C/O Chris Surdykowski

After the cancellation of fall sports, Western Mustangs’ football player, Garrett Holmes, created the CSAA to protect student-athletes.

In early July 2020, U Sports made a controversial decision where they maintained their current eligibility policy of disallowing football athletes older than 25 (born on Sept. 1, 1996 or after) from competing in the 2021-2022 season.

After pressure from athletes and the public, the national association made an exception to their policy, where the 2020-2021 season would not be counted as part of their eligibility, thus allowing athletes to participate after competing five academic years and allowing football athletes older than 25 to compete in games.

A key voice that resulted in this reversal is the newly-formed Canadian Student-Athlete Association, founded by Garrett Holmes, a fourth-year social sciences student at Western University and back-up quarterback for the Western Mustangs. 

“COVID-19 really changed college and university sports forever in Canada unfortunately . . . it’s not about the decisions made in the past, but it’s the future decisions that are going to be made, and when those are made, I think student-athletes should have some input. It’s their future and it’s their careers at stake. I don’t think it’s right if they don’t [have] input to what’s happening,” said Holmes.

“COVID-19 really changed college and university sports forever in Canada unfortunately . . . it’s not about the decisions made in the past, but it’s the future decisions that are going to be made, and when those are made, I think student-athletes should have some input. It’s their future and it’s their careers at stake. I don’t think it’s right if they don’t [have] input to what’s happening,” said Holmes.

On July 20, the CSAA provided a statement to U Sports asking them to revisit their decision regarding eligibility for the 2021-2022 season and onwards. On July 27, U Sports made the reversal, with the CSAA expressing their gratitude to CEO of U Sports Dick White and U Sports as a whole for their willingness to listen and their consequential decision. 

“I think Canada will be in limbo for a while. A bubble is a great idea, but I don’t know how they will fund it. It needs a lot of planning. Even for fall sports, the timing is slipping away . . . the season would have started a few weeks ago for football. I think for spring sports, that’s an option, but they have to start planning now for a bubble. But unfortunately, I don’t think U sports is thinking about that; they’re just pretty set on staying safe. But it’s hard to know what they’re thinking without getting input from student-athletes. It’s just tough,” said Holmes.

“I think Canada will be in limbo for a while. A bubble is a great idea, but I don’t know how they will fund it. It needs a lot of planning. Even for fall sports, the timing is slipping away . . . the season would have started a few weeks ago for football. I think for spring sports, that’s an option, but they have to start planning now for a bubble. But unfortunately, I don’t think U sports is thinking about that; they’re just pretty set on staying safe. But it’s hard to know what they’re thinking without getting input from student-athletes. It’s just tough,” said Holmes.

Outside of the COVID-19 pandemic, the CSAA has various goals that comprise its mandate to provide student-athletes with a voice.

“Right now, we are reaching out to key people, like Dick White and key organizations and getting their input and providing my input . . . Obviously COVID-19 is the most important topic right now in U Sports and Canadian university athletics, but aside from that, there are so many big issues that aren’t talked about right now, such as sexual harassment and racism. These issues are pushed away because student-athletes don’t know where to go to talk, but now the CSAA is somewhere to go to bring up such issues,” said Holmes. 

“Right now, we are reaching out to key people, like Dick White and key organizations and getting their input and providing my input . . . Obviously COVID-19 is the most important topic right now in U Sports and Canadian university athletics, but aside from that, there are so many big issues that aren’t talked about right now, such as sexual harassment and racism. These issues are pushed away because student-athletes don’t know where to go to talk, but now the CSAA is somewhere to go to bring up such issues,” said Holmes. 

Holmes also explained that bringing agent representation to student-athletes is an area that the CSAA would like to focus on, providing them with the best student-athlete experience. 

“Change is needed. With COVID-19, we are in very strange times. Student-athletes deserve to see the table. It’s their future being altered and to have no input from them is very wrong,” said Holmes.

Despite the governance of the CSAA still being under development, current student-athletes and alumni are encouraged to view the association’s website and reach out to Holmes to discuss the future of the CSAA.

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