By Will Baldwin
Ontario University Athletics (OUA) has decided to cancel all OUA-sanctioned sport programming and championships up to Dec. 31 due to COVID-19, they announced on Monday.
Those sports include men’s and women’s cross country and soccer, as well as women’s field hockey, rugby and football.
“It was after ongoing conversations with health authorities, as well as extensive contingency planning with the Board of Directors, member institutions, and colleagues across the country, that it became increasingly evident that a safe return to play for the [first term] was not realistic,” wrote OUA president and CEO Gord Grace.
Those sports will join hockey and volleyball from last season as those who have lost their national championships to the pandemic.
U Sports also announced today that athletes would still be eligible for their financial scholarships this academic year and would not lose a year of eligibility, in spite of the lost season.
In a FAQ sheet published by the OUA conference on the announcement, they mentioned the difficulty in moving forward with plans for athletics with uncertainty still surrounding Ontario amid the virus.
The OUA wasn’t the only conference to cancel fall activities Monday, as they were joined by the Canada West and Atlantic University Sports as well. The country’s fourth conference, the Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec has yet to announce any plans for the fall.
In his statement, Grace didn’t shut the door on the possibility of athletics returning in the winter semester.
“While this has been a challenging course of action for all involved, the health and safety of our student-athletes and all participants remain paramount. Even though we will not have the opportunity to celebrate our student-athletes on the field during the [first term], they remain at the heart of what our organization is about and we will continue to work toward achieving a safe return to play when the time is right to do so.”
In a statement by Ryerson athletics, executive director of athletics and recreation Louise Cowin also expressed that student athletes’ health and safety comes first.
“While this is absolutely the only decision that could have been taken, it is, nonetheless, deeply disappointing and a bitter pill to swallow for our student-athletes and varsity staff,” Cowin said.
“While competitive play will not be possible in the fall, we’re looking forward to being able to welcome student-athletes back to campus as soon as permission is given to ‘return to train.'”
The OUA said a decision regarding the status of the winter season is expected to come before Thanksgiving.
Canada West said a decision regarding the status of their winter seasons would come before Thanksgiving, although the rest of the country’s conferences—including the OUA—have yet to comment.
Correction: A previous version of this article stated that Gord Grace is the president and CEO of U Sports. The Eye regrets this error.