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SFU alumni push back as university shuts down football program

Click to play video: 'Bitter fallout over abrupt end of SFU’s football program'
Bitter fallout over abrupt end of SFU’s football program
WATCH: A major blow to varsity sports in the lower mainland. The longstanding football program at Simon Fraser University has been scrapped, effective immediately. Grace Ke has new reaction from players, and their parents, who feel blindsided – Apr 8, 2023

An organization made up of Simon Fraser University football players and alumni has started a petition to try and reverse the school’s decision to end its football program.

The SFU Football Alumni Society issued a statement through a social media post.

“SFU administration, with zero consultation from key stakeholders, has made the decision to terminate the football program,” it said.

“We, along with many SFU football alumni in the legal profession and many leaders in the Canadian football community, are working as fast as possible to reverse the process.

“We are taking legal action to halt all proceedings.”

The petition has been posted online.

“Sign the petition to restore the SFU Football Program before May 1, 2023,” the petition reads.

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“SFU Football Alumni Society is taking steps to prevent SFU from canceling the football program.”

Global News has reached out to the organization for comment.

A video of SFU’s senior director of athletics, Theresa Hanson, and provost and vice-president academic Wade Parkhouse, announcing the immediate termination of the program was posted on Facebook.

After telling the student-athletes they no longer have a team, the pair opened the floor for questions.

When asked if there was a catalyst moment that drove the decision to end the program, Parkhouse said there wasn’t, outside of the uncertainty of having nowhere to play beyond the coming season.

“Money has nothing to do with it … that is not the issue with the football program,” Parkhouse said.

Parkhouse went on to say the ending of the football program is due to “not having options beyond the next year.”

The vice-president academic is referencing the decision made by NCAA Division II Lone Star Conference not to renew its agreement with SFU this past January.

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In 2021, SFU joined the conference in the southwestern United States on a two-year agreement.

Players expressed their many concerns with the decision, including its timing, the future of their scholarships and what seniors are going to do next.

“It is a very hard decision. The university needed to make a decision because of the uncertainty and the experience of our student-athletes,” Theresa Hanson said.

“We had to make the decision now so we could give those that wanted to move on the time to move on.”

Dino Geremia, a former long-time SFU football coach, student-athlete and current B.C. high school coach, said the announcement was, unfortunately, not shocking.

“I wish I could say I was surprised but just extremely disappointed that it came to this,” he told Global News.

“There has been an ongoing pattern of unsupported decisions from the administration, especially impacting football. I think they made this decision… the only thing that makes sense is to save money.”

Geremia said the timing of the decision is “incredibly horrible.”

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“I don’t know if you could pick a worse time (to make this decision),” Geremia said.

“Not only in the history and the developments (like the construction of the new stadium) but also with respect to the football calendar.

“They actually had the players go through spring camp and waiting until that camp was over to make this announcement — it is completely stealing away any opportunities that the players might have had to transfer to another university.”

Geremia, who coached at SFU for 17 years, said the current SFU players are will have an extremely difficult time finding a new team — let alone finding a university that can offer them scholarships.

“The other universities are completing their spring camps as well and have scholarship funding already allocated to their 2023 recruits,” he said.

“They are not open to having recruits coming in. For the seniors, this is devastating for their opportunities.”

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