50TH VANIER CUP INTERVIEW SERIES: Jamie Bone, Western (1977)

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50TH VANIER CUP INTERVIEW SERIES: 1977

A conversation with…

Jamie Bone, quarterback, University of Western Ontario Mustangs

In Vanier Cup XIII, the Western Ontario Mustangs became only the second program to win back-to-back Vanier Cup championships thanks to a convincing 48-15 victory over the Acadia Axemen at Varsity Stadium in Toronto. Western had also defeated Acadia, 29-13, in the 1976 title game. Quarterback Jamie Bone, who was also behind centre in 1976, was near perfect in the Mustangs’ repeat triumph as he completed 80% of his passes (16-of-20) for 253 yards, no interceptions and four touchdowns, a Vanier Cup record he still shares to this day.

What is your major memory of the 1977 Vanier Cup weekand the overall experience?

It was the second year in a row that we had been to the Vanier Cup, having also defeated Acadia the year before, so our team knew the routine of the week. The College Bowl, as the game was called then, was very well-organized. It was a blast staying at the Hotel Toronto – now the Hilton Toronto – and attending all the dinners, lunches and press conferences. The College Bowl was a big deal in Toronto with many political and business people involved with the game, and we all felt pretty special being there.

What is your one major lasting memory of the actual game?

The fact that we won back-to-back Vanier Cups against the same opponent, the only time that has happened in the game’s history, and the fact it happened against Acadia. My family had a long history at Acadia as my great grandfather, father and sister all attended the Wolfville campus, and I knew many of their players because I had played at Acadia for one year before transferring to Western. It must have been an interesting time for my father, as all his Acadia friends would good naturedly kid him about his son being the Western QB.

Was there one key play you remember?

The key to the game was our ability to run the ball. Bill Rozalowsky, who was named Vanier Cup MVP for the second straight year, had 177 yards rushing. It certainly made it easier for me to throw the ball with that kind of rushing production.

The key play, though, happened in the second quarter. We were up 10-1 and the game was getting a bit tighter. We called a play which sent wide receiver Walt Payerl on a deep post route. He made a great move on the corner and got on top of the safety, and he caught a 58-yard TD pass. It broke the game open for us. After that scoring play, Acadia was never really a threat to win the game.

(Note: Western set three Vanier Cup rushing records in 1977 including most yards by a single player (Rozalowski – 177), as well as most yards (301) and most runs (55) by a team)

What was your personal greatest play or greatest moment?

There really wasn’t one play — it was the totality of it. Completing 80% of my passes with no interceptions and throwing four TD passes – which tied the record set by Terry Dolan of StFX in 1966 — was more than I could have imagined. It felt great knowing that I had played a major part in our win.

Did anything unusual or out of the ordinary happen during the game or during Vanier week?

One thing sticks out in my mind. The night before the game I was sitting in a conference room with some London media people. We were just talking about the game and our chances. Someone asked me how I felt the game would go the next day. It was being recorded but was strictly off the record until after the game, but I told them it wouldn’t be close – we would win big.

They were incredulous! We had won the OUAA semifinal, the Yates Cup and the Forest City Bowl by a combined total of eight points, and yet here I was saying we would win this game going away. My reasoning was the year before we played an exceptional Acadia team in the Vanier Cup and beat them 29-13. They had lost a number of their best players in 1, while we had all of our key players back, plus a few exceptional transfers. After watching the Acadia film, I didn’t think they had the talent or experience on their defence they had the year before.

(Note: In 1977, the Mustangs beat Windsor 14-13 in the OUAA semifinals, Laurier 22-17 in the OUAA Yates Cup final and Calgary 24-22 in the Forest City Bowl national semifinal; their 33-point margin of victory in the 1977 Vanier Cup still ranks second in game history, trailing only McGill’s 47-11 win over UBC in 1987)

Did the coaches do anything different from normal routine in the preparation for the game?

For head coach Darwin Semotiuk, this was his fourth Vanier Cup, his second as head coach, and he had never lost. We all took great confidence in that and I really don’t remember him doing anything different that week. Darwin didn’t believe in curfews or trying to control players outside of normal practice hours. He just instilled in all of us that we were personally responsible for our actions along with that of the team and to always use “good judgment.”

Larry Haylor was the offensive coordinator and his Friday afternoon routine of sitting down for an hour with the quarterbacks didn’t change. Instead of being in his office, it was in his hotel room. Quarterbacks called their own game back then, and Larry would take us through the game with each of us calling plays in hypothetical situations.

How did you or the team react to the stadium and the crowd?

It was pretty much a home game for us. We had played many games versus Toronto in Varsity Stadium, and had also won the Vanier Cup there the year before, so many of us considered it our second home. The crowd was made up of mostly Western fans and we always played in front of great crowds in London, so we had the partisan fan advantage.

What are your memories of the post-game celebrations on the field and/or in the dressing room?

Two things in particular:

In 1977, many players on the Acadia team had gotten earrings. It was all quite new back then and many of us thought it a bit strange, to see football players with pierced ears. The tradition of the winning team is to be awarded Vanier Cup rings and I remember someone wrote on the blackboard in our locker room after the game “No College Bowl Earrings for Acadia this Year!”

The other was after the game in the locker room with CBC doing live interviews on a makeshift stage. Doug Saunders, from CBC Halifax, was interviewing me live when all the players formed in front getting ready to sing our Western victory song. He asked me a question and I remember saying to him, ‘Sorry, I have to go sing a song.’ It must have looked and sounded strange to the viewers at home!

What are your memories of the trip back home?

I really don’t remember the bus trip back, but there was a great party at the Hotel Toronto after the game. The place was filled with Western fans and it was truly a special moment which lasted all night long. It may be because of that party that I don’t really remember the bus ride – I believe most of us were sleeping!

What was the reaction on campus when the team returned?

There was a great sense of pride among the student body and everyone was congratulating members of the team. Western always played in front of large crowds at JW Little Stadium and those students felt as much a part of our victory as players on the team. It was a whirlwind next couple of weeks as various London restaurants and bars hosted Vanier Cup victory parties.

At the time, how did winning the Vanier Cup change your everyday life?

It cemented a bond with the players on that team. We always used to ask ourselves, “Are we a close team because we won, or did we win because we are a close team?” All of us felt it was the latter. Even if I haven’t seen or spoken to one of my teammates in years, when we do talk it feels like there is no gap in the relationship. We had set out to accomplish a goal together; we believed in each other and would have sacrificed anything for our teammates.

More about Jamie Bone (courtesy of Western University Athletics):

One of the top quarterbacks in Canadian university football history, Jamie Bone was a CIAU all-Canadian and won the Hec Crighton Trophy as the country’s most outstanding player in 1978. The following year, the two-time Vanier Cup champion was awarded the Dr. Claude Brown Memorial Trophy, an award given to the Western male student-athlete judged to have made the greatest contribution to athletics within the university. A member of Western’s W Club Hall of Fame (1991) and of the Mustangs Football Champions Club Wall of Honour, he returned to the football program in 2010 and currently serves as the team’s quarterbacks coach.

The Bone family legacy lives on at Western as his son, Stevenson, and daughter, Robin, are both student-athletes on the London campus. Stevenson is a quarterback on the football team and Robin is a pole vaulter and hurdler on the track and field squad.

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