University of Victoria athletic director Clint Hamilton described it as a “heartbreaking decision” to silence the fields this fall.
The Canada West conference and U Sports nationally announced Monday the cancellations of all fall-term sports due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They include men’s and women’s soccer, women’s field hockey, women’s rugby 15’s and football and join a long list of sports cancellations locally, nationally and internationally.
“I was an athlete and coach myself and never anticipated anything like this,” said Hamilton, who is also president of Canada West.
“But we strongly felt there was no way to ensure the health and safety of the athletes in the fall season.”
It has been announced that UVic students, and those in other Canadian universities, will be studying online in the fall. That made a decision on fall sports imperative, said Hamilton.
“The student-athletes and their families needed to know now to make plans [on whether fall student-athletes needed to be on campus to play],” he said.
“We were under increasing pressure to answer the question about what the fall season was going to look like for university sports. The outcome was clearly evident.”
Hamilton said he knows some are questioning why pro sports can go ahead, albeit without fans in the stands, while amateur sports suffer cancellations.
“Sport is so important to society,” he said.
“The NBA, NHL and NFL have colossal resources to make a return to play possible over the summer and fall. Canadian university sport is not remotely close to having those kinds of resources to make that a reality.”
Decisions will be made by July 15 on Canada West and U Sports fall championships in golf, cross country and swimming. The two-term team sports — basketball, volleyball and ice hockey — cannot start prior to Jan. 1, 2021, with a decision to be made Oct. 8. The decision on second-term competitions in rugby sevens, wrestling, track and field and curling will also be made on Oct. 8.
“We are hopeful about returning for those [winter-into-spring] sports but only time will tell,” said Hamilton.
“Health will be the primary driver of the decision.”
Student-athletes in sports without U Sports national championships this season will not lose eligibility and will remain eligible for athletic financial aid and scholarships.
UVic field hockey coach Lynne Beecroft, women’s soccer coach Tracy David and men’s soccer coach Bruce Wilson have played in the Olympics and World Cups and have nearly 100 combined seasons of coaching at UVic between them. But none of them have experienced anything like this.
“It’s been emotional. We were going for the national-championship three-peat,” said Beecroft.
“But everything for me is about safety. It’s the right decision, but still a tough one. Hopefully, we come back stronger next year.”
The UVic soccer teams are targeting an exhibition season after Jan. 1.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said David.
“We will do whatever we are allowed to do and are hoping for a season of some sort against other B.C. teams after January 1,” she said.
“It’s disappointing to lose the conference season, but Canada West administrators made the decision with the information they currently have at hand. I don’t see that they had any other choice at this point.”