Canadian university football players’ careers shortened by age rule, pandemic

Canadian university football players’ careers shortened by age rule, pandemic

Dozens of Canadian football players dreaming of hoisting the Vanier Cup in their fifth and final year of university eligibility have had those hopes dashed.

The cancellation of the 2020 national football championship game because of COVID-19, and U Sports not altering an age eligibility rule, accelerates the swan song of roughly 300 football players.

U Sports has said student-athletes whose championships are cancelled in 2020-21 because of the pandemic will not lose a year of eligibility.

But football players have seven years after graduating from high school to complete their five-year eligibility. Many play junior football before entering the university ranks.

The only U Sports sport with an age limit is football.

University of Calgary quarterback Josiah Joseph of the defending Vanier Cup champion Dinos is among those caught in a rule designed to limit the age of players in Canadian university football to under 25.

Players who turn 25 before Sept. 1 age out of university football. Joseph turns 25 on July 10, 2021.

Approximately 300 players out of 2,335 will be similarly impacted in 2021, according to U Sports.

Joseph hoped U Sports would make an exception for players like him.

“All they would have to do is amend the rule and push it to maybe January first due to extreme circumstances,” he told The Canadian Press.

“It’s devastating there’s that many players in my position.”

U Sports adopted a football age cap to prevent large gaps in physical maturation and experience between players in a collision sport, and also to create room on rosters for younger players, according to U Sports interim CEO Dick White.

“I really understand the disappointment of the players that this affects,” said White, who took over for departed CEO Graham Brown last month.

“Our legal advice that we received was very firm. If we believe the age cap should be 25 for the health and safety of athletes then we should not under any circumstances alter that.

“The reasons for having that age cap have not changed even though we’ve had the tragedy of COVID.”

Joseph argues there is no physical or experience difference between a player who turns 25 in March and one who turns 25 in October.

“There’s already 25 year olds playing in the league so what’s the difference of a couple months?” he asked. ”There is none.”

U Sport cancelling the 2020 Vanier Cup and the two bowl games — Hardy and Mitchell — that serve as semifinals doesn’t stop conferences from playing football in the fall.

But Canada West, Ontario University Athletics and Atlantic University Sport have already declared there won’t be football in 2020 because of the pandemic.

The Reseau du sport etudiant du Quebec is still working on running football this fall.

University of Bisons head coach Brian Dobie points out fifth-year players aren’t the only ones impacted.

Any current university football player whose birthday falls before Sept. 1 will lose a year of football eligibility because of the combination of the pandemic and the current rule.

“What about that kid who had two years left and he just got a starting spot? Now Johnny has one year left. What about Billy who had three years left and now has two years left?” Dobie asked.

“If you have one kid in your program that is negatively affected by this, as a coach you should be outraged. Every kid should count just the same and you should be outraged.”

Losing a year of football eligibility also means losing a year of athletic scholarship to pay for school, Dobie added.

“The reality is the age cap is 25 and it’s not 26 and somewhere you draw the line,” White said.

“If the football institutions wish to re-address the age cap to 26 or no age cap, that’s up to our member institutions. There’s a process to do that.

“The big picture here was there was a very good reason we put the age cap in. Our board of directors, supported by the legal opinion, said ‘don’t move it.’”

Joseph doesn’t buy that rationale.

“It doesn’t seem like it’s reflecting the interests of a lot of coaches and players that make up U Sports football that make it successful, the guys that are going to be there for five years who are going to graduate that are going to be proud alumni,” he said.

“That’s what makes up university football in Canada.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 9, 2020.

Follow @DLSpencer10 on Twitter

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press

Football

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

(Photo Submitted by the Gord Bamford Foundation)
Lacombe’s Gord Bamford to perform a virtual concert for a good cause

The concert aims to raise awareness for Operation Santa Clause

Alberta Health Services' central zone jumped from 162 active COVID-19 cases to 178 on Friday. Five additional deaths were reported provincewide, bringing the toll to 323. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
622 new COVID-19 cases set another daily high Friday

Province confirmed 622 additional cases Friday

The Under $100 Art Market is asking artists interested in selling their art to fill out and submit the online form. Photo courtesy Maureen MacKenzie.
Lacombe’s Under $100 Art Market returns for the second year

The market will be held during this year’s Light Up the Night festival

Alberta children whose only symptom of COVID-19 is a runny nose or a sore throat will no longer require mandatory isolation, starting Monday.
477 new COVID-19 cases confirmed in Alberta on Thursday

Changes being made to the COVID-19 symptom list for school-age children

Alisha Bryan holds a handful of poppy sticks at the poppy laying ceremony on Oct. 28. (Alannah Page/Lacombe Express)
Remembrance Day will look a little different this year for Lacombe

The Lacombe Legion is taking COVID-19 precautions for people who want to pay their respects.

Royal Alexandra Hospital front-line workers walk a picket line after walking off the job in a wildcat strike in Edmonton, on Monday, October 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta labour board orders health-care staff who walked off the job to go back to work

Finance Minister Travis Toews said in a news release that he was pleased with the labour board’s decision

(Photo Submitted by the Gord Bamford Foundation)
Lacombe’s Gord Bamford to perform a virtual concert for a good cause

The concert aims to raise awareness for Operation Santa Clause

City of Wetaskiwin Mayor presenting the AUMA Above & Beyond Award to John Maude and Susan Quinn. Ren Goode/ City of Wetaskiwin.
Wetaskiwin County residents win the AUMA Above & Beyond Award

John Maude and Susan Quinn are being recognized for their role in Wetaskiwin’s sustainability.

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole rises during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Wednesday October 28, 2020. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
Conversion therapy ban gets approval in principle, exposes Conservative divisions

Erin O’Toole himself voted in favour of the bill, as did most Conservative MPs

Pilots Ilona Carter and Jim Gray of iRecover Treatment Centres, in front of his company’s aircraft, based at Ponoka’s airport. (Perry Wilson/Submitted)
95-year-old Ilona Carter flies again

Takes to the skies over Ponoka

Children’s backpacks and shoes are seen at a daycare in Langley, B.C., on Tuesday May 29, 2018. Alberta Children’s Services Minister Rebecca Schulz says the province plans to bring in a new way of licensing and monitoring child-care facilities. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Alberta proposes legislation to change rules on child-care spaces

Record-keeping, traditionally done on paper, would be allowed digitally

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shakes hands with US Vice-President Joe Biden on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, December 9, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle
A Biden presidency could mean good news for Canadian environment policy: observers

Experts and observers say even a U.S. outside the Paris agreement may ultimately end up in the same place

People take a photo together during the opening night of Christmas Lights Across Canada, in Ottawa, on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019. The likelihood that most Canadians will enjoy a holly jolly Christmas season of gatherings, caroling and travel is unlikely, say public health experts who encourage those who revel in holiday traditions to accept more sacrifices ahead. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Ho, ho, no: Experts advise preparing for a scaled-back COVID holiday season

Many of the holiday season’s highlights have already been scrapped or are unlikely to take place

Sen. Kim Pate is shown in Toronto in an October 15, 2013, file photo. The parliamentary budget office says a proposed law that would give judges discretion on whether to apply a lesser sentence for murder could save the federal government $8.3 million per year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Colin Perkel
Judicial discretion for mandatory minimum sentences for murder would save $8.3M: PBO

The result would be fewer people in long-term custody at federal correctional institutions, experts say

Most Read