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Special advisor to review 'potential sustainable opportunities' for SFU football

The Burnaby post-secondary institution scrapped the program on April 4.
Simon Fraser University's Burnaby campus.

A special advisor is set to review and make recommendations about "potential sustainable opportunities" for Simon Fraser University's (SFU) football program, the school has announced. 

On April 4, president Joy Johnson announced that the Burnaby post-secondary school decided to immediately end its football program

Earlier this year, SFU said the Texas-based Lone Star Conference decided not to renew its affiliate membership agreement with the Red Leafs and the upcoming scheduled season would be their last, leaving the school without a league to play in starting in 2024. 

In a new statement this afternoon (April 20), the university said president Joy Johnson has directed the school to appoint a special advisor to review the situation.

It added that, since the announcement, it has had dialogue with the SFU Football Alumni Society and members of the broader football community. 

"Since our announcement, we have heard suggestions about establishing non-varsity football or seeking an exemption with other Canadian varsity football programs. We also have heard from individuals that support the decision to end the football program," the statement explained. 

"Open dialogue is needed to fully consider and explore future options for football at SFU. To that end, president Joy Johnson has directed that SFU appoint a special advisor to review and make recommendations regarding potential sustainable opportunities for football.

"The special advisor will report to the provost and will meet with students, student-athletes, faculty, staff, alumni and the broader football community to hear perspectives and gather information. We are committed to an open and transparent process. A final decision will be made by the university. This process will take time for all to be heard and for options to be weighed." 

The school said it will report back by the end of the calendar year.

The SFU Red Leafs football team was a part of NCAA Div. II competition — the second highest level of collegiate sports in U.S.

In response to the cancellation, a civil claim on behalf of SFU football players Gideone Kremiler, Kimo Hio, Andrew Lirag, Ryan Barthelson and Dayton Ingenhaag was filed in B.C. Supreme Court on April 13, claiming the school had breached its contract with players. 

In an interview with the NOW on April 5, SFU athletic director Theresa Hanson said the school explored "all avenues" to keep the program going

Alumni society says process 'does not make sense'

However, the SFU Football Alumni Society says the process the university has described doesn't make sense. 

"If SFU hires a special advisor to review football, the university must immediately reinstate the football program for 2023," the society wrote in a statement. 

"Stopping the program to reevaluate its future will guarantee its demise. This process does not consider the future of SFU's current student-athletes. 

"The program must be reinstated for 2023 to have a team to actually evaluate. This process does not make sense." 

The society said it met with SFU administration on Thursday (April 20) to show viable paths for the program including a full player roster, coaching staff and nine-game schedule. 

"We presented our information in good faith and felt positive about our discussions with SFU,” SFUFAS president Mark Bailey said. 

“Our faith in an opaque process has not been rewarded by an administration who has not earnestly worked for their student-athletes."