(WOLFVILLE, N.S.) -- Atlantic University Sport (AUS) today announced its decision to suspend all regular conference season and postseason competition until January 2021. At the same time, Acadia Athletics is reaffirming its commitment to supporting student-athletes and developing solutions to address the competition hiatus created by the global COVID-19 pandemic.
The AUS Board of Directors reached its final decision about fall sport in consultation with Canadian university sports conferences Ontario University Athletics (OUA) and Canada West, as well as the national governing body U SPORTS.
OUA and Canada West announced the suspension of competition until January 2021 in their respective conferences today, while U SPORTS confirmed the cancellation of all fall 2020 national championship events.
Focus on students and coaches
Concerns around COVID-19 first impacted varsity sport in mid-March, when organizers called off the University Cup men's hockey national championships in Halifax. "Being the host of the U-Cup was a dream of ours. Since we had to suspend the championship because of COVID-19, I have had to compartmentalize what is and isn't important in the world right now," said Kevin Dickie, Executive Director of Acadia Athletics.
"As an athletic director, former coach, and parent, today's announcement is difficult," said Dickie. "My focus is completely on our student-athletes and coaches who are having something taken away from them because of this unprecedented time. Our student-athletes are students first, and we will support them on every level possible. That includes caring for their health and wellbeing and fulfilling any scholarship and financial award commitments we made to them as student-athletes."
Creating innovative solutions for safety
Acadia's ten head coaches have connected with their teams, and early this week, the Athletics Department will meet virtually with their student-athletes to address their questions and concerns.
Having prepared for multiple scenarios, Acadia Athletics is committed to delivering an alternate sport model that allows student-athletes to develop, train, and compete within parameters provided by public health authorities. Safe facility access and service to Acadia's campus and community through the fall term is also a part of the planning process.
Acadia University's fall 2020 academic plan is an intention to implement a hybrid approach to educational programming in September that includes a mix of in-person, online, and remote course delivery.
Careful consideration by the AUS
The first direct impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on Canadian university athletics occurred in March 2020 with the cancellations of the remaining U SPORTS national championship. Since then, meetings at the conference and national levels have taken place regularly with university and sports administrators monitoring developments and public health directives and assessing possible implications on the upcoming competition season.
"Our thoughts are with our student-athletes, coaches and athletic department staff for whom this decision will have the biggest impact. We want them to know first and foremost that this decision was not taken lightly and that the number one factor driving our decision-making has been their safety and well-being," said AUS Executive Director Phil Currie.
"The AUS examined several scenarios for the fall semester of the 2020-21 season, but with all of the unique challenges we face—including the decision by many institutions to move to predominantly online course delivery—none could be squared appropriately with public health requirements," he said.
Currie added, "Adherence to public health directives is essential, and we cannot reconcile those with the requirements of competitive sports at the AUS level. The decisions we are making today are necessary ones on the path back to what is best about our conference—watching our student-athletes compete and inspire us."
A collective decision
The AUS Board of Directors is comprised of the presidents of each of its member universities. As such, this decision was reached and supported by all 11 AUS member schools. The same conclusion was reached by the respective Boards of Directors governing OUA, Canada West and U SPORTS.
"Acadia University supports the recent decisions made by U SPORTS and Atlantic University Sport, and we appreciate everyone's efforts to avoid this situation we are announcing today," said Dickie. "Knowing many difficult things are happening in the world right now, Acadia Athletics wants to thank all the health professionals, essential services, our leaders, and anyone else who are working to protect/keep us safe and healthy."
The AUS conference spans four provinces, all in different stages of recovery and re-opening, and is subject to the directives of four distinct provincial health authorities. AUS's 2,500+ student-athletes include young people from all over Canada, as well as a sizeable contingent of international students. Member schools are also facing unprecedented financial challenges as a result of this global crisis.
This decision impacts conference regular season and postseason events as well as national championship events scheduled through to the end of December 2020. With the conference continuing to monitor COVID-19 recovery plans and consult with public health authorities and member universities, a decision on winter semester competition, which would begin January 2021, will be made at a later date.