OUA, OCAA cancel athletics for winter semester

Durham Lords guard Sierra Oliver crossing over George Brown's Rachel Steer during an Ontario Colleges Athletic Association women's basketball game at Durham College on Jan. 21. Photo credit: Shaun McLeod

University and college varsity athletics in Ontario have been put on ice for the rest of the school year.

The Ontario Colleges Athletic Association (OCAA) and Ontario University Athletics (OUA) have announced they’re cancelling sports for the 2020-21 winter semester.

Sports affected by the OCAA cancellation are badminton, basketball, curling, indoor soccer and volleyball.

The OUA will not offer basketball, hockey, swimming, track and field, wrestling and volleyball.

“I hate the fact that I had to wake up to this news, I wish things could’ve been different,” said second-year Ontario Tech basketball player, Graddy Kanku.

“It’s hard on a lot of players because it’s like ‘what now?’ basketball has always been available to us as an escape to everything but now it feels like it got taken away.”

Kanku says he wishes the OUA would’ve tried to take more precautions like the successful NBA and WNBA bubbles.

“Now, we just have to try to stay focused and tough it out for these upcoming months,” said Kanku.

The decision comes after a recent spike in COVID-19 cases in Ontario and was influenced by a “number of factors” including new restrictions from provincial sport regulatory bodies and orders from Public Health that do not allow for regular sanctioned competition, according to the OCAA.

“The reality is that there are far too many obstacles to allow the OCAA to operate while providing a safe and quality varsity experience for our student-athletes,” said OCAA President, Nathan McFadden, in a news release.

Ontario Tech Athletic Director Scott Barker referred to the decision as “not news anyone in the sporting world would be happy about.

“It’s devastating for the student-athletes, it’s devastating for the coaches and certainly it’s devastating for the staff and administrative staff that work to put on university sport for campuses and fans in the community,” said Barker. “It’s a hard pill to swallow but at the same time, it’s understandable.”

Barker said Ontario Tech will be honouring scholarships of student-athletes.

Durham College Athletic Director Ken Babcock was not immediately available to comment on the cancellation of OCAA sports.

But in the news release, the OCAA said they’re making the decision now to allow their student-athletes time to make decisions about their education in the January, 2021 semester.

This decision also means there will be no U SPORTS national university championships in the winter 2021 semester, as U SPORTS requires at least three conferences competing in a sport in order to offer a national championship. The OUA is one of four conferences within U SPORTS and Canada West has also cancelled its winter semester of athletics.

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