Canada West postpones sports until 2021
COVID-19 forces Canada West to cancel fall sports, push winter sports to January
By Zach Worden, Sports Editor
With the sports world trying to figure out how to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and return to play safely, Canada West has announced some significant changes to the 2020-21 season.
All 17 members of the conference unanimously voted to cancel all fall 2020 competitions. This means that no university football, soccer, rugby 15s or field hockey will be played. For two-term sports such as basketball, hockey and volleyball, the season will not start before Jan. 1, 2021. A decision will be made on the status of two-term sports seasons by Oct. 8.
For winter-specific sports such as wrestling, track and field, curling and women’s rugby 7s, the decision will be made at the same time as the decision for two-term sports.
The Canada West announcement coincided with the national decision made by U SPORTS, Ontario University Athletics (OUA) and Atlantic University Sport (AUS) to cancel fall competitions. Only one conference in U SPORTS — the Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec — has yet to announce any changes to their schedule in the hope of hosting fall competition.
“The challenging nature of [this] announcement can’t be understated. As a former student-athlete and coach, I feel deeply for everyone who won’t be able to experience the joys of university competition this fall,” said Clint Hamilton, Canada West president and University of Victoria athletic director.
Although the decision for most Canada West sports was made in June, the conference postponed the decision for the golf, swimming and cross country championships. The conference ultimately had to cancel the cross country championships, postpone the swimming championships until the winter semester but made the decision to move forward with golf championships.
UBC Okanagan will host the golf championships in Kelowna, B.C. They are scheduled for the Okanagan Golf Club on Oct. 2 to Oct. 4. Meanwhile, the swimming championships at the University of Calgary — previously scheduled for November 2020 — are being rescheduled for early 2021.
The Canada West press release stated, “With respect to the CW Cross Country Championships scheduled this fall, the COVID-19 Task Force felt that the necessary risk mitigations – reduction of team complement, altered start, creating defined passing areas, or hosting regional championships would too significantly impact the integrity of the championships.”
COVID-19 has already impacted Canadian student-athletes, as both the 2020 Hockey and Volleyball U SPORTS National Championships were cancelled. Since then, a COVID-19 task force has been created by Canada West with members representing each province, along with medical professionals.
“The Task Force undertook significant discussion and research to inform our recommendations with public health considerations, specifically minimizing risk for both individual participants and the general public, at the core of our work,” said University of Victoria varsity sports medicine physician Steve Martin.
Canada West members will have the option to return to train, which will give teams the chance to get back together as a team and practice in preparation for the return to play.
“While cancellation isn’t the outcome anyone associated with university sport wanted, I’m confident in the fact that this difficult decision is in the best interests of our student-athletes,” said Hamilton. “Health and safety is at the forefront of everything we do and simply put there was no way to adequately ensure the safety of everyone involved in university sport during competition this fall.”
For athletes whose championships have been cancelled, there will be no charge for a year of eligibility. In addition to maintaining their athletic status, students will remain eligible to receive athletic financial scholarships. Athletic Financial Awards (AFAs) have also been adjusted to maintain all current regulations for eligibility and AFAs for first-time entry and transfer students.
With Canada West and U SPORTS working to see sports return in 2021, sports fans are hoping for improvements when it comes to COVID-19 response so student-athletes can return to what they love.