What U Sports Football Cancellation Means
While the potential for a CFL season still hangs in the balance, it’s natural feeder system and all the moments that connect the two effectively came to a premature close today when U Sports officially cancelled its six 2020 fall national championships including of course, football.
Canadian university football is already criminally under appreciated and unfairly diminished by those who don’t - or can’t be bothered - to understand why this announcement hurts so many people in so many places across our great country.
That being said, without any medical or health policy expertise, it’s easy to see why the decision was made. Most - if not all - universities across Canada are already deep into planning for an exclusively online fall semester with little to no campus or residence availability.
At this point you might be thinking, “who cares, quarantine them like the NBA at Disney or the CFL hub city models being tossed around in the news”.
I’ve already seem some on social media clamouring for more vision, alternatives and answers with this opinion.
While your enthusiasm for U Sports football is greatly appreciated, the reality of the Canadian university game makes any of the pro return to play models impossible.
Many schools use residences on campus for housing players before transitioning them into their permanent residence for the academic year. Throw them into teammates houses? Packing already oft-crowded student housing with more bodies who are wandering around in large numbers to and from football facilities with teammates from all over the country is anything but ideal.
Aside from the obvious dangers of exposure to long-term health and difficulty in keeping training facilities, locker rooms and travel arrangements virus free which would require more attention to detail and staff than are employed by U Sports teams, the fact remains U Sports football operates at financial level stratospheres away from any major pro theory you’ve heard floated recently.
Tie all of that to the stringent nature of many cautious academic institutions even at non-pandemic times and it’s easy to see why U Sports football was just never going to get off the ground in 2020.
There is no UFC-like institution in U Sports football pushing the boundaries of social acceptance in quickly returning to action while health care workers spend countless hours caring for those in need.
As a result, we arrive at a place with no Vanier Cup since inception in the early 1960’s but more than that we lose out on the stories and performances that make Canadian University Football so unique.
No ridiculous Hec Creighton Trophy worthy seasons like Andy Fantuz in 2005.
No unlikely, but charming playoff runs like Mount Allison in 2014.
No finally getting over the hump for a championship like Calgary just last November.
We are collectively robbed of watching players tantalize us weekly in the two-month sprint that is the U Sports football regular season.
Waterloo standout quarterback Tre Ford finished 2019 with 2158 passing yards and 13 passing touchdowns while dazzling with 67 carries adding 634 yards and 6 rushing touchdowns. Another year of development and progression I couldn’t wait to watch him.
How about McMaster quarterback Andres Dueck? A big name recruit from Winnipeg, Dueck finally got the chance to take the controls of Stefan Ptaszek’s Marauders last year and turned it into a road Yates Cup victory at Western before crashing out to eventual Vanier Cup champions Calgary. Dueck’s fourth year is no more.
Saskatchewan Huskies running back Adam Machart finished the 2019 season as a Hec Crighton finalist and the leading rusher in the country with 195 carries for 1610 yards and 9 touchdowns. Behind a big, motivated Huskies O-line Machart would have been the odds on favourite for another Hec Creighton nomination.
As for teams that could have made noise, there are a few that come to mind although the competitive balance amongst Canada West and the OUA could have opened the door for a surprise name or two.
The Saskatchewan Huskies with a dominant running game and defence powered by 2019 President’s Trophy winner Nelson Lokombo would have given Calgary trouble out West while McMaster’s chase for a Yates Cup repeat could have met stiff competition from Western, Waterloo and Ottawa amongst others.
In Quebec the RSEQ’s Dusmore Cup would have been all about whether the Montreal Carabins can still challenge Glen Constantin’s Laval Rouge Et Or with Danny Maciocia at the helm, or stay above the lingering flames of Sherbrooke, Concordia and McGill.
In the AUS Acadia would have likely controlled their destiny with a plethora of talent, but with some key pieces possibly moving on to the CFL or the working world, assuming could have made us all the fool.
The names are endless, the team potential limitless but it’s all done for 2020 before it ever got started.
The nature of University athletics is that players advance, graduate and move on. Few and far between will be the players who alter their academic plan to extend a stay in U Sports football meaning the storylines we thought we knew going in will never be the same when U Sports football returns in 2021, whatever shape it might take.
As a result of all this, the 2021 CFL combines and draft have also been greatly affected with less film on players or understanding of how their bodies will react to a full year without football before turning pro.
What I do know is this. There are thousands of dedicated, talented football players across Canada who had their hearts ripped out today by the pandemic and the resulting announcement. Ten years ago today I was spending the best summer of my life training five days a week with a group of young men I’d be lucky enough to call teammates and friends for life as we stood atop the Vanier Cup stage that fall.
There is nothing like it and those players deserve better, but like so much in life right now from births to funerals and everything in between, not being able to gather and appreciate what we so often took for granted hurts more each day.
While they won’t get their due appreciation this fall, I do want to recognize just some of the names eligible for the CFL Draft next year who would have played a large part in your U Sports football fall as compiled by Canadian Football Perspective’s Connor O’Neil.
These names could receive a waiver to extend their fall athletic eligibility for another year, but their academic standing won’t press pause the same way. Even if this happens scholarships from many programs have been dispersed in principle to incoming recruits, many of whom have already committed and been announced.
Could a returning max scholarship fifth year player result in the awkward removal of a first year recruit’s scholarship due to tightening athletic department budgets? Does that make a financial situation lose enough appeal to an incoming recruit that they’d rather play elsewhere - requiring the messy process of a transfer - or not at all?
Here’s hoping they receive eligibility, time, coaching and the patience to ride this crazy wave into better and brighter times.
QB: Tre Ford - Waterloo Warriors - OUA
QB: Dimitrios Sinodinos - McGill Redmen - RSEQ
QB: Andreas Dueck - McMaster Marauders - OUA
QB: Mason Nyhus - Saskatchewan Huskies - CW
RB: Louis-Philippe Gregoire - Bishop’s Gaiters - AUS
RB: Cole Estabrooks - Acadia Axemen - AUS
RB: Vincent Breton-Robert - Laval Rouge et Or - RSEQ
RB: Adam Machart - Saskatchewan Huskies - CW
RB: Justice Allin - McMaster Marauders - OUA
RB: Victor St.Pierre-Laviolette - Manitoba Bisons - CW
RB: Robinson Rodrigues - Calgary Dinos - CW
FB: Konner Burtenshaw - Queen’s Gaels - OUA
WR: Will Corby - Toronto Varsity Blues - OUA
WR: Nolan Lovegrove - Toronto Varsity Blues - OUA
WR: Golden Mulali - Acadia Axemen - AUS
WR: Richard Burton - Queen’s Gaels - OUA
WR: Kevin Kaya - Montreal Carabins - RSEQ
WR: Pearce Dumay - McGill Redmen - RSEQ
WR: Isaac Fagnan - St.FX X-Men - AUS
WR: Gordon Lam - Waterloo Warriors - OUA
WR: Tommy Nield - McMaster Marauders - OUA
WR: Matthew James - Windsor Lancers - OUA
WR: Sam Baker - Saskatchewan Huskies - CW
WR: Kadeem Hemmings - York Lions - OUA
WR: Liam Wishart - UBC Thunderbirds - CW
WR/Returner: Ben Ahren - Queen’s Gaels - OUA
OL: Pier-Olivier Lestage - Montreal Carabins - RSEQ
OL: Adam Dingwall - Queen’s Gaels - OUA
OL: David Sevingy - Montreal Carabins - RSEQ
OL: Nicholas Thibodeau - Laval Rouge et Or - RSEQ
OL: Samuel Ducharme - Bishop’s Gaiters - AUS
OL: Rowan Hickey - Mount Allison Mounties - AUS
OL: Tyler Clucas-Warren - St. Mary’s Huskies - AUS
OL: Spencer Lambier - St. Mary’s Huskies - AUS
OL: Luke Borsella - York Lions - OUA
OL: Connor Berglof - Saskatchewan Huskies - CW
OL: Logan Bandy - Calgary Dinos - CW
OL: Noah Zerr - Saskatchewan Huskies - CW
OL: Tyler Packer - Calgary Dinos - CW
OL: Bryce Bell - Laurier Golden Hawks - OUA
OL: Spencer Andrews - Waterloo Warriors - OUA
OL: Spencer Swan - Guelph Gryphons - OUA
DB: Khadeem Pierre - Concordia Stingers - RSEQ
DB: Nolan Bedard - Queen’s Gaels - OUA
DB: Nicholas Cartagenise - Bishop’s Gaiters - AUS
DB: Matt Watson - Mount Allison Mounties - AUS
DB: Jordan Angove - St. Mary’s Huskies - AUS
DB: Zack Fitzgerald - Laval Rouge et Or - RSEQ
DB: Tyrell Ford - Waterloo Warriors - OUA
DB: Deane Leonard - Calgary Dinos - CW
DB: Nelson Lokombo - Saskatchewan Huskies - CW
DB: Shae Weekes - Manitoba Bisons - CW
DB: Arjay Shelley - Manitoba Bison - CW
DB: Talik Ehouman - York Lions - OUA
DB: Kene Ezekeke - UBC Thunderbirds - CW
DB: Andrew Beatty - Windsor Lancers - OUA
DB: Zach Moore - Regina Rams - CW
LB: Louve Moussenguet - Bishop’s Gaiters - AUS
LB: Abed Hamidi - Ottawa Gee-Gees - OUA
LB: Kean Harelimana - Laval Rouge et Or - RSEQ
LB: Tommy Roadley-Trohatos - Sherbooke Vert et Or - RSEQ
LB: Jarek Richards - St. Mary’s Huskies - AUS
LB: Redha Kramdi - Montreal Carabins - RSEQ
LB: Ben Hladik - UBC Thunder Birds - CW
LB: Jared Beeksma - Guelph Gryphons - OUA
LB: Nate Edwards - McMaster Marauders - OUA
LB: Grant McDonals - Calgary Dinos - CW
LB: Tom Whiting - Saskatchewan Huskies - CW
LB: Devin Comber - Western Mustangs - OUA
LB: Daniel Solaroli - Toronto Varsity Blues - OUA
LB: Charlie Moore - Calgary Dinos - CW
DL: Gabriel Boucher - Queen’s Gaels - OUA
DL: Joshua Archibald - McGill Redmen - RSEQ
DL: Jeremie Verreault - Sherbrooke Vert et Or - RSEQ
DL: Shaiheem Charles-Brown - Carleton Ravens - OUA
DL: Anderson Recker - Acadia Axemen - AUS
DL: Alexandre Gagnon - Laval Rouge et Or - RSEQ
DL: Nicholas Dheilly - Saskatchewan Huskies - CW
DL: Alfred Green - Laurier Golden Hawks - OUA
DL: Michael Pezzuto - Ottawa Gee-Gees - OUA
DL: Nathan Cherry - Saskatchewan Huskies - CW
DL: Max Baatar - Calgary Dinos - CW
DL: Tyler Munro - McMaster Marauders - OUA
DL: Donovan Burgmaier - Alberta Golden Bears - CW
P/K: Dante Mastrogiuseppe - York Lions - OUA
P/K: David Cote - Laval Rouge et Or - RSEQ
P/K: Jacob Solie - Saskatchewan Huskies - CW
P/K: Loic Legendre - Ottawa Gee-Gees - OUA
Marshall Ferguson is a former U SPORTS Quarterback, now serving as TSN 1150 Hamilton morning show host, voice of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and CFL.ca analyst.