the waiting arms of Alberta defensive guard John Wilson, leaving the Marauders on the losing end of a 10–9 score. By the end of 1967, two decades of ambition and determination had finally paid off for McMaster. Refusing to give up on Ivor Wynne’s vision of the Marauders playing senior football, the team was poised to enter the prestigious SIFL. McMaster had proven, by coming within seconds of winning the Vanier Cup, that elite senior football was not the sole domain of the Old Four schools.
1968 to 1996 The graduation of the one-year phys. ed. students in the spring of 1968 removed the core of the championship roster, leaving McMaster weakened for its first three years in the SIFL. Ray Johnson, a former Western Mustangs all-star lineman who was drafted by the Edmonton Eskimos in 1958, became the new Marauder head coach in 1969. His first two seasons were clearly rebuilding affairs. The 1970s proved a decade of change. Now that McMaster had succeeded in breaking the Old Four’s lock on the senior circuit, the gates had been opened to more systematic reform. In 1971, all men’s athletics departments in Ontario universities joined forces in a single league, the Ontario Universities Athletic Association (OUAA). The OUAA finally did away with the patchworks and hierarchies of a number of different leagues, organizations and gentleman’s agreements that had operated in the past, finally bringing about the sort of egalitarian structure that Ivor Wynne had sought since the late ’40s. Les Prince, Wynne’s right-hand man as assistant director for twenty years and successor in 1965, provided consistent help and support along the way. Sadly, Wynne had died in his early fifties in 1970, making it altogether tragic that he never saw such an arrangement brought fully to fruition. He had nevertheless been a major player in upsetting the athletic exclusivity of the Old Four schools. McMaster dedicated its athletic centre, and Hamilton its stadium, to honour his memory and his tireless efforts. The new league started off well for McMaster, finishing first in the Central division before losing out in the first week of playoffs. But the football squad was kept out of the playoffs for all but one year (1974) in the next decade, never once finishing above fourth place during that time. Ray Johnson was the head coach throughout the decade, except for 1972 when Jack Kennedy reprised the role while Johnson was on sabbatical. While lacking in team successes, the 1970s had no shortage of outstanding players in the maroon and grey. Running back Ross Tripp provided the driving force for McMaster’s offence from 1973 through 1976, becoming the first player to break 2,000 career rushing yards as a Marauder (2084 yards). In 1974 he became the first Marauder to be named the OUAA football MVP. Ron Southwick switched from tight end to linebacker for his senior year (1974). Southwick proved a natural on defence, securing a spot on the 1974 all-Canadian squad with five interceptions and going on to a seven-year CFL career as a linebacker with Winnipeg and Toronto. After 12 seasons at the helm, Ray Johnson retired as Marauder head coach after the 1980 campaign. His replacement was Bernie Custis, a Ti-Cat quarterback from the 1950s who had earlier coaching success, first with Sheridan College, then the Burlington Braves of the CJFL. Custis’ arrival coincided with that of quarterback Phil Scarfone, a Hamilton native from St. Thomas More High School. Scarfone proved the most outstanding quarterback McMaster had seen since Russ Jackson. In 1982, he and Custis led the team to their first winning season in over a decade, and first playoff appearance since 1974, earning the Frank Tindall Trophy as the CIAU football coach of the year. The following season, Scarfone led the Marauders their first Yates Cup appearance since 1964, against the Varsity Blues. McMaster built up a 16–7 lead against Toronto over the first three quarters, only to surrender 13 fourth-quarter points to lose the league title 20–16.