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Football Canada and the CFL Players' Association are both throwing their support behind Simon Fraser University's football program.HO/The Canadian Press

A fight for the future of the Simon Fraser University football program is headed to the B.C. Supreme Court, where the football alumni society has filed an injunction against the school’s decision to end the 57-year-old program.

Simon Fraser, the only Canadian school that competes in the U.S.-based NCAA, is ending the program because its contract with the Division II Lone Star Conference ends in 2024, university president Joy Johnson said last week.

But SFU Football Alumni Society president Mark Bailey says it is a breach of contract between the school and its student-athletes. The injunction, which was filed Thursday afternoon on behalf of five current players, seeks to undo the university’s decision for the 2023 season, which players and alumni criticize because the school’s contract is still active until 2024.

“We’re basically creating a time machine,” Bailey said.

The issue has galvanized Canada’s football community, including CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie. In a letter, Ambrosie urged U Sports executives, athletic directors and football head coaches to support the continuation of Simon Fraser’s program.

“To achieve all of our shared vision for the gridiron game in Canada, we need more high-level football programs and elite players here, not fewer,” Ambrosie wrote.

Football Canada president Jim Mullin is also advocating for the continuation of the program.

In an interview with The Globe and Mail, Mullin said the football community needs to make it more difficult for other schools to end their programs.

“This is a critical juncture for university football in Canada,” Mullin said. “We have to stand up for this one so we stand up for all 28 [university football programs].”

In a statement provided to The Globe, the university said it “understands this decision has been challenging to hear.” It said it is meeting with players and supporting those who are transferring to other schools.

The university also said it will continue athletic scholarships for those who remain at Simon Fraser “for the entirety of their academic journey.”

Gideone Kremler, a defensive back and quarterback entering his third year of eligibility at Simon Fraser, said the team is surprised, frustrated and confused by the school’s decision.

“There’s trajectories and life paths that are going to be affected by this,” Kremler said, explaining that most transfer windows for other programs are closed, or have been open long enough that most scholarship money and roster spots have already been allotted. “The vast majority of guys who probably should get a look somewhere won’t.”

Still, Kremler said he remains optimistic the team will return for 2023.

In the statement announcing the decision, Johnson said the uncertainty of not having a conference to play for in 2024 “creates an unacceptable experience for students.” She said the university determined football is “no longer a feasible sport for SFU.”

But both Mullin and Bailey are urging the university to consider alternative options.

Before joining the NCAA’s Great Northwest Athletic Conference in 2010, Simon Fraser played in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics from 1965 to 2001 and U Sports – then called Canadian Interuniversity Sport, or CIS – from 2002 to 2009.

The school should consider both leagues for 2024 and beyond, Mullin said, as well as playing independently.

The university said in its statement that it did not apply to join U Sports because of the association’s bylaws, which prohibit a member school from fielding a team in the NCAA or NAIA in a sport offered by U Sports. Canada West, a U Sports conference, said in a statement that it is empathetic to those impacted by the program ending but does not have any active applications to review.

“Our priority remains supporting student-athletes and [we] are actively providing guidance and support on next steps, whether they choose to stay or leave SFU,” the university said.

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