Toronto, ON- For student-athletes, coaches and others in Canada West, there is still a reason to believe that they may get an abbreviated season. The conference has delayed their decision on whether to play in January to Nov. 2, 28 days after the original deadline of Oct. 8, set in June.
The conference consulted student-athletes and other stakeholders before making the decision, which the Board of Directors voted on earlier in the week. The additional 28 days allows for two incubation periods of COVID-19, and in the pandemic’s evolving landscape, the hope is that the citation is improved by that point.
Although competition is not happening in the fall semester, many teams have returned to training with COVID-19 precautions in place. While teams of multiple sports have returned in some fashion, the method of which is different than in other years. UNBC Athletic Director, Loralyn Murdoch spoke to the Prince George Citizen, saying, “Our teams are in high-performance training mode and that’s not going to be altered either way.”
“High-performance training mode” is the status for the majority of teams who have returned, and the decision to push the deadline back will not change anything, as every team wants to return at 100% if a January season happens.
At UBC, one of the conference’s largest schools, Athletic Director Kavi Toor is pleased with the decision to delay the deadline, explaining to Varsity Letters, that it gives the conference and its members the to think of more options.
Currently, there are a few options that have been rumoured. Sources have told 49 Sports that hockey and basketball, are hoping for a 12 game season, followed by regular playoffs. While there has not been word on other sports, 9-12 games is a reasonable estimate.
Some sport in Canada West’s provinces has returned, however, not as free as it once was. BC Soccer, as well as other sporting bodies, have allowed a return to play, with slightly modified rules, and scheduling procedures. Some of these changes include kick-ins replacing throw-ins cohort groups, where teams play a select group of opponents a few times before taking a 14-day break.
2 positives and a worry
Positive- Three members of Canada West have returned to some sort of competition, with the UBC Thunderbirds, UFV Cascades and the UBC Okanagan Heat resuming with a series of golf tournaments. Their BC-only tournament is taking place in Kelowna, where the Canada West championships were supposed to be.
Positive– For men’s hockey teams, sources have told 49 Sports that around 75% of student-athletes have returned to campus for training. Getting such a high number involved was in doubt in the spring, but it makes the potential for a Canada West season without required on-campus classes more of a possibility than originally thought.
Worry- COVID-19 has already forced the shutdown of athletics facilities in Canada West. On Sept. 14, the University of Alberta reported that five students tested positive for the virus and that they had been involved with the athletics community. This forced the closure of all in-person U of A Varsity Athletics programs for 14 days.
However, the school and the athletics facilities have since reopened.
Worry: For the University of Saskatchewan Huskies hockey teams, it is unlikely they will be able to use their brand-new arena, even if the season starts in January. Merlis Beslher Place, which ranked as the best U SPORTS hockey arena in 49 Sports summer rankings, is currently set up as a field hospital incase of an overwhelming wave of COVID-19.
Now we wait
With the decision on January postponed until Nov. 2, nothing really changed in terms of what is happening with athletics programs. The 28 days gives the virus two incubation periods, which brings it back on the community to stay vigilant in their COVID-19 precautions, remembering that if cases trend towards lower numbers, the likelihood of university sport trends upwards.
Glen Constantine, Head Coahc of the University of Laval football program is hoping to get permission for a spring football jamboree that would include some of U SPORTS’ highest profile football programs. For it to happen, U SPORTS must grant permission to play in a time of year that would usually be off limits.
Interest has been shown by the McMaster Marauders, Western Mustangs, Saskatchewan Huskies and Calgary Dinos and Montreal Carabins.
Cover Photo: UNBC Athletics