On the eve of what for some would have been the pinnacle of their careers, excitement turned to disappointment.
Hours after Bison Sports announced that the 2020 U Sports men’s volleyball national championship would go on as scheduled — though without fans in attendance — U Sports itself convened an emergency meeting.
The final decision was to cancel all ongoing national championships, including the event in Winnipeg slated to begin this evening.
“Over the past 24 hours, many things have changed in sport across Canada and it’s a really difficult position to be in as these types of important decisions impact so many people,” U Sports chief sport officer Lisette Johnson-Stapley said in a statement.
“Our host committees have worked tirelessly for two years on these events and we thank them for their support and the great experience they wanted to provide for the student athletes, coaches and officials as well as family, friends and fans.”
Bison Sports athletic director Gene Muller said he was heartbroken by the news disappointed for the teams and families involved.
“We’re just obviously so disappointed and wrapping our head around it,” he said.
“We put a whole lot of time and energy and effort into this, and we’re obviously really disappointed for the players and the teams that this would’ve been the highlight of the season for them.”
The decision to cancel the championship was made public about six hours after Bison Sports and U Sports released a joint statement announcing the tournament would be played without fans in attendance.
“We had made our arrangements around that,” Muller said.
“And then probably at about 9:30 [p.m.] U Sports […] had decided to cancel all national championships.”
At 9:04 p.m. CDT, U Sports released a statement announcing the cancellation of the 2020 U Sports men’s and women’s hockey national championships. The cancellation comes after the first day of competition for both tournaments had already been completed, and from there the decision was made to cancel volleyball as well.
“The same people who made the decision around hockey made the decision on volleyball,” Muller said.
“So what happened is […] there was a disaster committee meeting that U Sports had gathered. They put together a disaster planning committee and this committee made the decision that we are not going to be having any of the national championships.”
At this point there are no plans to reschedule the tournaments, leaving U Sports without four champions in 2020.
“I think there’s too much uncertainty right now,” Muller said.
“No one really knows how long this thing will run its course.”
“There was no decision on delay or rescheduling, it was cancelled.”