'I don’t think it’s the right thing to do': U of S Huskies head coach opposes U Sports eligibility ruling
SASKATOON -- The governing body of University athletics in Canada, U Sports, handed down a ruling this week that will cost several football players across the country years of their eligibility.
Colton Klassen with the Saskatchewan Huskies found out on Twitter that his university football career may be over.
“I think at first glance, I was just in shock really. I thought it would be an easy decision to make.”
That decision was how U Sports would approach the age cap of 25 in football when play is scheduled to resume in 2021.
Despite having one more year of eligibility left with this season being cancelled because of the pandemic, Klassen is now amoung five Saskatchewan Huskies that will turn 25 before the start of the 2021 season, and won’t be allowed to play.
“We don’t have the choice to come back or play that fifth year is what’s heartbreaking, because you can’t do anything right?
“Playing that fifth year, in your final year, and getting that farewell tour kind of feeling, you play for that. You live for that.”
The other Huskies that would have their careers ended early are Yol Piok, Jace Peters, Nick Summach, and Joseph Trumpy.
“I don’t think it’s the right thing to do,” said Saskatchewan Huskies head coach Scott Flory.
“I just don’t feel it’s in the best interest, I don’t feel it’s consistent, and I don’t think it’s right.”
Flory is one of many coaches across the country who are disappointed with the decision, with University of Alberta Golden Bears head coach Chris Morris going so far as to step down from his position with the Canadian University Football Coaches Association.
I spoke to @UACoachMorris who sits on @USPORTSca Football Technical Subcommittee which guides most football decisions. They voted UNANIMOUSLY to extend the age cap for one season.— Farhan Lalji (@FarhanLaljiTSN) July 9, 2020
Nonetheless representatives from all schools (many of which do not offer football) voted against it
“If they’re a student in good standing, and they meet all the eligibility requirements, I don’t understand how and why they can’t play,” said Flory.
“The players that are on our football team that have been the longest serving, aren’t a part of the decision making process. Their best interests aren’t a part of it and that’s a tough one.”
U Sports interim CEO Dick White says the decision was not taken lightly by the Board of Directors, who felt they didn’t want to set a precedent that the age limit, which was put in place to narrow the age discrepancy for the health and safety of younger players, could be manipulated.
“We were very concerned that if we adjusted it, then a challenge could come forward and might eliminate the cap altogether,” he said.
“After having a cap for 10 years, we felt it was a very important component for U Sports football.”
Flory says the decision could affect as many as eight to 10 more of his players in the years to come.
“Maybe because they started late, or maybe because they had injury redshirts for a year or two, maybe because they played junior football.”
The Huskies’ Josh Ewanchyna is one of those players, after lining up for the Hilltops for three years.
“I should probably have three years including this year left of playing football, but now I’ve only got two left,” he said.
Flory believes U Sports should put an exemption on the age limit as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, because “through no fault of their own” players will have had a year of football “ripped away from them.”
“Not extending, and not granting clemency to those guys on every roster. It’s not only my roster, it’s all my opponents’ rosters too. To be honest with you, this affects other teams a lot more than it affects me, but I’m still going to fight for what’s right, and for those guys on that roster.
“It’s not hard either. You just take your existing roster and you just grandfather all those names. I mean, it’s not that hard. We’re not talking about kids coming in, we’re not talking about players that aren’t a part of it.”
White says the board will be taking feedback on the decision seriously and that it will be up for review.
Until that time, should it ever come, Flory says he’ll stand with his players.
“You’re a part of our team,” he said, referring to the five players. “You’re in school, you’re a member in good standing with us, and you are a part of our football team until they say on September 1st 2021 or whatever, that you can’t put on a jersey anymore.”