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Canada West delays decision on UNBC basketball

Deadline extended to Nov. 2
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A deadline for deciding the fate of UNBC’s men’s and women’s basketball seasons has been extended to Nov. 2.

The Canada West Conference and its board of directors, after receiving feedback from student athletes, announced Friday it will hold off for another month before it rules on whether second-term varsity competition will be allowed to happen at its 17 member universities in the new year.

Originally, the board planned on announcing its plans for the second term on Oct. 8.

The second-term team sports in Canada West include men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s volleyball, men’s and women’s hockey and women’s rugby sevens, as well as curling, swimming, wresting and track and field.

“I guess we have more time in terms of the actual formal league being canceled or not but it  really does nothing in terms of changing how we’re currently training  or doing what we do up at UNBC,” said UNBC athletics and recreation director Loralyn Murdoch. “Our teams are in high-performance training mode and that’s not going to be altered either way.”

In June, the pandemic forced Canada West to cancel the fall seasons for men’s and women’s soccer, football, women’s rugby 15s and women’s field hockey. Golf and cross country running were later added to that list.

Both UNBC Timberwolves soccer teams were affected by that decision and have been limited to just practicing since classes resumed in September. The T-wolves basketball teams also have approval from the provincial health authority to practice together and Murdoch is hopeful COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted enough to allow all four UNBC teams to play exhibition games within their cohorts.

UNBC would be grouped with its two closest Canada West schools – Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops and UBC-Okanagan in Kelowna and would not play any other teams. Each host team would have to adhere to strict conditions to be allowed to bring in any visiting teams for exhibition games.

Basketball is tentatively scheduled to begin league play on Jan. 7, with each team playing a 12-game schedule that would keep all B.C.-based teams grounded in the province. Murdoch said it is highly unlikely there will national championships contested in basketball.

“We have to wait for the province to open up a little bit more in the travel perspective and then we can look at our cohort and determine if we can have exhibition games in a safe manner,” said Murdoch. “It’s just not feasible to get to and from (a Canada West host city) in a day and we will work on proposals for overnight travel. If there’s no national championship, will there still be formal leagues, and if there aren’t formal leagues then that’s when we get the opportunity to create our own cohort exhibition schedules.”

Murdoch said UNBC’s soccer players will not lose a year of eligibility because the national championship and league play have been canceled. If the basketball league does start in January that would count as a year of eligibility for the players.

“It’s really important for the public to know that our student-athletes are back on campus, they are training and we are following all the provincial guidelines and the UNBC protocols,” said Murdoch. “We’re honouring our academic All-Canadians, whether there’s eligibility loss or not  and we’re still following all the eligibility guidelines and academic progression as if this were a regular year, whether or not they actually get on the field of play.”