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Alumni concerned over 'lack' of strategy following SFU football review

An independent special adviser found that the Burnaby program has potential to play in Canada.
Simon Fraser University's men's football team has announced it will be playing the majority of its 2022 home schedule south of the border in Blaine, Washington.

The SFU Football Alumni Association (SFUFAS) says it's prepared to chart the course for the resurgence of the the Burnaby post-secondary school's football program, following a recent independent report.

McLaren Global Sport Solutions senior vice-president Bob Copeland published a 136-pade report earlier this week stating the varsity squad has potential to play in Canada, explaining a "competitive football program operating in the United States is not feasible or sustainable."

But the association claims the review has left "a clouded roadmap" for the Red Leafs' gridiron revival after its dissolution in April after its affiliation with the Lone Star NCAA Div. II conference ended.

"Mr. Copeland was not asked to provide recommendations in the report but has illustrated the steps toward the reestablishment of the football program through Canada West and U SPORTS," SFUFAS President Mark Bailey said in a statement.

"We are ready to support the effort in any fashion possible."

In a five-paragraph statement on Monday, Sept. 18, SFU noted that an application to U SPORTS would be a "significant investment with no guaranteed outcome."

The report also said the school needs to develop a strategic plan for its athletics department. Theresa Hanson left her position as SFU athletics director in August.

"The lack of advocacy and leadership from SFU's leadership to support SFU's student-athletes has been apparent to us for years now," Bailey added, claiming there are frustrations "of those who have strived to back" the athletes.

"If it takes this report for Dr. [Joy] Johnson [SFU president] to realize this, it's welcome but long overdue."

Bailey and the alumni association go on to suggest that Red Leafs football resources should be placed in escrow until a firmer plan is established.

"The endowments supporting football athletes, with money raised by football alumni, should remain dedicated to their intended purpose," Bailey said.

"The football equipment should be put into storage and not out to auction. That would be a measure of trust-building which between the university administration and the alumni along with the football community has been lacking."

SFU joined the Texas-based Lone Star Conference in 2021 for a two-year term. The budget allocated to running the team in the upcoming season would have been $950,000.

The decision to eliminate the program wasn't financially based, Dr. Joy Johnson previously stated, but on the conference's announcement it wouldn't renew its football affiliation with SFU.

In May, an injunction asking the B.C. Supreme Court to help reinstate SFU Red Leafs' football was denied.

- with files from The Canadian Press

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