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U of C athletics director keeping positive amid cancelled sporting season

By Kristy Koehler, June 8 2020—

It was a disappointing day for Dinos fans and athletes. Canada West member universities voted unanimously on Friday to cancel fall university sports in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The fate of winter semester sports has yet to be determined.

“Decisions of this magnitude are not taken lightly by any of us in administration and are never easy to make,” said Jason Kerswill, athletic director at the University of Calgary. “Though not popular, and not one that anyone would ever want to impose, we felt it was the necessary decision to make.”

Kerswill noted that the decision was made to keep student athletes, coaches, staff and the broader university community healthy and safe. 

The decision to cancel, seemingly made well in advance of the semester beginning, was timed to allow student athletes to determine whether or not they would be coming back to campus or continue to learn remotely. The announcement follows the university’s decision to communicate its fall semester plans for instruction ample weeks ahead of course commencement.

While some student athletes may choose to make other plans, Kerswill isn’t worried about retention.

Training plans and development opportunities, he says, will be in place to entice student athletes to stay. Not only that, but the Dinos culture of excellence — they attended 15 national championships last year — should still prove sufficiently attractive. University sports will certainly be back, and what better place to be, says Kerswill, than U of C.

“I like to think that U of C is the best place for student athletes to be across Western Canada and I hope our athletes feel the same way,” he said. “The supports that we have in place, I sincerely hope that our student athletes will see continued valued in and as a result will want to stay a part of our Dinos family.

“The Dinos are tremendous ambassadors for our university and community and they’ve absolutely poured their hearts and souls into being student athletes and I can tell you, over the next few months we’re going to work harder than ever to make sure that they’re feeling supported, guided and that we’re able to return to train and eventually to compete.”

Athletic financial awards and scholarships will still be awarded to the best of the university’s abilities, even taking into account the cuts to education budgets by the provincial government.

As for the coaches and staff, Kerswill says he assured them at a staff meeting Monday morning that they were a priority. The ability to retain athletes, and to provide them support even when they aren’t competing, he says, rests with these key members of the Dinos’ team. 

Kerswill says he’s still wrapping his own head around the idea that he won’t be able to go out and cheer on the Dinos this semester.

“As a former student athlete and coach, I’m personally crushed and devastated that we’re not going to see our Dinos student athletes on the field of play this year,” he said. 

But, he believes that the Dinos’ athletic prowess won’t suffer as a result of the cancellation.

“I do believe that when we’re allowed to compete again and when we return to championships and return to play, things will quickly get back up to speed,” he said. “When we’re given the green light, we’ll be ready to go.”

Football, men’s and women’s soccer, women’s rugby 15s and women’s field hockey will not occur either in regular season play, playoff or championships for the 2020-21 season. Sports that occur over two terms, such as hockey, volleyball and basketball will not be allowed to commence any sooner than January 1, but ultimately a decision will be made on these sports no later than October 8. 

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