Fight over SFU’s cancelled football program heads back to court | Globalnews.ca

Simon Fraser University football players and their legal team were back in B.C. Supreme Court Monday, seeking an injunction to force the university to try and save the now-scrapped football program.

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Student athletes were informed the school was disbanding the football program on April 4, after the NCAA division it was playing in opted not to renew its relationship with SFU beyond this season.


Click to play video: 'SFU players sue university to keep football program operating'


SFU players sue university to keep football program operating


Lawyer Peter Gall, who represents the players and SFU alumni, told Global News the school had breached the student athletes’ rights by not giving them timely notice of the program’s cancellation, leaving them with few options for next season.

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“We say there is a contract between the university and these players. They’ve committed to come and play for the university … and the university has committed to having a program, a football program, they can play in. That’s the contract,” he said.

“What we’ve argued in court is while that’s not irrevocable, it’s not absolute. There’s an implied term that they give timely notice of any termination of the program. And by timely I mean give them an opportunity, as they’ve just explained, to find an alternative.”

Gall told the court his clients want all athletes and coaches reinstated, and for the school to make good-faith efforts to find a new conference for the team to play in next year.


Click to play video: 'SFU alumni and sports hall of famers protest football program cancellation'


SFU alumni and sports hall of famers protest football program cancellation


Gideon Kremler, a quarterback for SFU, said the university’s sudden decision had devastated players.

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“We’ve been left kind of without a home, without a training program, without coaches. And what that does to the mental and emotional sides of student athletes isn’t something you want to see,” he said outside B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver.

“There’s a lot of guys out here who kind of look at this for support and determination. And instead we’re feeling a little lost, left out and kind of doubted, counted out. We feel like not many people care about our own well-being and what we hope and aspire to achieve.”

SFU safety Andrew Lirag said the program’s cancellation had put both his academic and his football prospects at risk.

“I still have three years left of eligibility, and now that I don’t know where I’m going to be playing my last three years…. It’s not something I ever wanted to do. I came to SFU to play my whole career,” he said.

“Because of the timing of this decision midway through my athletics and academic career, that’s putting me in a position where now I’m facing a lot more challenges in terms of finding somewhere where I can finish my degree and make sure all my credits are transferring over, and also on the athletic side, finding somewhere where I fit both with the school and the program.”


Click to play video: '‘It’s devastating’: SFU athletes react to end of football program'


‘It’s devastating’: SFU athletes react to end of football program


University administrators said last month they had announced the cancellation in April in order to give players time to make other plans for their athletic careers if they wanted to, and that it would honour all academic scholarships.

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Lawyer Emily Kirkpatrick, who is representing the university, told the court Monday that the school had taken reasonable steps to inform athletes and coaches about the football program’s cancellation.

In an update last month, the school said it was bringing on a special advisor to review the future of the program, but maintained there would be no varsity football in the 2023-2024 season.

— with files from The Canadian Press

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