Canadian university football coaches ‘strongly denounce’ U Sports age cap ruling

Photo courtesy: U Sports

The Canadian University Football Coaches Association has called for U Sports to reexamine its age cap decision.

Known in short form as CUFCA consists of Canada’s 27 U Sports head football coaches. Together the group wrote an open letter regarding the decision.

As a collective, we adamantly oppose the U Sports Board of Directors ruling to deny relief to players whose eligibility was adversely impacted by a combination of the age rule and the COVID-19 pandemic. This decision is not in the best interest of student athletes and violates many of U Sports’ guiding principles outlined in their 2019-2024 Strategic Plan.

The decision made by the U Sports Board of Directors, ended or shortened by a year, the careers of over 1,500 U Sports football student athletes. This decision was made in direct opposition to the recommendations of CUFCA and the recommendations of both the Football Sub Technical Sport Committee and the U Sports Eligibility committee which all exist to help guide decisions made in regards to U Sports football. It is clear that the decision made by the Board of Directors did not involve an adequate level of consultation or collaboration with U Sports football’s various stakeholders whose unanimous opposition to this ruling were ignored completely.

In U Sports’ 2019-2024 Strategic Plan, putting student athletes first in all decisions is listed as the top priority; integrity and transparency are also listed as core values for the organization. These values are clearly not reflected by the recent decision made by the U Sports Board of Directors or through the process by which the decision was made. This decision was made by a small group without genuine collaboration or consultation and has penalized both our student athletes and their families for something that is completely out of their control.

U Sports’ rationale or their ruling is centred around player safety and liability. Through adopting this rationale, the U Sports Board of directors has abandoned yet another of their guiding principles: ‘evidence based decision making’. U Sports has no empirical evidence to substantiate their player safety concerns. Rugby, Hockey and Wrestling, all combative or contact based sports, operate without an age rule in place. The Board has apparently based their decision on a bullet that was included in the original age rule which referenced player safety.

If the board would have, through a detailed evaluation of this issue, contacted some of the coaches or administrators that were involved in the adoption of the age rule and its subsequent amendment they would have learned that competitive imbalance and not safety was the main impetus for the age rule.

Several coaches and administrators across the country that were active participants in the implementation of the original age rule could have been consulted and collaborated with around any questions the board may have had around this issue. Due process however was not followed, not a single coach was contacted and it does not appear as if any of the administrators involved in the original age rule were consulted either. This ruling is quite simply not an evidence based decision.

The decision is based on conjecture by a small group of people that have very limited knowledge of the age rule or its historical evolution. It is almost incomprehensible that the Board did not consult those who were active participants in the development of the age rule and the subsequent amendment to that rule; many of who are still active members of U Sports.

In closing, CUFA strongly denounces the ruling made by the U Sports Board of Directors to deny relief to players whose eligibility was adversely impacted by a combination of the age rule and the COVID-19 pandemic. U Sports is not representing the best interest of the student athletes involved and have abandoned many longstanding principles of Canadian Intercollegiate Sport. U Sports’ decision also demonstrates a lack of empathy, compassion and a willingness to support our student athletes through a very difficult time.

As coaches, we will always stand up for our student athletes to ensure they are treated with the respect and fairness they deserve. CUFCA is formally requesting that U Sports reopen this topic for further consideration so that a more ethical, compassionate and student athlete centred solution can be found.