Judge rules Atlantic university football game must go ahead

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After a marathon court hearing in Halifax, a judge has ruled Atlantic University Sport must allow a football game between Acadia University and Saint Mary’s University.

“Saint Mary’s University is pleased with the action of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia,” Margaret Murphy, the university’s associate vice-president of external affairs, wrote in a statement shortly after the judge’s decision Sunday night.

The game between the Saint Mary’s Huskies and Acadia Axemen that was slated for this weekend was abruptly cancelled Thursday by AUS, the Atlantic league’s governing body, due to eligibility concerns about one of Saint Mary’s players.

The winner of the Tuesday game will play Western, the Ontario champion from London, in the Uteck Bowl.

Acadia won’t challenge ruling

Acadia’s lawyer declined to comment after the ruling, referring CBC to the university’s spokesperson for further comment.

Scott Roberts, executive director of communications and marking at Acadia, said the school will not challenge the ruling.

“That’s what the courts decided so the game will proceed,” said Roberts. “We’re going to get ready for the game on Tuesday, that’s what’s been decided and that’s what we’ll do.”

Lawyers from Saint Mary’s, Acadia University and AUS were back in Nova Scotia Supreme Court on Sunday morning after a 5½-hour hearing on Remembrance Day.

The last-minute hearing was held to deal with a motion from Saint Mary’s to have the game reinstated. The university also asked that the case be dealt with on an urgent basis.

Court adjourned Sunday afternoon, and Associate Chief Justice Deborah Smith released her decision at 5 p.m. AT.

SMU ‘geared up and ready’ to play

“The court system seems to recognize the need for a speedy decision,” Murphy said Sunday.

Murphy said Saint Mary’s University is “geared up and ready” for both the Uteck Bowl and the Loney Bowl..

“I think you can see from the demeanour of our coaches and players who have been present that we’re ready to play,” said Murphy.

Murphy said other teams involved “would also have had ample reasons to prepare” to play too.

“We know everyone has been practising. Our team has continued to practise throughout this and we expect that’s the same of the other teams involved as well,” said Murphy.

Game would be Tuesday

All sides decided Saturday that if a game was ordered, it would happen Tuesday.

But the lawyer for Acadia University, John Keith, said his team is running out of time because it needs to prepare for the next game against Ontario.

“Acadia abided by all of the decisions that was given to it by the governing body, it won the regular season, it won the right to move on to the Uteck Bowl under the regulations,” Keith said after court was adjourned Sunday.

Keith said people have been asking why Acadia won’t just play the game. He said Acadia players are “entitled to some certainty.”

Keith had argued it would be a game “that it would be played in a haphazard, slap-dash, very rushed way.”

“It would be a game that would be unsafe for the players in terms of recovery time, it would be a game that would do a disservice to the town, to the university, to the fans of Acadia,” said Keith.

The Uteck Bowl is being held in Atlantic Canada this year, and Keith said Acadia was slated to be the host team.

“We were the first-place team. We earned everything that we have right now. We’ve been told that we are the Atlantic champions,” said Keith after Saturday’s hearing.

“To have all of that taken away from us and unravelled is a significant issue for Acadia.”

SMU argues contempt of court

The controversy started with concerns over the eligibility of Saint Mary’s wide receiver Archelaus Jack, who was on the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders practice roster until last October.

League rules state that any former CFL player, or anyone who remains on a CFL team’s practice roster after Aug. 15, has to wait one year before playing for a university team.

Phil Currie

Phil Currie, executive director of AUS, testified in court about why the organization cancelled the Loney Bowl. (Elizabeth Chiu/CBC)

U Sports, the national governing body of university sport in Canada, informed AUS of the potential issue earlier this month.

But Saint Mary’s says the question of eligibility has already been decided by an Ontario court judge. Its lawyers argued yesterday that AUS is in contempt of that court order.

About a dozen people showed up to the courtroom Sunday, including players from the Saint Mary’s Huskies.

“Everyone’s here, so everyone is part of the process and everyone’s happy to be present and part of the process,” said Margaret Murphy, associate vice president of external affairs for the university.

CBC reporter Emma Davie is live tweeting from the hearing.

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Judge rules Atlantic university football game must go ahead

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