Brian Dobie is widely known as one of the nicest guys in Canadian football.
He’s a classy man who loves the game and cares deeply about his student athletes.
But he was mad enough to say words I can’t print on Friday after the governing body of Canadian University Sports made a baffling decision which impacts hundreds of senior football players.
“I am disappointed, I’m beyond angry,” said Dobie, the head coach of the University of Manitoba Bisons. “I think this is fundamentally wrong.”
On Thursday, U Sports put out a release saying that it will not extend the age restriction for Canadian university football players, even though the 2020 season has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
That means any player who turns 25 before Sept. 1, 2021 will no longer be allowed to play, even if they have eligibility remaining.
It directly affects 13 members of the Bisons football program — ending their university football careers immediately — and will cause 16 other Bisons players to lose a year of eligibility because they will eventually age out before they can use it.
In total, 29 of 85 players (34%) will have commitments made to them by the Bisons football program negated.
“What about integrity, what about commitment?” Dobie said. “They made a commitment to us, based on the rules, based on good faith and they have lived up to their commitments as student athletes. Now we will not fulfill our commitment to them at the end.
“This is the decision we’re gonna make? When this is taken away from our athletes, totally out of their control, because of a pandemic, this is what we’re gonna do?”
Dobie is vehemently opposed to the age restriction in the first place. Football is the only university sport that has such a rule. It was implemented as a safety measure, with the suggestion being that it was too dangerous for players as young as 18 to be on the field competing against players as old as 25.
Like many other football coaches and players around the country, Dobie hoped an exception would be made because of the pandemic and the lost season, but U Sports stuck to it’s guns, saying it is a safety issue.
“It was veiled as a safety issue,” Dobie said.
“But if I’m looking you in the eye right now, can you tell me there’s one iota of data that says a 24-year-old playing against at 18-year-old is OK, but a 25-year-old or 26-year-old is too dangerous?
“It’s bull—- about safety. It’s about competitive advantages and disadvantages.”
The age rule has been around for more than 10 years and there are certainly people who believe it was designed to limit strong football programs in the West, including the Bisons.
Now it’s have more profound of an effect than anyone could have imagined.
“You can go to any university in Canada and it doesn’t matter about your gender, about your race, about your age, about anything,” Dobie said. “You can take part in sports on that campus. You can play on the volleyball team, the basketball team, you can join the chess club. You can be involved in student politics. You can be 52 years old, going back to school.
“There’s no discrimination except (the age restricton) in the sport of football. Really, does that not resonate in some way. Come on people. Really?”
This seems like an issue that could end up in court, as around 300 student athletes across the country are affected.
“I would love just one rich dad, whose son is affected by this, to take a lawsuit to court,” Dobie said.
“I’d be shocked if things didn’t change, pronto.”
CFL ASKS FOR CASH TO GET SEASON GOING
A huge step toward there being a shortened Canadian Football League season was taken on Friday, with the league submitting a request for financial aid, with the endorsement of the CFL Players Association, for financial aid.
TSN’s Dave Naylor reported 100% of the money will be directed toward playing a shortened season and money will be used to cover player salaries and operating costs.
The league made a point of saying the money is not intended to subsidize financial losses incurred by the nine member teams due to the pandemic. The ask is reportedly for roughly $37 million.
If the government approves financial aid, it’s believed the league will look at six-game season, played in a hub city, quite possibly Winnipeg. There will also be an eight-team playoff round, ending with the Grey Cup game.
It’s not clear if playoff games would be played in the hub city or be hosted by the teams with better records during the season. That decision could be made as the season goes on, depending on advice from health authorities regarding the spread of COVID-19.
I have been skeptical about suggestions there will be a CFL season this year, but have always said it might be possible with financial aid.
This is now a make or break moment, with time running out, and it’s a Hail Mary into the hands of the government.
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