Sunday, 7 June 2020

Say What?!?

Every once in a while, you come across something on social media that you read that kind of stops you dead in your tracks. That happened today as I was scrolling through the old Twitter machine, and I was a little shocked at what I read as were a handful of other people who reached out to me after I retweeted the information. What made this piece of news a little harder to digest is that while there was always a chance that what was said could happen, I don't thin anyone actually expected it to happen. However, without further teasing of the story, let's get into it.

Canada West Conference had a meeting on Friday. The contents of that meeting largely went unreported mostly because there were no reporters present for the meeting among the members of Canada West who attended. What was discussed and the conversations surrounding the topics will only be known to those in attendance, but Jon Keen, a man I respect for his work as the play-by-play man for the WHL's Kamloops Blazers, dropped this little piece of news onto social media today that set the world ablaze for a number of people.
That sound you heard was a full stop for at least three sports at the U SPORTS level and the derailing of at least four more seasons if Jon's tweet is correct. I do not doubt the veracity if his tweet as he's usually spot-on when it comes to news of this magnitude, so this cancellation of the fall semester's sports is a doozy when it comes to the overall picture for how university sports will be played in Canada.

Before we all start reaching for the pitchforks and torches to storm the U SPORTS offices over this decision, I want to make something very clear thanks to our neighbours to the south. As you may know, the NCAA opened up its facilities this week as football programs across the NCAA began getting their reps in for what appeared to be an NCAA season this week. Instead, a lot of facilities are now having to re-examine those plans following reports that several universities saw outbreaks of COVID-19.

Among those who reported outbreaks?
  • Arkansas State: seven athletes from three sports programs tested positive.
  • Auburn: thee football players tested positive.
  • Marshall: "several" athletes tested positive.
  • Oklahoma State: "several" athletes tested positive including one Canadian.
  • Iowa State: one new case.
  • Alabama: at least five football players tested positive.
Of course, these cases come on the heels of NCAA president Mark Emmert stating on May 16 that it is "almost inevitable" that some athletes will contract the coronavirus. I would be remiss if I didn't mention that "Emmert said the NCAA would not dictate when schools might resume sports," yet they went ahead and lifted the moratorium on football and basketball just four days later as long as players followed local rules and laws for where their schools are located.

Armed with that knowledge about the NCAA's outbreaks, U SPORTS football, along with soccer and rugby, would be three of the sports affected by U SPORTS' decision to cancel the fall athletic calendar in that their seasons would be completely done with no chance of playing in 2020-21. For court sports and hockey, there would be a further reduction in scheduling with games likely to start in January, and those reductions might see less travel involved than the 20-game scheduled already proposed by Canada West.

The official announcement will be made tomorrow at 11am MT (12pm CT) about what seems to be a foregone conclusion regarding the fall sports schedule for U SPORTS. If everything that Jon wrote in his tweet holds true, this ripple will cause all sorts of headaches regarding player eligibility and roster sizes, player recruitment and roster sizes, red-shirt rules, player transfers and the required one-year delay before resuming their university sports careers, and more. While I get that COVID-19 has changed the world, this decision will certainly require a lot more administrative work from the governing body of Canadian university sports.

Make no mistake about this: I want players to be safe, and that means playing without the risk of illness from COVID-19. If we're seeing numbers in the US spike upwards in college sports, I'd rather err on the side of safety too when it comes to keeping students safe. All university athletes are STUDENT-athletes - heavy emphasis on the student part - and the universities are working to keep all students, including those who don't play sports, safe while attending classes.

It sucks that there will be no university sports come September and October, but I respect U SPORTS for putting students first when it comes to keeping all students safe and healthy. I'll have more on this tomorrow when the announcement is made, but let's keep the anger and outrage to a dull roar tonight before we get all the details tomorrow, ok? Ok.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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