The Atlantic University Sport (AUS) championship final will not happen this year, as the organization announced Thursday the Loney Bowl would be cancelled.
The announcement came just two days before the game was scheduled to be played. Instead, the first place finisher of the regular season, the Acadia University Axemen, will represent the AUS in the Uteck Bowl, the national semifinal game, on Nov. 18.
The news comes as the Saint Mary’s University Huskies team is being investigated for possibly having an ineligible player.
“We are disappointed a final resolution to this situation could not be reached in time,” AUS executive director Phil Currie said in a news release.
“Cancelling the AUS Loney Bowl is unfortunately the only avenue we feel we can take, as a conference, at this time. However, we believe this decision protects the integrity and fairness of the 2017 AUS football season.”
U Sports, the national governing body of university sports, started its investigation Friday, after receiving a complaint about Huskies wide receiver Archelaus Jack.
The U Sports eligibility policy states that a football player is prohibited from U Sports competition for one year, if they’re affiliated with a professional team in a way “that directly or indirectly confers a monetary benefit to the athlete after August 15.”
Jack was cut from the Saskatchewan Roughriders practice squad on Oct. 11.
-Nat’l WR, Archelaus Jack. #CFL
— Sask. Roughriders (@sskroughriders) October 11, 2016
This season was the Huskies’ best in five years, going 5-3 in the regular season and making the playoffs for the first time in that period.
Jack played five games with Saint Mary’s before Oct. 11. In those five games, the Huskies went 4-1. If Jack is found ineligible, the team forfeits those wins, dropping their regular season record to 1-7. That would’ve been the worst record in the AUS and Saint Mary’s would’ve missed the playoffs entirely.
Acadia University had already secured the spot for the Loney Bowl before the investigation began. But, once it started, it was unclear whether they would face Saint Mary’s or St. Francis Xavier University. Given kick-off was two days away and there was still no ruling, the AUS pulled the plug.
‘Robbed of an opportunity’
“(I’m) disappointed that we don’t get the chance to play a game,” Jeff Cummins, head coach of the Acadia Axemen, said in an interview. “(I’m) disappointed for my players and the opportunity to go out and win a championship on the field and take the picture with the trophy and the banner.
“They’re competitors and they were robbed of an opportunity to play in a Loney Bowl.”
Cummins said he has talked to his players and made them aware of the situation, so now the focus shifts to the Uteck Bowl.
Coming into the season, St. FX was gunning for a third straight Loney Bowl championship.
“Everybody’s disappointed,” Leo MacPherson, athletic director at St. FX, said in an interview. “At the start of the season we wanted an opportunity to get a three-peat with the Loney Bowl championship.
“But we understand the decision the AUS made and, at the end of the day, we respect that decision. But we’re disappointed we’re not playing this weekend.”
Saint Mary’s responds
The Signal received a statement Thursday evening from Margaret Murphy, associate vice-president of external affairs at Saint Mary’s University.
“Saint Mary’s University has been diligent in its responses and interactions with U Sports and has acted with integrity throughout this process,” Murphy said in the statement. “Saint Mary’s takes the recent action of the AUS very seriously and the university is considering its options. This matter raises important concerns around the application of policies within the AUS.
“It is very unfortunate that the AUS is taking such unilateral action against one of its own members, without affording them due process, and in so doing is attempting to undercut a pending decision by the Ontario Superior Court.
“The university maintains its position that there is no eligibility issue and strongly disagrees with the AUS’s decision to forgo the championship game and appoint an AUS conference champion.”