The Varsity Blues football team is halfway through its season and is sitting at a 1-3 record. The team is hoping to make a comeback in its last four games in order to make a playoff run.
In 1993, the Blues were not relying on a late-season rally to find success in the league. This was the last year that the Blues won the Yates Cup (Ontario championship) and moved on to the national championships. The team then won the Vanier Cup (the national championship) for the second time in its history, 28 years after its first victory.
However, before the season began, U of T was considering cutting the team.
“Being part of the Vanier Cup winning football team was of course a major highlight, particularly given the fact that the program was supposed to be cut my final season,” said David Scandiffio, a member of the championship team as an offensive guard.
“I am very grateful to the alumni that rallied both financial and influential support to resurrect the team; it is a key reason I am involved in the varsity alumni today,” he added.
Scandiffio played five years of football at U of T and graduated in 1994 with a BSc. in actuarial science.
In 1992, Scandiffio was named a first-team all-Canadian and won the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) J.P Metras Trophy, presented to the top lineman in the province. He was named to the OUA and Canadian Intercollegiate Sport (CIS) first teams again in 1993, and was also drafted by the Toronto Argonauts.
The highlight of his time on the team was, of course, the 1993 season when the team took both provincial and national championship titles.
“In a lot of ways, winning the Yates Cup was almost even sweeter, as it was the first time in my varsity career that we knocked off Western, a constant nemesis for us,” said Scandiffio.
“I think the celebration that night when we got back to Toronto was as big as when we won the Vanier. Our confidence grew and at that point we felt we could beat anyone,” he added
Scandiffio is a Toronto native who went to high school at St. Michael’s College. This was also where he first started playing football.
The high school had a strong football program and saw many of its players attending U of T for university and joining the football team. “Ten to 12 guys on our Vanier team came from St Mike’s, including Lou Tiro, who won the President’s Trophy as the top defensive player in the CIS our final year,” said Scandiffio.
Scandiffio still sees his former teammates at an annual alumni event, and through the annual hall of fame inductions which allow U of T’s top athletes to reconnect.
“What’s amazing to me is how quickly we quickly revert back to our interactions, even if you haven’t seen the person in a decade or more,” he said.
After graduation, Scandiffio worked for Mackenzie Financial, and later joined Industrial Alliance, a Quebec-based insurance company, and became the executive vice president, wealth management, a role which he still currently holds.
Scandiffio also coached at U of T for a few years after he graduated. “It provided me with a renewed appreciation for the sacrifices of our coaches as it was extremely time consuming,” he said.
He is still involved with the football program through the Friends of Football program and as the director of the Varsity Leadership Foundation.
Furthermore, Scandiffio also kept ties with St. Michael’s College by serving a committee for an alumni golf tournament.
Scandiffio was also a part of creating the Bob Laycoe Scholarship, awarded to a football player annually, by coordinating and communicating the support of the athletes who played under Laycoe.
“[Laycoe] had a profound impact on each of us individually, reinforcing the character, determination, and collaboration required to succeed,” said Scandiffio.
“Bob always stressed the importance of being an exemplary student-athlete, so we thought it was important as his players we could collectively set up an award that recognized and rewards Varsity Blue athletes embody those traits,” said Scandiffio.
In 2001, Scandiffio was named to the Varsity Blues all-century team, and in 2013 he was inducted into U of T’s sports hall of fame.
At least one game per year, Scandiffio brings his family to take part in the tradition.
“The CIS is a tough, competitive league, but… under Coach Gary the team has really turned the corner and is heading in the right direction. Establishing a winning culture can be a difficult and often elusive thing, but the coaching staff and players are certainly on the path to success,” he said on the current program.
“Being a part of the Varsity Blues was a tremendous experience for me personally,” he said.
“We spent endless hours together training, practicing, studying game tape towards a common goal, all the while trying to balance our classes and assignments. It was great prep for balancing [and] integrating work and life priorities later in life.”