The Ontario University Athletics (OUA) has officially announced that all university sporting events are cancelled until March 31, 2021. The resolution was made by the board of directors, based upon the provincial guidelines and the continued surge in COVID-19 cases.
The OUA had previously made a similar announcement in August, with hopes to return to play in January.
“While we would love nothing more than to see our student-athletes back on the field of play and participating in OUA-sanctioned competition during the second term, we are not yet at a place where that can occur safely,” said Gord Grace, OUA president and CEO.
Jennifer Myers, Executive Director of Athletics & Recreation, ensured that all athletes will have access to training opportunities on campus. The employment of all coaching staff was also addressed by Myers.
“Our staff have been working very hard to ensure that when we are open for access, we are maintaining all health protocols and when we are closed our staff still have operational work as well as other projects they can complete from home,” says Myers.
Despite being firm in their conclusion on the matter, the OUA board of directors state that they “reserve the right to adjust these decisions on an on-going basis.”
Myers concurred with this notion, stating: “If we get to a phase in the spring where restrictions are lifted on sport and contact the OUA is examining competitive spring opportunities.”
Although the cancellation of the OUA winter programming was seen as a possibility in August, it presents a different situation than the fall cancellation. This announcement confirms that there will not be regular season games until September of 2021.
“Each athlete will have to make a decision on what is best for them athletically, academically, and financially. Most of our team members are staying on campus or in The Village, but a few are returning home.”
“The cancellation of the season is understandable but still disappointing for our players and staff. We would all love to be competing, but at the same time we understand the decision from the OUA to cancel the season based on the current climate due to COVID-19,” says Dan Church, head coach of York’s women’s hockey team.
Church confirmed that teams will continue working with athletes and training, saying they will have the choice whether to remain on campus or not.
“Each athlete will have to make a decision on what is best for them athletically, academically, and financially. Most of our team members are staying on campus or in The Village, but a few are returning home. We are committed to offering the best training environment we can given the limitations due to COVID-19,” Church says.
In terms of financial support, York will continue to support all athletes and honour their scholarships.
Jeremy Lucchini, a third-year business and society major and defence for the men’s hockey team, resides on campus and attends training with his team.
“Unfortunately, the university has only been able to provide minimal training due to their own restrictions as well as government restrictions,” says Lucchini. All other team meetings are conducted virtually.
Although Lucchini is upset by the news, he accepted that the decision is a necessary one due to the current pandemic.
“It’s hard to criticize the OUA for their decision to cancel winter sports. It’s tough to tell if this was the right choice, but I do think a decision sooner rather than later was the best option,” says Lucchini.
However, OUA has also announced that, in the new year, universities are to determine their return to “member-driven competitions/exhibition games, as per their institution’s policies and within regional and public health guidelines.”
This permission will be effective January 1, 2021, meaning there is a chance to see exhibition games such as the proposed game between the Toronto Six and York Lions women’s hockey teams.
“If the pandemic sees a decline in the numbers and more training opportunities open up, we will take full advantage of the opportunity to increase training as that occurs. Ultimately, public health and safety will dictate the ability to train,” Church says. ”It certainly is not a lost year and we are staying focused on preparing for the time when we will get back to competition.”