By Woodard, Dale on June 19, 2020.
Despite the announcement from their Canada West colleagues up north, University of Lethbridge Pronghorns athletics is still planning on playing in the new year.
On Wednesday, the University of Alberta announced it had suspended men’s and women’s hockey, basketball and volleyball for the 2020-21 Canada West season for “financial reasons” with cuts to the Campus Alberta Grant, the Alberta government demanding that universities balance budgets and reduce expenditures and the reduction in athletics and recreation fees waived for spring and summer semesters.
However, Pronghorns athletic director and rugby head coach Neil Langevin said the remainder of the Canada West teams are still eyeing a return to play in 2021 with the two-term sports.
Still, Langevin said he was caught off guard by the U of A’s announcement despite the bleak financial picture in the province and the COVID pandemic.
“I was a little surprised in that I knew, as in things with all schools in western Canada and specifically in Alberta, the financial situation is not rosy,” he said. “But it was a little bit of a surprise in terms of the timing. It’s unfortunate, but we are still planning on going forward with the other schools in Alberta and Canada West at this time.”
Earlier this month, Canada West announced the fall sports – men’s and women’s soccer, women’s rugby 15s, football, women’s field hockey and rugby 15s – were cancelled due to the pandemic.
U Sports cancelled fall national championships, including football’s Vanier Cup, women’s rugby and field hockey and the men’s and women’s soccer and cross-country championships.
The Ontario and Atlantic conferences both cancelled all varsity sports for the rest of 2020.
In April, the U of L announced it was cutting men’s and women’s hockey permanently for budgetary reasons, though a committee was formed last week that will look into the possible reinstatement of the program, the earliest possible date being the 2022-23 season.
Canada West two-term sports – hockey, volleyball and basketball – will not commence prior to Jan. 1, 2021 if they get the go-ahead. A decision on those sports will be made no later than Oct. 8.
Should those sports get the green light, the Horns would only play their provincial Canada West opponents.
Of course, taking the Golden Bears and Pandas out of the picture would alter any potential schedule.
“So that would be a modified league,” said Langevin. “I don’t necessarily think we would add more games, we would probably reduce it. As well, there is still potential the University of Alberta would like to play some exhibition games as well.”
Langevin noted the U of A’s announcement Wednesday could influence the Canada West’s decision in October on whether to go ahead with the two-term sports in the new year.
“It definitely has the potential, only in terms of it waters down the league, the integrity of the league is damaged a bit,” he said. “But the University of Alberta’s indication is, and ours is as well, that we want our athletes to come back and train with us no matter what the situation. We think it is the best thing for our athletes with their physical well-being and their mental well-being in mind. We think the best thing for our athletics is to return in September.”
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