The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and resulting restrictions aimed at combating the virus’s spread, continue to affect sports, with news this week of a Canadian university moving football games this fall to a United States high school’s football field in order to work around Canadian border restrictions regarding vaccination of travelers into the country.
Simon Fraser University, located in Burnaby, British Columbia, just outside of Vancouver in western Canada, made the announcement in a news release yesterday. The university, the only Canadian university that is part of the U.S.’s National Collegiate Athletic Association, has moved four of seven scheduled home games across the border and canceled a fifth due to the vaccination restrictions. The four games are all against Texas or New Mexico schools that are part of SFU’s league, the NCAA Division II’s Lone Star Athletic Conference. The game that was canceled was a non-conference game with the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics’ Montana State University-Northern.
The games have been moved to Blaine, WA, just across the Canada-U.S. border from the Burnaby campus and will be held at that town’s high school stadium. In the statement, the university’s head of athletics expressed hope that the team will be able to work through this change. “We are all looking forward to a time when the impact of the global pandemic will be behind us,” said Theresa Hanson, Senior Director of Athletics and Recreation at Simon Fraser. “This news is especially disappointing for our student-athletes, but we continue to support them and advocate for ways to ensure they can train and compete. We are looking forward to creating a home-field atmosphere in Blaine for these games.”
Two games will still be played at SFU’s home stadium, on their campus in Burnaby. Those are a game September 17 against Central Washington University, and a second game that will end their season in December against Canadian cross-town rival the University of British Columbia.
Current Canadian border rules require all visitors to show proof of full vaccination. These rules also impact other Simon Fraser sports teams as well, but since league alignments are different for the other sports (SFU’s other sports programs are part of a different NCAA Division II league, the Great Northwest Athletic Conference), the restrictions are not expected to result in any site changes for home games for those teams. However, that possibility does exist, and in any event, it is likely the football changes could open a conversation among folks associated with athletics at the university about whether it will remain practical for the school to continue its affiliation with the NCAA, which they have had since 2010, or go play in the Canadian university athletics association, called the CIAU.