By Kristy Koehler, July 15 2020—
Some varsity football players got another round of bad news last week. Not only has the 2020-21 football season been cancelled, but more than 300 senior players have had their careers cut short by U SPORTS age cap rules.
While the decision to cancel the season as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic doesn’t impact eligibility in terms of years played, football is unique in Canadian varsity sport in that there is an age cap for players. Those who turn 25 before Sept. 1 age out and are ineligible to play.
Josiah Joseph, quarterback for the University of Calgary Dinos, is among the more than 300 seniors impacted by the age cap regulations. He, like many others, won’t get to play their senior year if U SPORTS doesn’t make an exception to the rule.
“[U SPORTS] came out and said that they weren’t going to change the age limit rule, even though the season is being cancelled, ultimately ending the careers of a lot of players in Canada,” said Joseph, who got a call from his head coach last week to tell him the news.
“Especially in the times that are happening right now with everything going on, to just get more bad news was devastating,” he said.
Joseph had seen the COVID-19 information released by U SPORTS and noticed that the age cap wasn’t addressed. But, he said he didn’t think too much about it.
“I was optimistic because on the USPORTS website, in their strategy plan, their number one value is listed as putting the student athletes first and also, to make decisions based on practical and empirical evidence,” he said. “With this decision, they did neither.”
Joseph said the U SPORTS age cap is touted as a way to protect the safety of players, but says it doesn’t quite add up.
“Hockey is a very combative sport as well and has no age cap,” he said. “Wrestling has no age cap, lacrosse has no age cap, rugby has no age cap.”
He also cited the NCAA having had football players much older than 25 play on their rosters and wonders why, with all of the resources the American varsity organization has, if they don’t see a reason why older students can’t play, how U SPORTS came to that conclusion.
“We seem to follow in [the NCAA’s] footsteps with everything else we do, so where is this evidence coming from?” Joseph questioned. “U SPORTS needs to explain themselves. For a lot of us just saying ‘player safety’ and hiding behind those words is frustrating.
“This might end my career which is pretty devastating because its not due to an injury and not because of something I did, but because they wouldn’t adapt to the situation that is the global pandemic.”
For many players, their senior year is important in continuing with a professional football career — for Joseph, it’s critical.
Joseph plays quarterback for the University of Calgary Dinos. While he saw a fair amount of field time, he sat behind star QB Adam Sinagra for the last four years. His fifth year was about showing that he could lead the team on his own. A quarterback faces so many different scenarios every time they step on the field and showing that you’re adaptable to a variety of situations is necessary to prove you can make it in the big leagues.
“I’ve played a decent amount, but it’s not quite enough to show CFL scouts that I can perform at that level on a day-to-day basis,” he said. “My senior year was really about showcasing myself and showcasing my talent and proving to CFL scouts that I can do it.”
The concern Joseph has isn’t solely for his career, but for football in Canada as a whole.
“Players have been giving their hearts and souls to their programs and representing them for years and to see that end so abruptly is absolutely devastating,” he said. “For Canadian university football, alumni are a very strong financial network for teams and it’s going to hurt Canadian football because a lot of these fourth- and fifth-year guys are going to feel like they got screwed over.”
Joseph has been active on Twitter and says players and ex-CFLers have reached out to him, expressing support and offering help in his bid to elicit a change of heart from U SPORTS. There’s even a petition online that Joseph has been sharing in the hopes that he, and many others, will be able to play another year.