Ontario University Athletics (OUA), under the direction of its Board of Directors, announces the cancellation of all OUA-sanctioned sport programming and championships up to December 31, 2020. A decision of this magnitude was not made lightly, but the process of reaching this conclusion was based on provincial public health guidelines and with the health and well-being of all OUA participants at the forefront.
What activities/events are included in the cancellation of OUA-sanctioned sport?
As was announced on June 8, 2020, all OUA-sanctioned programming is cancelled until December 31, 2020. This includes exhibition games/events involving any post-secondary opponent, league play, post-season play, and championships.
Are student-athletes allowed to practice prior to December 31, 2020?
Individual institutions are responsible for their Return to Train protocols as per their institution’s policies and provincial and regional public health guidelines. As part of the institution’s Return to Train plan, scrimmages that meet the criteria set out by U SPORTS (188.8.131.52.3) may be held at their discretion.
What about OUA members that participated as part of the RSEQ conference last season?
As an exception to the cancelled programming prior to December 31, 2020, OUA members that participated in the RSEQ in 2019-20 are permitted to continue their involvement in those specific sports in 2020-21.
What was the rationale for the 1st Term decision?
The health of our student-athletes, coaches, administrators, officials, and fans is our number one priority. Because of this, the OUA has been consistently following the directive of public health authorities, and it was after conversations with our medical advisors, as well as extensive contingency planning with the Board of Directors, member institutions, and colleagues across the country, that it became increasingly evident that a safe return to play for the 1st Term was not realistic. After this significant consultation, and under the direction of the Board of Directors, the decision to cancel all OUA-sanctioned sport programming and championships up to December 31st, 2020 was made to best ensure the safety and well-being of all participants.
Will OUA sport programming return for the 2nd Term?
Ontario University Athletics remains hopeful that we can provide quality experiences for our student-athletes starting in the new year and will be closely monitoring the ongoing health considerations and viability for these future opportunities over the coming months. At this time, given the ever-evolving nature of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact, no decisions have been made beyond the 1st Term timeframe, but we are committed to delivering OUA competitive sport once our provincial public health authorities indicate it is safe to do so.
How will two-term sports be approached amid the cancellation of 1st Term sport?
Over the last several months, the OUA, in conjunction with the Sport Committee, has worked through a wide range of contingency plans for the 2020-21 sport schedule. Among those plans were options of condensed offerings for all two-term sports (i.e. basketball, hockey, swimming, and volleyball) based on a number of potential start dates. The execution of these plans will ultimately be determined by any 2nd Term announcements, but as we continue to plan for return-to-play in the new year, condensed schedules for two-term sports would be part of the OUA sport programming.
Will 1st Term sports be postponed until the spring?
While no OUA-sanctioned programming or championships will take place prior to December 31st, 2020, the possibility remains for 1st Term sport to be executed during spring 2021 or in the form of a modified delivery sometime between February and May. In addition to this decision being subject to provincial public health authorities, as well as the health and safety of all participants, there will be continued conversation with the OUA’s member institutions to gauge the feasibility – both financially and logistically – of executing OUA sport prior to or during the spring 2021 timeframe.
If the number of positive COVID-19 cases decreases in the coming months, is there a chance for sport to start earlier?
The outlined timeline, cancelling all OUA-sanctioned programming and championships up to December 31st, will remain in effect regardless of any potential decrease in the number of COVID-19 cases in Ontario. While this would be encouraging progress in the continued push to help flatten the curve and a positive sign toward the eventual safe return to play, it would not change the OUA’s current plans, with the focus still being on a January 1st start. Additionally, as it pertains to the province’s phased re-opening, there are no further guarantees surrounding sport within this gradual implementation.
Will school teams be allowed to train on campus?
Members will have the autonomy to implement return-to-train protocols in accordance with provincial health regulations, while maintaining the emphasis on the safety and well-being of all participants. In addition, members should abide by their respective institutional policies and procedures, insurance, facility protocols, etc. Further direction in return-to-train guidelines will also be advised upon by the sport’s respective provincial and/or national organization. Any discussions surrounding return-to-train protocols, meanwhile, do not guarantee any timelines for a return to competition.
What is happening across the rest of the university sport landscape in Canada?
The OUA has maintained frequent communication with U SPORTS, as well as our conference colleagues across the country, and remain aligned in our direction. Along with the OUA’s announcement on Monday, similar action has been taken by Atlantic University Sport (AUS) and Canada West. The AUS has announced the suspension of all conference regular season and postseason competition until January 2021, while Canada West announced that no 1st Term competition will occur in team sports. At the national level, U SPORTS has confirmed the cancellation of all national championships for the 1st Term.
How will this decision affect regulations relating to student-athletes (i.e. AFAs, eligibility, etc.)?
The OUA and our national committee representatives are working closely with U SPORTS to ensure any updates to regulations are student-centered and minimize the impact to student-athletes. Many rules – including AFAs, eligibility, and transfers – are national in scope, and have been managed by U SPORTS, in harmonization across the country. For more information about decisions related to these student-athlete regulations, please visit: https://usports.ca/hq/covid-19-resources/covid-19-eligibility
How will the OUA handle regulations for non-U SPORTS recognized programming?
Regulations relating to student-athletes, including AFAs and eligibility, fall under U SPORTS jurisdiction, with related decisions having come from the national office. The OUA plans to align with the direction and delivery decided upon by the national office for the entirety of the conference’s sport landscape, including the OUA’s 11 sports that fall outside U SPORTS offerings.
For more information, please visit: https://usports.ca/hq/covid-19-resources/covid-19-eligibility
Why is the 1st Term decision being made at this time?
We have seen many impactful steps taken over the last several weeks that have contributed to the OUA’s 1st Term sport cancellation. Above all else, the top priority for the OUA is the safety of our student-athletes, who are students first and foremost. Being mindful of this, and with the health and well-being of our participants at the forefront of this decision-making process, the OUA Board of Directors believes it is important for students and families to know this decision now so they can plan accordingly, especially given the transition from in-person class delivery to online and hybrid approaches.
Given these decisions, among others, we also realize the financial impacts that our members are facing within their budgets. In this current provincial scope, which has seen the extension of its state of emergency to June 30th, and without any guaranteed timing or protocols surrounding return-to-competition within its phased re-opening, executing 1st Term sport programming in a safe environment was not deemed feasible.
Professional sport leagues are planning for the fall, so why isn’t Ontario University Athletics?
The ‘professional’ aspect of professional sport adds a unique scope for those respective leagues. The OUA does not boast the same resources and funding to allocate toward adequate testing, alternative venues, and specialized travel. The logistics and resources required to take such lofty steps are not possible within university sport, especially when looking beyond just the games and further considering accommodations, bus travel, etc.
Where can student-athletes and families turn for additional information from their institutions?
Everyone across the university landscape understands the unprecedented nature of this decision and the impact of that the COVID-19 pandemic is having not just across our stakeholders, but society as a whole. As we enter this complex and unchartered territory, we encourage any student-athletes and families looking for further information or that has any additional questions to contact your school’s Athletic Department.