Canadian university football has a problem. One school, one team, is just too big for a small sandbox.

The problem, if you will, is the Laval Rouge et Or, which has won the national university title in four of the past six years. Laval racked up a perfect 12-0 record and a No. 1 national ranking this fall, capping it with Saturday's 41-21 whipping of the No. 3 ranked Western Mustangs in the Vanier Cup title match in Hamilton.

The score wasn't a true reflection of the actual play -- Laval was more dominant than the final score might suggest. One week earlier, in the national semifinal known as the Uteck Bowl, Laval did an enormous number on the sixth-ranked Calgary Dinos, running up a 49-0 first-half lead before putting it on cruise control and settling for a 59-10 blowout.

Over the course of Laval's regular, eight-game league schedule, the Rouge et Or surrendered only 60 points, fewer than eight per game. Over the course of the past six seasons, playoffs included, Laval has compiled a 65-5 won-lost record.

So, what's the problem? Is it that Laval is just too good -- or is it that its opponents aren't good enough, that they haven't been able to keep pace?

The easy answer is that it doesn't matter because the imbalance and disparity remain no matter the circumstance. The fans, as always, will vote with their feet and their wallets -- the announced Ivor Wynne crowd of 13,873 was one of the smallest Vanier Cup crowds in the past two decades, which perhaps tells you all you need to know.

And, as matters stand at this point, the national title game is without a sponsor -- and still looking for one -- for the 2009 matchup. So, yes, Canadian university football has a real hot potato on its hands.

The more complex response is this: How do you -- and should you -- penalize Laval's excellence?

Surely, you shouldn't fault Laval for taking advantage of opportunity, for putting together a football program that's the envy of every school in Canada.

Youth and junior football have exploded in popularity in Quebec, especially southern Quebec, over the past two decades. There were 11 Quebec-based players competing in Sunday's Grey Cup match between the Montreal Alouettes and Calgary Stampeders.

When it comes to player recruitment, Quebec schools such as Laval have some advantages not available to schools in other provinces. First off, young, French-speaking Quebec kids want to stay in the province because it's familiar and it's home; there are also huge tuition breaks and bursary opportunities available at Quebec universities for homegrown players who keep their marks up.

It's nearly impossible, in other words, for teams in Alberta, Ontario and elsewhere to attract a well-coached, well-grounded Quebec kid to their campuses. Beyond the football-quality gap, there is the language issue for young Quebec players to consider.

Secondly, Laval's quality football program makes the school very attractive to those athletes from across Canada who want to compete at the highest university level. Laval offers that opportunity, running one of the most sophisticated coaching and training programs available anywhere; the Rouge et Or have three full-time coaches running the program.

And finally, there is this: not only does everyone love a winner, but everyone wants to play for a winner, too. Laval won the Vanier Cup on Saturday with a comparatively young team -- the Rouge et Or will lose only a few players to graduation.

Next season, Laval will be scary good once again. That should frighten some people, especially the ones stuck with the job of promoting a Vanier Cup with a foregone conclusion.

Record sports editor Al Coates can be reached at