Simon Fraser football players file lawsuit against university for discontinuation of program, claim breach of contract

Photo courtesy: Garrett James/SFU Athletics

Simon Fraser University alumni have officially filed an injunction in British Columbia Supreme Court with the aim of halting the discontinuation of the school’s football program.

According to CTV News, the lawsuit was filed on Friday on behalf of five current SFU players — junior defensive backs Gideone Kremler and Kimo Hiu, redshirt freshman defensive back Andrew Lirag, senior defensive back Ryan Barthelson, and junior linebacker Dayton Ingenhaag — alleging breach of contract. Four of the players played their high school careers in B.C., while Hiu hails from Oregon.

The players claim that they chose to attend SFU because of their desire to play football and that the promises made during their recruitment constitute a verbal contract that was violated when the university discontinued the team without reasonable notice. They are seeking a court order which would compel SFU to reinstate the team and its staff for the 2023 season, while pursuing applications to join other conferences in Canada or the U.S.

Director of the SFU Football Alumni Society Glen Orris, a prominent Vancouver lawer, has spearheaded the aproach. He was an offensive end at the school from 1966 until 1968, later playing two seasons in the CFL with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. The players are being represented by Peter Gall of Gall Legge Grant Zwack LLP.

SFU announced the immediate discontinuation of its football team on Tuesday, April 4. The school claimed the decision was made primarily due to the Lone Star Conference’s (LSC) choice not to renew SFU’s membership beyond the 2023 season, leaving them without a home for 2024.

SFU joined the LSC this past year following a stint with the Great Northwest Atlantic Conference (GNAC) from 2010 to 2021. They briefly competed in U Sports from 2002 to 2009, before making the move to NCAA Division II competition. The school was previously a part of the American-based National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) since the launch of the program in 1965.

Athletic director Theresa Hanson confirmed to 3DownNation that the school did not make a formal application to U Sports prior to cancelling the program due to an “incredibly complex” process, deeming an “unprecedented” exemption to be unlikely. U Sports bylaws do not allow its members to belong to more than one conference, though several prominent Canadian figures are lobbying on behalf of an amendment, including CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie and former Toronto Raptors coach Jay Triano.

In the meantime, SFU student-athletes continue to suffer through the uncertainty in the midst of exam season. The unexpected cancellation came following the completion of spring camp and after the team was allowed to recruit a full 2023 class, with limited opportunities left available for those wishing to transfer to other schools.