Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada, the only Canadian university in the NCAA, has announced that it will cancel all NCAA competition for winter sports in the 2020-2021 season. This comes as Canada seeds rising cases of coronavirus infections and introduces new restrictions across the country.
The decision impacts swimming and diving, basketball, indoor track and field, and wrestling.
The school has also said that it will not participate in a spring season for traditionally-fall sports like soccer, volleyball, cross country, and football. For football, the school laid out the health impact of playing a season in the spring of 2021 and then, on a quick turnaround, another beginning in August of 2021.
In making the decision, Senior Director of Athletics and Recreation Theresa Hanson says the school considered the health risk posted by COVID-19, the Canada-USA border restrictions, and a mandatory 14-day quarantine for international travelers.
The restrictions on travelers into and out of Canada has popped up elsewhere in sports, with the NBA’s Toronto Raptors planning to play their home games next season in Tampa, Florida in the United States when their season begins December 22.
“We are doing our very best to manage the pandemic in a practical and thoughtful way to ensure the health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches and staff during this period of uncertainty,” explained Hanson. “We know this decision will be especially disappointing for our student-athletes, but we will continue to provide support, encouragement and training opportunities in the months ahead.”
The school’s spring championship sports – outdoor track and field, softball, and golf – have no changes to their schedules at this time.
Simon Fraser qualified no female swimmers and 4 male swimmers individually for last year’s NCAA Division II National Championship meet. That list included sophomore Collyn Gagne, who was seeded 2nd in the 400 IM.
That meet was the only NCAA Championship meet that began last season, but it was ultimately canceled midway through the event as it became clear that Covid-19 was going to become a serious pandemic.
While many of the major powers in NCAA Division III swimming have canceled their seasons, Division II programs by-and-large seem to be proceeding with competition for the 2020-2021 season.
The school put head coach Liam Donnelly on a leave of absence toward the end of last season without much explanation as to why. They still list him as the program’s head coach, however.
Canada has fared far better throughout the pandemic than their southern neighbors in the US, with per-capita infection rates about 25% of those hitting Americans, and per-capita death rates less-than-half.
Canada, however, like the US, has seen new record highs of infections that have triggered renewed coronavirus restrictions – over 5,000 per day over the last week. Canadian swimmers returning from the International Swimming League in Budapest, for example, will have to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival back in the country.