U SPORTS is responsible for national eligibility and compliance as well as national championships, while the conferences oversee regular season and the qualification pathways to championships via their post-seasons. The conferences are free to determine if they will move forward with competitions this year.
Canada has a different reality with its approach to COVID-19 than the United States, so it is to be expected that our approach to university sport is different to that of the NCAA.
We have the Atlantic Bubble to contend with, which prevents short-term travel to the maritime provinces which makes any national championship in that region, of which we have two scheduled for this year, unrealistic for our universities. In the event where student-athletes are taking in-person classes, they would be absent for three-plus weeks and that is unacceptable.
There are a variety of curriculum delivery models that are being used across the country (in-person, online or hybrid) that impacts the decision to offer sports in winter 2021.
Football is the only U SPORTS program with an age-cap, so special considerations are not necessarily required. In the event that there are questions that arise about eligibility, we have a normal process were member universities can submit a request for consideration on a case-by-case basis.
Our plans are to return to offering national championships as soon as the pandemic allows. While we continue to move towards a fall 2021 return, U SPORTS will continue its strategic alignment with Canada’s high-performance sports model working with Own the Podium on the Pan-Canadian Winter Sport Infrastructure Roadmap to align program delivery and will take this opportunity to review sport offerings as per our sport review model.
As one of Canada’s largest employers of full-time coaches, we will continue to provide professional development opportunities for young coaches through the Female Apprentice Coaching program.
And U SPORTS will continue to advocate on behalf of its members and our student-athletes nationally by telling their stories.
In the sport of football, U SPORTS will provide a one-time exception to Policy 126.96.36.199.1.1, thereby permitting all currently eligible student-athletes to participate in the 2021 football season, even if they exceed the current policy before the start of the 2021 campaign.
U SPORTS is also beginning a consultation process with member universities and stakeholders to review its football eligibility policies, with an anticipated completion date of February 2021
For all other student-athletes, they can use their fifth year when the sport is offered again in the future.
U SPORTS came to the decision to cancel its fall 2020 national championships after a long consultation process with the four sport conferences (AUS, RSEQ, OUA and Canada West) and membership. Various U SPORTS committees, including the medical committee, were also asked to examine the various possibilities for offering the championships. At the end of the day, it was determined that championships could not be offered safely and securely this fall.
The U SPORTS Board of Directors, made up of four Athletic Directors and four Presidents, made the decision after two months of meetings with conference staff and having solicited feedback from various U SPORTS committees.
U SPORTS approaches all decisions with a student-centred lens. Most students are beginning to select courses for the fall term and must sign leases for housing. With many universities determining that distance learning is their preferred method of curriculum delivery this fall, it was important to make a decision at this time to allow students the greatest choice.
In order to allow student-athletes to best prepare for the 2020-2021 school year and to provide the safest competition environment, the fall championships were cancelled. We have time before a decision on the 2021 winter term is needed. We anticipate a decision to be made in mid-fall.
All national championships require travel, medical support and most importantly close quarters. The start/finish areas of cross-country have a lot of people and risks for exposure, let alone the fact that sports science indicates that droplets of breath can remain suspended in the air for up to 20-meters behind someone who is doing strenuous exercise. As a matter of health and safety, we felt that it was not wise to hold cross-country this year.
Yes. Members were consulted by their conferences and U SPORTS and had input into the process. The various U SPORTS committees also have equal representation from across the country, including sports administrators and university presidents.