Saskatchewan Huskies football team urging U Sports board to revisit age cap ruling

Huskies football team urging U Sports board to revisit age cap ruling
WATCH: University football programs including the Saskatchewan Huskies are pushing U Sports to reconsider a decision not to amend its age cap despite cancelling the 2020 season.

Colton Klassen already lost his chance to play Saskatchewan Huskies football this fall. Now his university career may be over for good.

The U Sports board of directors recently ruled against amending its age cap despite the 2020 season being wiped out due to COVID-19.

Read more: Canadian university football players’ careers shortened by age rule, pandemic

Klassen was drafted by the Canadian Football League’s Montreal Alouettes earlier this year. While he hopes to forge a professional career in the sport, he also has a year of eligibility left with the Huskies.

But the former junior star with the Regina Thunder will be 25 by the time next season arrives, making him too old to play university football. His hope had been that U Sports would extend its age cap in light of the cancelled season.

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Read more: Saskatchewan Huskies football, soccer seasons cancelled due to coronavirus pandemic

To say he’s disappointed in the U Sports board’s decision would be an understatement.

“I was actually just kinda heartbroken just sitting there (when I found out),” Klassen said.

“You know for me, personally, I got drafted this year and especially coming off ankle surgery, knowing that there was a high probability of getting sent back for my fifth year, it’s good to have that in your back pocket, to have somewhere to come back to.”

Saskatchewan Huskies coaches facing new challenge
Saskatchewan Huskies coaches facing new challenge

Football is the only university sport with an age cap. U Sports interim COO Dick White says the board sought a legal opinion on the implications of a potential rule change and determined that the risk of future challenges was too significant to ignore.

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“If we show a willingness that we are flexible on the year or the number — is it under 25, is it under 26, whatever it may be — if we show flexibility we may become more vulnerable,” White said.

“It doesn’t mean it’s going to happen for sure. What our legal advice basically said is that it puts it at greater risk.”

As a result of the ruling, hundreds of players nationwide are now on course to come up against the age cap before getting to play out their final year of eligibility.

Read more: Saskatchewan Huskies look for new home ice as arena identified as possible COVID-19 field hospital

The decision has angered football coaches and school administrators, who say it fails to put student-athletes first.

“Everybody involved in U Sports, especially from a football perspective I think have taken the similar perspective from an ethical and logical point of view that this seems to be contrary to the principles by which we do our work,” said Dave Hardy, chief athletics officer for Huskie Athletics.

Hardy is among those calling for the board to rethink its position and White says he hears the criticism loud and clear.

“The feedback has not been positive, absolutely, so we need to, as good leaders, to listen to the feedback we’re getting. I am not in a position to immediately say that the board will take action, that the board will reconsider, but we are reviewing the feedback we hear,” he said.

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In the meantime, Klassen isn’t willing to close the door on his Huskies career just yet and he’s continuing to prepare accordingly.

“Just stay in shape, stay mentally and physically healthy and just try to be hopeful.”