At this time of year, most students are gearing up for the assault of classes and coursework. For Al Turnbull, fall semester holds the requisite challenge of being a student, as well as moonlighting as UMSU president and a Bison Football team linebacker.
On Aug. 27, the Bison Football organization held a press conference to announce the appointment of six captains to the team for the 2013 season, and Turnbull was among them. Turnbull is a fourth-year linebacker and was made captain of special teams. “He has more power than anyone else in this room [ . . . ] roughly 30,000 students and he’s the boss of them,” head coach Brian Dobie quipped to the crowd of media present.
“[Turnbull] plays a large [role] on all facets of special teams and had 10.0 total tackles in 2012. He has been durable by playing in 15 of 16 conference regular seasons games over the past two seasons,” reads a Bison Sports press release.
Dobie referred to Turnbull as a utility player with a strong presence and influence on and off the field. Regarding the rationale for selecting Turnbull for one of the captain positions, Dobie related that such an appointment is not based strictly on skill.
“In fact, in two of these cases, those guys have limited offensive-defensive [roles]. Al Turnbull [ . . . ] is not a starter, [but is still] a huge special teams contributor. So, it’s not just about being the best [ . . . ] it’s representing our program, it’s representing the teammates in the locker room, and it’s the responsibility of leadership that comes with that.”
When asked about the positive impact the new Investors Group Stadium will have on the Bison Football club, Turnbull responded that “it’s not just the Bisons, too, it’s the whole U of M [that benefits]. I think [the U of M is] really on the rise.”
“We’re one of the winningest programs in the last few decades and we just want to make sure that that reputation continues, and it starts this year with a new stadium and a new home.”
As UMSU president, Turnbull spoke about how the opening of the IGF is “huge” for campus life. “The U of M has always lacked what I’d call ‘school spirit.’ One of our big platform points was to make sure that we, [the current executive], came in and increased student spirit. What a way to spearhead it with this stadium.”
Turnbull added that generating that interest cannot be solely achieved from the top-down. He is convinced the new stadium will act as a catalyst for creating a NCAA-style collegial atmosphere with respect to the U of M’s sports teams.
“The seventh is going to be a big day,” Turnbull told the Manitoban, referring to the Bison Football game slated to take place Sept. 7. He’s confident the student body is apt to start paying more attention to their campus football team once classes are in session starting Sept. 4.
“I’d like to see 10,000 people at the game on [Sept. 7]. It’s during orientation. You really have to make people feel like there’s no other option [than attending the game]. That’s something that exists down south. Students don’t have an option: they go to the game, it’s part of the culture.”
Referring to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ current regular season woes, Turnbull remarked how there are “a lot of slightly disinterested fans that are looking for another team to cheer for, and what better team [than the Bisons].”
“The Jets aren’t for a couple weeks, so people need to get excited about something,” said Turnbull.
“We see what the U of M lacks, because scholastically we’re a very strong school, we have one of the lower rates of tuition. I think there’s satisfaction in general with the [U of M]. But one thing that goes without saying is that there’s a bit of a lack of school spirit, and that’s an element I think our team can bring.”
According to Turnbull, the University of Manitoba is budgeting more money this year as a way to try and emulate universities like Laval and the University of Saskatchewan that manage to fill their seats and foster something akin to that NCAA collegial spirit. As UMSU’s president and a Bisons linebacker, Turnbull is uniquely positioned to help make that a reality.