Simon Fraser football alumni condemn ‘opaque process,’ call for immediate reinstatement of 2023 season

Photo courtesy: Paul Yates/SFU

The Simon Fraser University Football Alumni Society (SFUFAS) has issued a statement saying they disapprove of the university administration’s latest tactics in their fight to save the school’s discontinued football team.

On Thursday, Simon Fraser officials announced the appointment of a special advisor to review the future sustainability of football at the university. However, they reiterated that the team would not be allowed to play their previously scheduled season in the fall of 2023.

This has angered alumni, who see it as a tactic meant to delay until public outcry has died down.

“If SFU appoints a special advisor to review football, the university must immediately reinstate the football program for 2023. Without that, there is no football program to evaluate,” SFUFAS legal counsel Glen Orris said in a statement.

“Stopping the program to re-evaluate its future will guarantee its demise.”

Simon Fraser 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.

Athletic director Theresa Hanson admitted that the school did not formally request to join U Sports prior to the cancellation due to the “incredibly complex” application process that would have had to be undertaken. Stakeholders across all levels of football in Canada believe there is a path for the team to make the jump to Canadian university football but only if SFU pursues it.

In the meantime, the school’s decision has jeopardized the future of 95 student-athletes.

“This process does not consider the future of SFU’s current student-athletes,” SFUFAS president Mark Bailey said in the statement. “SFU must reinstate the program for 2023 to make this process work toward a conclusion.”

Prior to the school’s announcement, members of the SFUFAS presented viable paths to a complete schedule in 2023 and beyond to the SFU administration as part of a 30-minute meeting. This included a full player roster, coaching staff and a nine-game schedule.

“We presented our information in good faith and felt positive about our discussions with SFU,” Bailey said. “Our faith in an opaque process has not been rewarded by an administration who has not earnestly worked for their student-athletes.”

An injunction was filed last week in B.C. Supreme Court to reinstate the football program, with five players claiming the decision violated a verbal contract stemming from their recruitment. They are seeking a court order reinstating the 2023 season.

“If we end up in court fighting this on May 3, then we will do it,” Orris said.

There has been a groundswell of support from the Canadian football community to revive the program. Former CFL players and SFU alums Doug Brown and Glen Suitor have spoken up about their disappointment in the university’s decision, while B.C. Lions owner Amar Doman has offered financial support if required.

Others who have spoken out include CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie, the CFL Players’ Association, Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ president and CEO Wade Miller, and former Toronto Raptors’ head coach and SFU alumnus Jay Triano.

The Simon Fraser University Football Alumni Society is holding a fundraising day on Tuesday, April 25 to support financial aid for affected players.