The future of football at B.C.’s Simon Fraser University looks bleak, according to an independent report released Monday.
SFU announced it was ending its football program in April, after the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) division the team played in opted not to renew its affiliation with the school.
The decision prompted a backlash from players and alumni, including a court challenge.
In response, SFU hired independent third-party consultant McLaren Global Sport Solutions to review possibilities for the future of the program.
In his report, special advisor Bob Copeland, senior vice-president at McLaren, concluded there was “no clear path” to resume the school’s program.
Copeland’s report found that it was “not feasible or sustainable” for SFU to compete in a U.S.-based league, including the NCAA or NAIA.
It found that U Sports and the Canada West Conference were the school’s best options for competition, but that there were “major impediments” in the application process.
That includes membership rules that preclude membership in a single sport, meaning SFU would need a special exemption or to move some of its other sports from the NCAA to U Sports.
The report also identified “significant concerns” about SFU’s Department of Athletics and Recreation, including growing budget deficits and a “lack of capacity to support its current programming.”
“I recognize that the findings of this report may not be what the football community had hoped for, but Mr. Copeland has made clear that our starting point now must be setting the right foundation for Athletics and Recreation,” SFU president Joy Johnson said in a statement.
SFU said opportunities for the school to compete in Canada would require “careful consideration,” and that an application to U Sport would require significant investment with no guaranteed outcome.
It said it acknowledged that the school needs to develop a strategic plan for its athletics program.
It said some of the report’s recommended changes were already underway, but that it would take time to fully review the document and determine next steps.
“Our dedication and support for SFU student-athletes remains our priority,” SFU vice-provost, students and international Rummana Khan Hemani said in a statement.
“As we work through these findings with our student-athletes, coaches and staff, we will keep the community updated. We are committed to creating a stronger Athletics and Recreation program for our students and the SFU community.”
The McLaren review was based on consultation with 240 people, including student-athletes, SFU staff, SFU leadership, alumni and former coaches.
In August, SFU parted ways with athletics director Theresa Hanson, who oversaw the scrapping of the football program, calling it a “mutual agreement that the time is right for a change in direction.”
In May, the B.C. Supreme Court denied an injunction application by the players aimed at stopping the program’s cancellation.