Fraser Valley/Ottawa – Decisions from Canada West and U SPORTS on Thursday have eliminated the possibility of conference play or national championships in 2020-21 for the University of the Fraser Valley varsity sports teams.
Canada West announced that no conference regular season, playoff, or championship events will be staged during the 2020-21 season in men’s and women’s basketball, volleyball, hockey, and wrestling, along with women’s rugby sevens. Decisions on the staging of 2020-21 CW championships in curling, track & field, and swimming have been deferred to a later date.
Additionally, U SPORTS, the governing body for national championships, announced their Board’s decision to cancel all remaining 2020-21 national championships. The decision came after consultation with championship hosts, and was supported by all four conferences, including Canada West.
“The health and safety of our student-athletes, and those around them, has been paramount in this decision-making process,” said UFV director of athletics and campus recreation Steve Tuckwood, whose Cascades compete in Canada West basketball, soccer, golf, volleyball and wrestling.
“Ultimately, this is another dose of difficult news for student-athletes amidst a trying year, and we empathize with them. Moving forward, we will look to build in-province exhibition schedules for our teams, following viaSport cohort guidelines and COVID-19 mitigation protocols.”
Despite Canada West regular season, playoff and championship events being cancelled in the aforementioned sports, conference members have been empowered to explore competitive opportunities for their student-athletes, based on the principle of regional cohort play.
Learnings from the relaunch of fall sports will be applied, as competitions are explored on a member-by-member basis through the remainder of the 2020-21 season, with hopes of paving a path for the full resumption of Canada West play in the fall of 2021.
A vote of Canada West’s 17 members formally made the cancellations and deferrals on Thursday, following recommendations from the CW Board of Directors based on information provided by the CW COVID-19 Task Force. The Task Force is comprised of CW athletic directors, along with medical professionals.
Following an announcement on October 2 to delay a decision on second term competition, Canada West’s Board and COVID-19 Task Force continued to evaluate the evolving COVID-19 environment. Ultimately the Board recommended to members that second term conference competition in basketball, volleyball, hockey, wrestling, and rugby sevens not be staged due to a host of factors, including:
- 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
“This isn’t the outcome any of us wanted, however, it has become increasingly clear over the last few weeks that the environment wasn’t going to change sufficiently to ensure safe competition in traditional conference formats in these sports,” said CW president Clint Hamilton.
“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. 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. Our members will now shift their focus to finding new ways of delivering non-conference sport competition for our student-athletes.”
U SPORTS’ determination to not offer the championships comes with the unanimous support of its Board of Directors and the four university sports conferences: Atlantic University Sport, Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec, Ontario University Athletics and Canada West.
“Following consultations with the four conferences, we agreed that student-athlete safety remains our top priority,” said Dick White, U SPORTS Interim Chief Executive Officer. “It is not logistically possible for teams to be travelling across the country at this time. Therefore, U SPORTS is in the unfortunate position where we are unable to offer the 2021 winter championships.”
The impacted events include the women’s and men’s championships in basketball, hockey, swimming, track and field, volleyball and wrestling. Curling Canada previously announced the suspension of the 2021 university championships.
“It is important to consider the impact on the under-30 university demographic,” said Dr. Taryn Taylor, U SPORTS Chief Medical Officer and representative on the Own the Podium Return to Sports Task Force. “As the number of cases rise during the second wave of COVID-19, and without an available vaccine, on-going sports restrictions are required to ensure student-athlete health and safety.”
Another critical consideration impacting today’s announcement is the variety of local and provincial health restrictions facing championship hosts.
“U SPORTS is unique in that we offer nine winter championships in nine different parts of the country,” said Lisette Johnson-Stapley, U SPORTS Chief Sport Officer. “Our hosts are facing a variety of challenges due to COVID-19, including travel restrictions and limits on public indoor gatherings that impact event planning. We look forward to providing the hosts of the cancelled 2021 national championships the opportunity to host in future years.”
U SPORTS will announce its updated future hosting rotation before the end of the year.