Halifax, N.S.- Atlantic University Sport, the only U SPORTS conference to announce active steps toward planning a safe return to play in January, has all eyes on them.
Canada West (except for maybe non-team sports) and the OUA won’t hold sanctioned competition this year. There is also a general pessimism around Québec’s (RSEQ) ability to resume. Although they announced the suspension of sporting activity until Jan. 15, they have the most active COVID-19 cases of any province right now.
That leaves the AUS.
Their approach, announced last week, involves the appointment of a Return-To-Play Committee that will examine health and financial concerns in the Atlantic provinces.
The AUS said Nov. 4 is the Committee’s deadline to submit recommendations to the AUS board of directors. The board will make a decision within a week.
AUS executive director Phil Currie said an announcement will be made between the Nov. 4 recommendation deadline and Nov. 15. He is cautiously optimistic a plan to resume play will be completed by the Committee and board of directors.
“We’re in the business of providing opportunity for student-athletes. We’re doing everything in our power, from the Committee to the athletic directors in each province, to resume [competition]. It’s as long as it’s safe and can happen despite any financial challenges,” Currie said. “Hopefully things with COVID don’t go sideways. Otherwise, I think we’ll see some competition.”
The Return-To-Play Committee is made up of six people: four athletic directors (one representing each province) and two AUS staff.
The University of Prince Edward Island’s Jane Vessey, the University of New Brunswick’s John Richard, Memorial University’s Karen Murphy (Newfoundland and Labrador) and Saint Mary’s University’s Scott Gray (Nova Scotia) are the Return-To-Play Committee’s athletic directors. Each will account for their respective province’s public health guidelines and form contingency plans to account for certain health protocols, where applicable.
AUS Director of Sport Programming, John Keefe and Jessica Burns, AUS’s communications and marketing manager, round out the Committee’s members.
Currie said the AUS is questioning a number of factors along with health protocols. One important one is each school’s financial situation, including travel costs. In a resumed season, costs will include extra buses or vehicles to maintain social distancing during travel, plus health guideline accommodations at facilities during events.
All of those costs would land within each school’s budgets, which have been depleted by lost revenues due to the pandemic. Schools have the option to opt out of the winter season.
“It’s about making sure all of our Is are dotted and Ts are crossed in terms of safety and in terms of getting to some sort of competition,” Currie said.
When 49 Sports contacted Return-To-Play Committee members for comment, one athletic director said the Committee and AUS agreed that “only the AUS would lead communication on the matter.”
ACAA looking into winter season
The Atlantic Collegiate Athletic Association (ACAA) announced Thursday the agreement with its institutions’ presidents to make a decision about the winter semester in mid-November. The affected sports would include basketball, volleyball and badminton.
ACAA athletic directors drew up a return to play plan that is being reviewed by New Brunswick’s, Nova Scotia’s and P.E.I.’s public health authorities. Newfoundland and Labrador does not have an ACAA school.
The plan will only be presented to school presidents upon its approval by the three public health authorities.
The ACAA’s decision came in the wake of the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association’s (CCAA) decision to cancel the year’s remaining national championships.
The CCAA’s conferences are in tremendously different spots regarding winter season decisions. The Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) said they will wait to see if a season can be held before they make return to play plans. The Ontario Colleges Athletic Association’s (OCAA) year is over. The Manitoba Colleges Athletic Conference (MCAC) recently announced their volleyball season is scheduled to begin in January, while decisions on basketball and futsal will come later. The RSEQ’s college league will wait until January for now, and there has been no word yet from the Pacific Western Athletic Association (PACWEST) in B.C.
COVER PHOTO: UNB ATHLETICS