Photo by Cindy Cui / Photo Editor

As local businesses, schools and social gatherings face cancellations in response to the COVID-10 pandemic, major sports organizations have also been braving turbulent changes.

The four major national sports in North America — basketball, baseball, hockey and football — have all been greatly affected by the virus. The original plan was to have games continue, but not allow fans or unnecessary personnel near games.

In theory, this was a great idea; it would have allowed for play to continue and the multi-billion dollar industry to continue creating some revenue, such as through television ads. However, when the first pro athlete, Rudy Gobert, the center for the Utah Jazz, contracted the virus, this idea went out the window along with any hope of play to continue. After the NBA cancelled games, the rest of the sports world soon followed suit.

As the days progress, more professional athletes are testing positive for COVID-19. This has been attributed to athletes' consistent travels from city to city for games and practices, which makes them more susceptible to contracting the virus and spreading it. 

It has been suggested that the best way to mitigate exposure and transmission of the virus is for athletes to restrict travel and self-quarantine. 

When I read the reports of the National Basketball Association postponing its season for a minimum of 30 days, subject to change depending on the future state of the virus, and the National College Athletics Association ending all of its national tournaments for the year, I wondered how this may affect Canadian university sports. As updates and articles shared information about major sports leagues, the Ontario University Athletics and U Sports had yet to release statements on how they were going to factor the coronavirus into their decision-making.

University and college cancellations across Ontario began on March 12 and 13 with Western University, McMaster University, Mohawk College and others cancelling in-person classes and student events for the remainder of the semester. The U Sports association then followed suit, cancelling that weekends’ scheduled national championships in volleyball and hockey, but continuing with the curling championships.

U Sports’ championships require competing varsity teams to travel to chosen host locations. The volleyball championship was set to take place in Winnipeg and Calgary over the weekend of March 14 to 16 and the hockey championships to take place in Halifax and Charlottetown over that same weekend. 

Both of these tournaments were expecting teams from across the country to attend, from British Columbia to Prince Edward Island. This potentially heightened the risk of spreading the virus. To limit the spread of COVID-19, Canadians have been advised to avoid international non-essential travel; while the travel measures announced on March 16 did not include domestic flights, the situation is continuously changing from day to day. Recently, airlines such as Air Canada began suspending domestic flights. 

This begs the question of why the U Sports National Championships for curling were not cancelled. This tournament involved universities from all over the country such as McMaster University, University of Dalhousie and the University of Alberta, and took place the very same weekend as the aforementioned volleyball and hockey tournaments. 

At the time of writing this article, U Sports had yet to post any material on their social media to answer those questions or comment on why they made contradictory decisions to cancel volleyball and hockey tournaments, while continuing the curling championships. 

After having reached out to U Sports for a statement, John Bower of U Sports stated that the curling championships had been in line with government regulations at the time.

The total number of participants in the Curling championship was inferior to the 250 established by the Government of Manitoba on Thursday and therefore was allowed by the Province to continue and had begun prior to the cancellation of the hockey and volleyball championships,” said Bower. 

It is important to keep in mind that the volleyball championships, which were also planned to take place in Manitoba, and the hockey championships in Prince Edward Island were cancelled.

The following was the response to my questions about their tournament handlings:

As stated by Bower from U Sports.

While these precautions seemed to be adequate at the time of the curling tournament’s start date on March 10, the tournament would go on to see play for another five days. All the players and potential companions travelled in and out of the province over this time. 

The representative from U Sports said that Curling Canada was able to guarantee a safe and secure environment for the curling championships to take place. As we have seen the pandemic continue to spread, it seems that it would have been very difficult to guarantee anything. The tournament should have been shut down.

The U Sports national championships was not alone in the building. The event coincided with the Senior Men’s and Women’s Championships, the Canad Inns Canadian Mixed Doubles Championships and the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA)/Curling Canada Championships. 

The amount of people at any given time in the arena might have been under the mandated 250 person limit, but this limit became quickly outdated as the Centre for Disease Control lowered the limit to no more than 50 people just one day after the tournament finished on March 16. Considering the curling teams, general fans and family members that were in attendance, it is unlikely that this limit was adhered to during the tournament. 

The first red flag was that this tournament was continued while the other national tournaments were cancelled. The second red flag was that there was no postponing or cancelling as the tournament progressed. Just as COVID-19 spread across the country, the red flags spread across this event. 

 

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Photo C/O Brandon Vandecaveye / Western Mustangs

On Nov. 9, the McMaster Marauders beat the Western Mustangs 29-15. This marks the eighth Yates Cup win in school history and will hopefully lead to the fifth Vanier Cup appearance for McMaster, although the Marauders will have to get through the University of Calgary Dinos first. 

Although it was a big win for the school, we wish a speedy and full recovery for Mustangs’ quarterback Chris Merchant, who left the game in the second quarter with an ankle injury. Merchant was the league’s Most Valuable Player this year and had a phenomenal season leading Western to an undefeated regular season.

The game was won in old school football fashion, with a strong run game and even better defensive play. With 37 rushing attempts for 123 yards, the Marauders were able to dominate time of possession at 34 minutes and 30 seconds out of a total game time of 60 minutes. In addition to their successful run game, the team upheld the old saying “defence wins championships”. The Marauders’ defence held Western’s high flying offence to just nine yards in the second quarter. The Marauders also had two safeties, six sacks, two recovered fumbles, two interceptions and a blocked punt. 

In addition to their successful run game, the team upheld the old saying “defence wins championships”. The Marauders’ defence held Western’s high flying offence to just nine yards in the second quarter. The Marauders also had two safeties, six sacks, two recovered fumbles, two interceptions and a blocked punt. 

Stunning stat at the #YatesCup: @WesternMustangs had 9 yards of offence in the second quarter. #HamOnt #OUA @McMasterSports

— Scott Radley (@radleyatthespec) November 9, 2019

No game can be perfect. In particular, the Marauders had three turnovers in the first quarter. Retaining possession of the ball will be a key factor in the Mitchell Bowl, the game they play this Saturday Nov. 16 which is the precursor to the Vanier Cup, where they play the Calgary Dinos. The Marauders won’t be able to get away with that many turnovers in one quarter on the higher stage. Calgary’s defence has been a force all season and they held the University of Saskatchewan Huskies to just four points in the Hardy Cup, the final game of the Canada West division. 

The University of Calgary will undoubtedly be a tough opponent, as they boast an undefeated home record this season. The game will be played at McMahon Stadium, on the Dinos’ home turf. The odds are certainly stacked against us as no Ontario University Athletics team has won a bowl game out West since 1968.

The odds are certainly stacked against us as no Ontario University Athletics team has won a bowl game out West since 1968.

If the maroon and grey beat the Dinos, then it will mark their first Vanier Cup appearance since 2014, where they lost by only one point to the University of Montreal Carabins. If the Marauders win against Calgary, then they will play the winners of the Uteck Bowl, which will be either the University of Acadia Axemen or the University of Montreal Carabins. The Uteck Bowl and Mitchell Bowl are essentially the semi-finals leading up to the Vanier Cup, where the top teams from the different conferences will take turns hosting and visiting.  

The Marauders have prospered under head coach Stefan Ptaszek. He has been the head coach for the team  in their past three out of four Vanier Cup appearances. In other words, Ptaszek has been influential in three-quarters of the Marauders’ Vanier Cup appearances. Not only is Ptaszek a prolific coach, but he was also an outstanding player. Ptaszek remains the current all-time leader in receiving yards for the University of Laurier Golden Hawks and played in the Canadian National Football league from 1995-2000, as a player, and from 2016-2017 as an offensive coordinator and receivers coach. 

On Nov. 16 we play the Dinos for a Vanier Cup bid, where two of the best defences in Canada will battle for a place in the history books. 

 

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Photo by Kyle West

Both the men's volleyball team and women's basketball team took the weekend by storm with two victories each, while the men's basketball and women's volleyball teams won one out of their two games. Here are the stars of the weekend.

Sarah Gates

The second-year is no stranger to the Pita Pit Athlete of the Week award, most recently winning the weekend honour on Nov. 15, 2018, when she scored a career-high of 24 points. This weekend, she poured in 19 points for the Marauders in both of the team’s wins. Gates who was called to the 2018 Ontario University Athletics All-Rookie team, shot 50 per cent from the field and 40 per cent from the three, as well as collecting four rebounds in the win over Wilfrid Laurier University. Against the University of Guelph, she hit three of eight shots from three, and gave the team four steals and four rebounds.

 

Right side @MattColeP from @MACMVB and @macwbball guard Sarah Gates are the @PitaPitCanada Athletes of the Week. @mcmasteru #GoMacGo

READ ⬇️https://t.co/u7nAO5cvSh

— McMaster Marauders (@McMasterSports) January 14, 2019

 

Matt Passalent

After sitting out due to injury, Passalent hit the court for the first time of the regular season and did not miss a beat, being recognized as the Pita Pit Athlete of the Week for his efforts. Facing two U Sports top-10 opponents this weekend, the Marauders took home two victories and Passalent was a big part of both. The fourth-year had 10 kills, two aces and a block assist for 12.5 points Saturday against University of Windsor, and 15 kills and 18.5 points against Western University, which bumped them up to #4 in the national rankings.

 

There are 4️⃣ @mcmasteru teams ranked in this week's @usportsca Top 10s, with @MACMVB and men's wrestling both moving up two spots!

♂️🏐⬆️4️⃣
♀️🏀↔️4️⃣
🤼‍♂️⬆️6️⃣
🤼‍♀️↔️9️⃣#GoMacGo pic.twitter.com/qqPgOWV8jK

— McMaster Marauders (@McMasterSports) January 15, 2019

 

David McCulloch

In the Marauders’ second victory of the New Year, coming against the Guelph Gryphons, McCulloch contributed 23 points shooting 64 per cent from the field. The 97-80 road win seemed like just the fire the Marauders needed to bring it home and win again. Unfortunately, the Laurier Golden Hawks had other plans. Despite the fifth-year guard being the second highest leading scorer of the game with 15 points, the Golden Hawks came for revenge and defeated the Marauders 87-73 at home.

 

Jessie Narin

Narin led the Marauders offensively in both games against Windsor and Western this weekend. With 17 kills and 23 points, including five aces and a solo block, she helped Mac defeat Western on Saturday night in the fifth set. Narin, a right side, also led offensively the night before in the loss to Windsor, with 14 kills, three aces and a block assist for a team- and match-high 17.5 points.

This weekend McMaster basketball will face the Lakehead University Timberwolves in back-to-back home games this weekend, with the women playing at 6:00 p.m. and the men at 8:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Both volleyball teams will then take over Burridge on Sunday, as the women and men host the Brock University Badgers this Sunday at 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. respectively.

 

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Ontario’s Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities has introduced a new set of tuition billing regulations that will begin taking effect in the 201415 academic year. The changes are expected to be fully implemented by 2016.

The new policy, announced in December 2013, states that all post-secondary students in Ontario will be able to pay tuition per term without having to pay deferral fees. Tuition payments for a fall term cannot be due before August, and students who apply for the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) by the beginning of August will not have to pay tuition before receiving their financial aid.

In response to the policy, the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA) and the Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario (CFS-Ontario) commended the ministry but also flagged some concerns.

“One thing we need to note is that we’ve heard from many university presidents that with these fees gone, there’s going to be less money in the system,” said Amir Eftekarpour, president of OUSA and vp external of the University Students’ Council at Western University.

“We definitely don’t want students to experience a lower quality of education because of this. There needs to be some discussion around ensuring that there is a funded reduction of these fees,” he said.

Another issue of contention, flat-fee tuition billing, will be more regulated but not altogether eliminated.

The ministry has committed to raising the current 60 per cent threshold to 70 per cent in 2015, then to 80 per cent by 2016. Students with disabilities will not be charged flat-fee tuition.

While some have argued that flat-fee billing provides institutions with a more predictable revenue stream and encourages students to finish their degrees sooner, student representatives have strongly criticized the model for charging some students for education they do not receive.

“From a student perspective, we very much advocate for full per-credit tuition and that there needs to be some way to find funding for it so it can happen in the short term. Unfortunately, given the economic reality, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of money floating around the province,” Eftekarpour said.

Eight universities in the province currently charge flat-fees above the 60 per cent threshold. The University of Toronto is the only university in Ontario charging flat-fee tuition to students taking 60 per cent of a course load. With the new policy, the U of T could see a $16 million annual loss in revenue, the university’s president told the Toronto Star in anticipation of an increased threshold.

The CFS-Ontario, which also lobbied for the elimination of flat fees and deferral fees, had further recommended that institutions be prohibited from charging interest on unpaid balances and deposits on tuition.

With the new rules, students will continue to be charged late fees and interest if they are unable to pay by per-term deadlines. Institutions will be allowed to charge deposits on tuition, but they will be capped at $500 or 10 per cent of tuition, whichever is greater.

“Unfortunately, some of the proposals provide new opportunities for institutions to burden students with additional costs,” said CFS-Ontario chairperson Alastair Woods in a release. “Students will continue to advocate at the institutional and provincial levels to end these and other unfair fee practices.”

The ministry’s new policy also eliminates graduation fees but does not address ancillary and online testing fees. Both the CFS-Ontario and OUSA have maintained that students should not pay to be evaluated through learning software.

“The ministry didn’t say that [online testing fees] are okay now. It certainly was a difficult discussion about what the best solution is,” Eftekarpour said. “I think it’s unfortunate that student unions will now have to engage with their universities to hammer out some sort of process for all of this. We really wish it was just maintaining that these aren’t allowed.”

“Just to clarify, we’re not at all against the online testing materials,” he added. “It’s really good quality software and it’s a great learning experience. Students just can’t pay to be tested to use it, that’s just against our principles.”

This article was first published on the Canadian University Press's newswire.

If good artists borrow and great artists steal, what do great MSU presidential candidates do?

Candidate Jacob Brodka's "BRODKA 2013: Our Platform" campaign video series bears striking similarities to a video series posted by a former presidential candidate for Western's University Students Council, Adam Fearnall.

Brodka's video:

[youtube id="r9sFQpoXgxg" width="620" height="360"]

Fearnall's video:

[youtube id="KolTlDGv6iE" width="620" height="360"]

The Fearnall videos employ the same strategy of including three categories of platform points, presented in a series of videos that are all embedded as links at the end of the initial video. Parts of the script in the general platform videos are almost identical, as are the design elements and sequencing.

"In looking for ways that we could present our platform in a unique way that would actually engage our students, I turned my attention to Western because they're known to innovate, in terms of campaigns ... I did the design work for our whole campaign, used [Fearnall's] format, tied our theme into it and brought that to McMaster," said Brodka about the similarities.

"Is is similar? Yes, because it's effective and engaging, and that's the feedback we've been getting. I wish [students] would focus more on the ideas than the delivery."

There were also similarities in the platform points. Fearnall's platform included "merit-based pay" and Brodka's includes "merit-based salary," both of which suggested that the union president's full salary be withheld pending a performance review. Fearnall's "interest credit" and Brodka's "freedom credit" proposed that students be allowed one out-of-program, pass/fail elective.

Brodka's individual platform videos followed a similar pattern to Fearnall's, presenting the platform point and then an "impact on students" segment.

"Platform points are always recycled throughout the years ... a lot of how we could improve student life at the school and the student experience, especially for student union, is about looking at other schools," said Brodka.

Fearnall, who ultimately won the election last year, had his video posted in February of 2012. Like Brodka, Fearnall had also posted a video that was lighter tone to compliment the platform video.

"No," said Brodka about whether the similarities concerned him initially. "[Fearnall's] video is a public video and he's president of the USC. It's inevitable that someone could stumble across that."

The text of Brodka's introductory video is below:

"Hi, I’m Jacob Brodka. Over the past few years, the McMaster community has done some incredible things. So what do we believe? We believe we can only go up from here. In order to do that, we must ask ourselves: Where does real change come from? Well, it all starts with you. What makes McMaster incredible is the people that go here. It is up to us as students to ask questions and voice concerns together. We know that it can be overwhelming to try and keep up with issues on campus and the work that is being done to resolve those issues. We want to make things simple. This is our platform."

Text of Fearnall's introduction:

"Hi, I’m Adam Fearnall. Why are we different? We’re not just about the USC; we’re about Western. Change doesn’t start from the top. It starts with you. Here’s what we believe. This is our platform."

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