Canada West and other U SPORTS conferences come to a final decision on university sports in Canada for 2020-21
By Zach Worden, Sports Editor
On Oct. 15, Canada West, along with the rest of U SPORTS, announced the cancellation of all regular season, playoff or championship events for the 2020-21 season. After initially setting a deadline of Oct. 8 to make a final decision on winter sports, the conference delayed the decision until November, giving their COVID-19 taskforce time to continue evaluating the landscape across their three-member provinces.
A vote that included all 17 institutions in the conference came to the conclusion to shut down the season for men’s and women’s basketball, volleyball, hockey and wrestling, as well as women’s rugby 7s. The institutions followed recommendations from the Canada West board of directors.
The Canada West announcement listed the following reasons as contributing factors to the decision:
– Ensuring the health and safety of student-athletes and others
– Rising case numbers across portions of Western Canada, particularly in the age group of university students
– Continued inter-provincial travel restrictions imposed by provincial health authorities
– Financial impediments to traditional conference competition due to COVID-19 mitigation protocols, including heightened travel costs
In light of the decision for sanctioned conference play to be cancelled, Canada West institutions have been encouraged to find regional cohort competition. This means that teams will be able to schedule exhibition games or tournaments against schools in their respective regions.
According to Ben Steiner of 49 Sports, there has been discussion for a men’s hockey tournament in Alberta that would feature both schools from the Canada West and Alberta Collegiate Athletic Conference (ACAC). These types of tournaments would be independent of the Canada West and therefore would not cost athletes any years of eligibility for participating.
“Ultimately our members saw no feasible path to staging traditional Canada West conference events during the 2020-21 season in these sports. With today’s decision our members have opted to provide clarity to our stakeholders, most importantly our student-athletes,” said Canada West President Clint Hamilton in the announcement.
“Collectively we didn’t take the decision to cancel fall competition lightly in June, and today’s announcement is equally disappointing to everyone involved in university sport.”
Ontario University Athletics (OUA), Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ) and Atlantic University Sport (AUS) all made their announcements regarding the status of the 2020-21 season on Oct. 15 as well. With all conferences cancelling their seasons, U SPORTS released their decision to cancel all national winter championships.
Despite the country-wide cancellations, Canada West still has hope for curling, track and field and swimming, and instead of cancelling these championships they have postponed the decision to a later date.