From eight games to five games to no games.
That’s how the schedule has progressed in the last few weeks for University of Alberta football coach Chris Morris.
“If you know it works at the U Sports level, there have been breadcrumbs leading in this direction since the beginning. COVID came along was a huge factor all over the world, including in our community here,” said Chris Morris.
On Monday, U Sports canceled its fall season. That means no football, soccer, rugby, cross country running and field hockey.
“If you know how it’s funded, you know this season couldn’t happen. All of U Sports athletics is funded by student fees, in pretty much every single program across the country. Fees are dependent on students being in classes, being on campuses,” Morris explained.
“As soon as you announce there will not be students on campus, and learning will be done remotely and through the internet, that means there are no fees coming in. If there are no fees coming in, there’s no money for athletics.”
Other sports, such as hockey, soccer, and baseball will have their seasons start in January.
Canada West put together a task force made up of board members and three medical professionals. Canada West managing director Rocky Olfert said the resulting report included a thorough analysis of each sport.
“It was recommended to cancel the fall sports,” said Olfert. “If there is no U Sports national championship in a sport, then that athlete will not use up a year of eligibility.”
On May 11, Canada West announced reduced schedules for all sports. Football teams were to play five games instead of eight. The hockey schedule was cut from 28 to 20 games. Now, that will be slashed even further.
U of A Athletic Director Ian Reade says there’s a “drop dead date” of Oct. 8 for the leagues now slated to begin in January.
“It’s all about the travel and which provinces are in what state of affairs,” Reade explained. “We might be in really good shape in Alberta, but maybe one of the other provinces isn’t. Then the athletes wouldn’t be able to travel and everything would fall apart.”
As for the Golden Bears football team, it was coming off its best season in over a decade. Morris was feeling good about his recruiting class. With no 2020 season, Morris shifts his focus to already preparing for 2021.
“The big question for everyone across the country is, ‘How are we going to improve during this time?’ There are a whole bunch of opportunities for us to get better.
“The teams that take advantage of those opportunities as opposed to feeling sorry for themselves are going to be in the best position coming out of this thing.”