The Atlantic University Sport athletic conference last month announced a September startup for at least four sports for the 2020-21 U Sports season, but that kickoff now appears to be very much up in the air as a result of COVID-19.
Men’s and women’s soccer, cross-country, women’s rugby and football were set to get under way with the five-team AUS football conference starting Aug. 29, the others in September.
Basketball, volleyball and swimming are also expected to be impacted as those sports compete in November.
The Memorial Sea-Hawks men’s and women’s soccer teams were set to open the new season Sept. 12-13 at King George V Park in St. John’s against Mount Allison University.
But this has all changed, given an announcement from Memorial this week.
While the university is “welcoming” new and returning students in the fall, it will be to a, “primarily remote teaching and learning environment for the fall semester,” read a statement.
“Full in-person, on-campus courses will not resume before January 2021.”
So where does this leave varsity sports?
“There have been conversations across the AUS and U Sports (the national body which oversees Canadian university sports), and dozens of institutions across the country are making similar announcements to what Memorial has just done,” said Memorial University athletic director Karen Murphy.
“What this means now for the fall of 2020, I don’t know. There is a lot of uncertainty. From a competition standpoint, we don’t know but we are really committed to offering athletic programming to student-athletes in the fall semester and throughout next year.
“When it comes to the athletes, we are committed to making sure we are providing things like strength and conditioning programming and doing injury prevention work.”
The AUS conference will be staging its annual general meeting virtually next week, and the startup of a new season will be a hot topic of conversation.
One problem facing the Atlantic University Sport and the Canada West conferences is each covers four provinces — Newfoundland and Labrador, P.E.I., Nova Scotia and New Brunswick in the AUS, and Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia in the Canada West.
Which means travel restrictions have to be taken into consideration before a decision to compete is made. Travellers within Canada are also required to isolate for 14 days.
“That’s not feasible for students (who may be required to travel a couple of times per month),” Murphy said.