U SPORTS, the national brand of university sports in Canada, has announced the cancellation six 2020 fall national championships due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The cancellations will affect championships in 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 national semifinals (Mitchell and Uteck Bowls) and the Vanier Cup.
“U SPORTS has been working hard with the four conferences, our 56 member institutions and medical experts to examine the feasibility of delivering the fall national championships this season,” said Lisette Johnson-Stapley, U SPORTS Chief Sport Officer. “Taking into account the academic realities of university sport, we arrived at a point where a tough decision had to be made.”
The decision centres around the protection of Student-Athlete health and safety amid continued concerns around the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite certain areas of the country flattening the curve and reopening their economies, the nature of U SPORTS requires the travel and movement of athletes around the country, which the organization feels poses significant risks.
“Although the Canadian sport system is working together to create evidence-based return to training, practice and competition protocols, it is not currently feasible or safe due to the COVID-19 Pandemic for U SPORTS to be able to offer fall championships given the academic realities of student-sport,” said Dr. Taryn Taylor, U SPORTS Chief Medical Officer and representative on the Own the Podium Return to Sport Task Force. “We continue to work with public health officials across the country to examine possibilities for return to play for the winter 2021 term.”
The organization added in a press release that the scheduled hosts of the cancelled fall 2020 national championships will get additional opportunities in future years. U SPORTS also added that it will be modifying eligibility and scholarship regulations as a result of the competition cancellations.
Canada West, the regional sport conference that the University of Victoria Vikes are associated with, also announced their decision to cancel the first term of team competition. Along with the sports that will have championships cancelled in the fall, the restriction on team competition by Canada West will impact UVic’s volleyball, basketball and hockey teams as well – sports with competition schedules that span over the course of the 2020-2021 school year. According to Canada West, conference play in these sports will resume no sooner than January 2021. A decision on the second term of competition in hockey, basketball, and volleyball will be made on October 8.
October 8 will also be the deciding date on whether or not men’s and women’s wrestling, track and field, and women’s rugby 7s move forward with competition in 2021 as well.
“We recognize the significant impact of these decisions on our student-athletes and programs. With most of our student-athletes studying in an online environment, we will continue to provide support to our returning student-athletes and 2020-21 incoming class in preparation for an eventual return to competition in 2021,” said Clint Hamilton, Canada West President and Vikes Director of Athletics and Recreation.
The University of Victoria has made the additional decision to extend the cancellation of first term Canada West and U SPORTS competitions to the entire varsity and sport club programs including non-U SPORTS teams such as rowing and men’s rugby.
In a press release from Vikes Athletics, they suggest that Student-Athletes and teams will be “permitted to train and engage in informal competition pending approvals from the appropriate authorities.”