By Woodard, Dale on June 10, 2020.
There will be no 2020 Canada West season for the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns soccer and rugby teams.
Canada West announced Monday that no conference competition – regular season, playoff or championships – will occur in men’s and women’s soccer and women’s rugby 15s due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Football and women’s field hockey have also been sent to the sidelines.
“Obviously we’re gutted, mainly for our athletes,” said Pronghorns Athletic Director and rugby head coach Neil Langevin. “There are lots of seniors and people unsure of what is going on right now. In addition to the obvious benefits university athletics gives, it’s an incredible tool to help our athletes remain healthy. This has the potential to hurt some of us in terms on mental health as well.”
All of the decisions announced Monday were ratified unanimously through a vote of Canada West’s 17 member universities on Friday.
“The decision certainly wasn’t done lightly,” said Langevin. “I’m really impressed with the Canada West board and the Canada West members. There was a COVID task force that spent considerable time weighing lots of options. They presented their facts and all 17 Canada West members were unanimous in support of the document despite all of our obvious wants and needs at our schools.”
Atlantic University Sport, Ontario University Athletics and U SPORTS also announced their own independent cancellations Monday.
Decisions will be made by July 15 on championships in golf, cross country, and swimming.
As well, no two-term sports – hockey, volleyball, basketball – will commence prior to Jan. 1, 2021.
A decision on those sports will be made no later than Oct. 8.
Student-athletes in sports without U SPORTS national championships this season will not be charged eligibility and will remain eligible for athletic financial aid such as scholarships.
“The COVID task force will continue to feed information to the board and that will be a board recommendation with a member vote for our fall meeting,” said Langevin.
Langevin said there were numerous factors in the unanimous decision to call off the fall sports, but the impossibility of social distancing in the sports was a primary reason.
“There’s no way you can get around these sports being six feet apart. There is still potential golf may go ahead in the fall. We don’t have a varsity team, but we have an athletic club. So there is potential for that.”
Still, the Pronghorns remain hopeful the men’s and women’s basketball teams can hit the floor in 2021.
“We’re hopeful for the potential of return to play in January,” said Langevin, adding those teams are hopeful to get the OK to start training soon. “The three terms we’re using are return to train, return to prastice, return to play. We’re looking as early as next week, depending on facilities reopening and provincial guidelines, but many of our sports are looking to return to train next week.
“Our initial thoughts are to have our athletes continue to train and when we’re able to practise we would move to practice.”
In talks with their coaches, Langevin said the Horns athletes are disappointed, yet understanding of the situation.
“All of our coaches have spoken with their athletes and obviously our athletes are heartbroken,” said Langevin. “But they’re really great citizens and ambassadors for the school. Although disappointed, they truly understand the decision-making process and they have thanked many sports leaders for that decision.”
However, depending on medical guidelines, some of those cancelled fall sports may get the chance to play some exhibition games in the winter semester.
“There won’t be a competition, but there may be exhibition dependent upon where we’re at in January,” said Langevin. “So rugby, for example, that would be the 15s. The rugby 7s season (which starts in the second semester) is in jeopardy just like basketball.”
Follow @DWoodardHerald on Twitter