On June 8, U SPORTS announced the cancellation of all national championships for fall sports at Canadian universities. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization concluded that the season could not be conducted safely.
As the governing body to 56 university sports programs and nearly 20,000 athletes, U SPORTS acknowledged the magnitude of this decision and its far-reaching consequences.
“The decision comes as a result of the on-going uncertainties with student-athlete health and safety, travel and public health restrictions that affect parts of the country and different curriculum delivery models being proposed on the campus of its 56 member universities,” the U SPORTS statement read.
Championships have been cancelled for women’s field hockey, men’s and women’s cross-country running, men’s and women’s soccer, women’s rugby, and football—including the Vanier Cup semi-final championships. This will be the first year without a Vanier Cup championship since its inception in 1965.
Following U SPORTS’ lead, the OUA, AUS, and Canada West conferences all cancelled their athletic schedules until Dec. 31. This decision will likely impact the Winter 2021 seasons of some sports teams, as many begin their seasons in October.
The RSEQ has yet to make a statement regarding this season’s plan. Of the eight universities that compete in the RSEQ, four are located in Montreal, Canada’s most heavily affected region.
McGill Athletics and Recreation Interim Senior Director Philip Quintal and Director of Sport Programs Geoffrey Phillips have released a statement regarding U SPORTS’ decision. They have not yet cleared the schedules of all McGill Teams, although the seasons of teams competing in the OUA and CUFLA’s fall seasons have been cancelled. This includes rowing and women’s field hockey in the OUA, and men’s lacrosse in the CUFLA.
“Some teams, such as hockey, basketball and volleyball will continue preparing for a potential modified schedule beginning in January 2021,” Quintal and Phillips’ statement read.
Following McGill’s May 11 announcement regarding the remote delivery of the Fall 2020 semester, this statement adds to the uncertainty regarding the upcoming year.
While students are not expected to return to campus for class, student-athletes will have the choice of returning to practice at McGill facilities.
“No varsity student-athlete will be disadvantaged if they choose not to return to Montreal to train in light of the fact that most academic courses will be held online throughout the fall semester,” McGill Athletics sports information officer Earl Zuckerman said in an email to The McGill Tribune.
McGill Athletics are in the process of preparing specific “re-integration to train” documents for each team, but no start dates have been established at this time. McGill’s athletic complex has remained closed since March 14, including all facilities and the Sports Medicine Clinic. There is currently no reopening date scheduled.
COVID-19 also disrupted the conclusion of the Winter 2020 season for several sports, forcing U SPORTS to cancel the national championships for both women’s volleyball and the men’s and women’s hockey last semester. McGill’s women’s hockey team was scheduled to attend nationals after winning RSEQ gold.
U SPORTS is reportedly working to create an “evidence-based return” to training and competition.
“We continue to work with public health officials across the country to examine possibilities for return to play for the winter 2021 term,” U SPORTS Chief Medical Officer Dr. Taryn Taylor said.
Further details on the winter schedule are expected in the fall.
While Athletic Financial Awards will still be distributed, regulations will be adjusted to accommodate the disruptions of the Winter 2020 academic term. U SPORTS has also announced that students would not lose a year of eligibility for the Fall 2020 season due to these circumstances in the same statement.
McGill athletics will prioritize the health and well-being of students when making decisions on sports throughout the pandemic.
“I feel like I have less […] drive and I’m less determined to accomplish my goals because […] there is no competition for you to see all the hard work you put in […] at practice,” Jorden Savoury, third year track and field sprinter said. “You won’t get that feeling [of competing] at practice and that makes it hard to push yourself.”
An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the men’s hockey season had been cancelled, however this is not the case as the team competes in the winter season, not the fall. The McGill Tribune regrets this error.