Players and supporters of the Simon Fraser University football team expressed optimism about the program’s return after a court hearing Monday.
The Burnaby, B.C. university announced the dissolution of the football team on April 4 of this year after their affiliation with a National Collegiate Athletics Association conference was ended.
Lawyer Peter Gall, representing the players, told the court on Monday that his clients are seeking: reinstatement as athletes, reinstating coaches to their former roles, take good faith steps to find a new conference for the team to play in, or find an alternative schedule for the team next season.
“There’s so much support not only from the existing team that wants to play next year but support from the community and across the country for the continuation of the program,” Gall said after the hearing. “I hope the university will really take to heart how committed the players, coaches and the community are for restoring this program.”
Gall said the university has shown “little regard” for the players and their well-being, adding their rights have “been run roughshod over.”
Gideone Kremler, who played defensive back for the team, said the decision to cancel the program didn’t take the affect players and coaches into consideration.
“We as players and coaches haven’t been given a voice,” he said.
Emily Kirkpatrick, the lawyer representing the university, refuted that statement saying there is no evidence to support that notion.
Kirkpatrick said the school took reasonable steps to inform the athletes and coaches of the program’s demise.
“There was a characterization of the evidence, there was plain overlooking of some of the evidence and in my submission, there was liberties taken with what that evidence actually says,” she told the court.
The end, said Kirkpatrick, was brought about by the Lone Star Conference revoking the university’s programs citing the cost of travel and low competitive performance. The team went 1-9 last season and 1-7 in the 2021 season.
SFU joined the Lone Star Conference in 2021 for a two-year term and the budget allocated to running the team in the upcoming season would have been $950,000.
Kirkpatrick also argued that the university did not have a contract with players to continue the program and questioned how the university could restart the program.
But, Gall said, there is still a chance to save the football program.
“It’s not too late,” he told the court. “The players want to stay and play here. The coaches are still available and they can be reinstated. That’s not an insurmountable hurdle.”
Mark Bailey, the president of the football alumni society, said there’s an application to speak to the university’s governors on May 25 to speak about the issue.
Justice K. Michael Stephens reserved a decision on the injunction until a later date.
—Nick Wells, The Canadian Press