Simon Fraser University appoints special advisor to evaluate football team’s future, reiterate 2023 season cancelled

Photo courtesy: Garrett James/SFU

Simon Fraser University has announced the appointment of a special advisor to investigate the future of the school’s football program but is not backing down from the cancellation of the 2023 season.

The news comes on the heels of multiple meetings this week between alumni, football stakeholders, and university officials, including SFU president Joy Johnson. A statement was released late Thursday by the university provost and vice-president Wade Parkhouse and vice-provost Rummana Khan Hemani, which can be read in its entirety below.

Following our announcement, we have had dialogue with the SFU Football Alumni Society and members of the broader football community. We have also heard from student-athletes, alumni and others in the community about the importance of football. We know SFU football was loved by many and we want to thank everyone for their active involvement on this issue and for coming to the conversation with a shared desire to ensure student-athletes are supported in every way to pursue their academic and athletic goals.

We reiterate that:

  • All parties agree there is no path forward for SFU to play varsity football in the NCAA.
  • We will not be playing varsity football in the fall of this year.

The university is supporting football athletes who want to explore varsity football options. For those who want to stay at SFU, we are ensuring their scholarships continue throughout their academic journey and providing any additional support needed.

Since our announcement, we have heard suggestions about establishing non-varsity football or seeking an exemption with other Canadian varsity football programs. We also have heard from individuals that support the decision to end the football program.

Open dialogue is needed to fully consider and explore future options for football at SFU. To that end, President Joy Johnson has directed that SFU appoint a Special Advisor to review and make recommendations regarding potential sustainable opportunities for football. The Special Advisor will report to the Provost and will meet with students, student-athletes, faculty, staff, alumni and the broader football community to hear perspectives and gather information. We are committed to an open and transparent process. A final decision will be made by the university. This process will take time for all to be heard and for options to be weighed. We will report back by the end of the calendar year.  

This has been an active conversation, and our focus is on students and student-athletes.

If you would like to share a perspective on this issue, please email

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.

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 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.

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.

This was the latest show 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.