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SFU Football Alumni Society says U SPORTS is preferred path — if program returns

"We have received positive feedback and encouragement from football stakeholders across Canada to make U SPORTS and Canada West the home of SFU Football."
Shrum Bowl XXXIV (34) between Simon Fraser University and the University of British Columbia on Dec. 2, 2022. Photo by Jennifer Gauthier.

The SFU Football Alumni Association (SFUFAS) says U SPORTS — Canada's highest level of collegiate sports — would be the best path forward for the Red Leafs if the football team is reinstated.

It's been more than a month since Simon Fraser University (SFU) president Joy Johnson announced that the post-secondary school was ending its football program, effective immediately.

The decision caught current players, alumni and stakeholders off guard, which prompted a notice of civil claim to be filed on April 13 on behalf of SFU football players, claiming the school breached its contract with players.

In its latest statement, the alumni society says it's still committed to helping the program return for the 2023 season and beyond.

"We remain committed to supporting SFU Football student-athletes to compete in 2023 and beyond in Canada," SFUFAS president Mark Bailey said.

"We have received positive feedback and encouragement from football stakeholders across Canada to make U SPORTS and Canada West the home of SFU Football. We agree that SFU playing football in Canada provides all stakeholders with a long-term and sustainable future."

Canada West said, in an April 11 statement, the conference is empathetic to the situation involving SFU and its football program, adding they currently don’t have any applications for review.

"Canada West has an application process for considering new members as outlined in Policy 1 of its Operations Manual."

The statement added the organization would not be making any further comments about membership or potential applicants.

SFU athletic director Theresa Hanson previously told the NOW that the program joining U SPORTS would be complex and unprecedented because the school didn’t meet existing bylaw requirements for membership.

She also stated the school explored all options available before making its final decision.

"Pursuing an exemption for football only would be very complex, it’s unprecedented," Hanson said.

"There’s no path for that and it would cause more uncertainty for our athletes with something that has absolutely no assurance that it would happen.

"There’s no single football school that plays in an association when their entire athletic program is in a different association. So it makes it a very unprecedented, complex situation with absolutely no assurance. So with all of that information, the university carefully considered everything and made the determination at that time that football was no longer a viable sport for SFU."

Bailey said the SFU Football Alumni Association has spoken with Canada West and U SPORTS officials and has been encouraged the school could submit exception applications.

"We realize that to be included in U SPORTS and Canada West, an exemption as an affiliate member must be granted," Bailey said.

"We have been strongly encouraged that SFU can submit applications as both associations could benefit from adding another team. We will continue to apply all methods possible to convince SFU to apply to Canada West and U SPORTS for football-only membership."

On April 20, SFU announced Johnson had directed the school to appoint a special advisor to review and make recommendations regarding potential sustainable opportunities for football, but added there would be no varsity football in the fall of this year.