50TH VANIER CUP INTERVIEW SERIES: 1978
A conversation with…
Doug Hargreaves, head coach, Queen’s University Golden Gaels
In Vanier Cup XIV, the Queen’s Golden Gaels outscored the UBC Thunderbirds 13-0 in the second half, including 10 points in the final four minutes of the game, en route to a 16-3 victory at Varsity Stadium in Toronto. With the win, the Golden Gaels capped a perfect 10-0 campaign and captured the second national title in school history, a decade after their triumph in 1968. Coaching legend Doug Hargreaves was in the third of his 19 seasons as Queen’s head coach in 1978 and would lead the program to one more Vanier Cup championship in 1992, two years before retiring from the position.
Leading up to the Vanier Cup, is there a game that stands out for you in that undefeated season?
The last game of the regular season at Bishop’s stands out. It was always tough to play at Bishop’s and they always had a good team. It was a tough game but I remember a punt into the end zone that was fumbled and Pat Plishka recovered it for a touchdown. We ended up winning by one point.
(Note: Queen’s beat Bishop’s 15-14 in its 1978 regular season finale and also survived a close call in the first round of the playoffs, edging Carleton 17-13 in overtime; the Golden Gaels won their next two playoff games more convincingly to advance to the Vanier Cup, defeating McGill 23-1 in the OQIFC final and StFX 32-10 in the Atlantic Bowl national semifinal)
What is your major memory of the 1978 Vanier Cup weekand the overall experience?
I don’t really have a major memory about the week other than the football game. It was business as usual for us.
What is your one major lasting memory of the actual game?
That is a really difficult question. Generally, it was just a good all-around effort by all the guys.
One thing that comes to mind was our quarterback, Jim Rutka, standing on the sideline at halftime and talking to a reporter. I guess it must have been an audio report because I have it on film somewhere. It was a very interesting conversation and sort of humorous to those who were involved. We had an interesting group of people, guys who have gone on to do many things. Jim Rutka, for example, is a leading neurosurgeon and a lot of others have gone on to do many things academically. Really, it was just a special group of guys.
Was there one key play you remember?
The one play that stands out in my mind is the touchdown that was scored by Dave Marinucci and the great job by the players involved in the blocking on that play.
(Note: With Queen’s holding on to a 6-3 lead late in the fourth quarter, Marinucci scored the game’s only touchdown on a 4-yard run with 3:30 left on the clock)
Did the coaches do anything different from normal routine in the preparation for the game?
It was just business as usual for us and we tried to keep a low profile and all that stuff so everyone could stay focused on the game. Just another football game.
How did you or the team react to the stadium, the crowd, the weather?
The field wasn’t in great shape, it was wet from the rain. There was great crowd support, Queen’s fans filled the stands on the student side. It was the usual support that you get accustomed to when you coach at Queen’s, so that was really nice to see.
What are your memories of the post-game celebrations on the field and/or in the dressing room?
Post-game in the dressing room was pretty hectic. At night, the guys went out and had a good time. The coaches did too but it was a bit more low key.
At the time, how did winning the Vanier Cup change your everyday life?
It was really pleasant for me to have a team that was strong enough to win a national championship. I felt that it was one of the highlights of my coaching career. I was fortunate to go back to the Vanier Cup two more times and win it once more as well, so that was nice.
(Note: With Hargreaves at the helm, Queen’s fell 31-21 to Calgary in the 1983 Vanier Cup but defeated Saint Mary’s 31-0 in the 1992 national final, which remains to this day the only shutout in game history)
How often to you reminisce about your Vanier Cup wins?
I tend not to look back unless I’m talking with one of the former players and we’re laughing about something that happened. Usually, when someone calls me is when I think back. I had some great friends on the coaching staff, like Bill Miklas, so thinking back about them and our friendships is always special.
What does it mean to you to be a Vanier Cup champion at Queen’s?
It’s a great honour for the guys to achieve that because it’s not an easy job to win the Vanier Cup and reach that standard. So I still feel very strongly about the effort that they put out, and in 1978 and 1992 it turned out very well. Sometimes you can put out the same effort and it doesn’t turn out the same way.
Where did you go to university, what did you study, and did you play football there?
I attended Queen’s and played centre and linebacker on the football team. I graduated in Arts & Science in 1960. I also did Grad Studies at Dalhousie University in Halifax (Science – 1975) and received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Queen’s in 2011.