An announcement came on Monday that the Canada West conference of Canada’s U-SPORTS university athletics program would not run team competition for the first (fall) term of the 2020-21 school/sporting calendar year.
This decision was based solely on the principle of risk stemming from the current COVID-19 pandemic covering western Canada and North America as a whole. Despite British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba doing quite well in comparison to other provinces and neighbouring states, the decision to prevent potential spread of the illness was made by way of a unanimous vote including representatives of all 17 participating Canada West universities.
“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 Canada West President Clint Hamilton in a press release. “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.”
Alongside Canada West’s decision to cancel the first term of team competition, came the announcements from both the Ontario University Athletics and Atlantic University Sport conferences to cancel their respective first terms on similar basis. U-SPORTS has also announced the cancellation of the first term national championships, while ensuring student athletes will continue to receive their appropriate bursaries and funding promised, despite not participating in their respective team sports.
“By and large, sport competition provides a high-risk environment for the transmission of COVID-19,” Hamilton added. “While other areas of society continue to mitigate risk through new guidelines, sport provides a challenge in this regard as any risk mitigation would render many sports unrecognizable.”
Officially, the field hockey, football, rugby and soccer programs have been cancelled for the fall term, while a decision on the cross country, golf and swimming championships will be made by July 15. A decision will be made on the start date of two-team sports including basketball, hockey and volleyball by October 8. As of now, that start date cannot come any sooner than January 1, 2021.
“Bison Sports supports the decision announced by Canada West,” said University of Manitoba Director of Athletics Gene Miller in a Bisons press release. “Our priority as we collectively move through this pandemic continues to be the health and safety of all involved in competition and the delivery of our programs. However, with this decision comes deep disappointment to our Bisons student-athletes, coaches and support teams. I am always encouraged by the resilience and character of our student-athletes and together we will emerge from this stronger than before. We will continue to work closely with Canada West, UM and government health authorities to plan a future return to play.”