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HomeBusinessSFU football players sue university in bid to play in 2023

SFU football players sue university in bid to play in 2023


Bob Mackin

Five Simon Fraser University football players sued the university April 13 for breach of contract, the week after the university suddenly announced their 1965-founded program was cancelled.

“SFU’s decision to immediately terminate the SFU football program breaches the commitments made to the plaintiff players that they would be able to play football with the SFU program while attending SFU to obtain a quality education,” said the lawsuit filed in B.C. Supreme Court by lawyer Peter Gall.

(SFU Football)

The filing said that not playing in 2023 will harm the Red Leafs’ players’ academic and athletic pursuits. They want a judge to order SFU to reinstate all players and coaches in order to play in 2023. Otherwise, they seek unspecified damages for breach of contract, negligent misrepresentation and interest.

The plaintiffs include: quarterback Gideone Kremler, a fifth-year communications major and psychology minor with two years remaining of NCAA eligibility; cornerback Kimo Hiu, a third-year business student with two years remaining; defensive back Andrew Lirag, a second-year student of criminology, with three years remaining; defensive back Ryan Barthelson, a criminology student with one year left; and linebacker Dayton Ingenhaag, a third-year double minor in kinesiology and sociology, with two years left.

“All of the plaintiff players aspire to play competitive or professional football,” said the players’ lawsuit. “For all of them it was extremely important that they attend a university in which they were able to play competitive football at a high inter-collegiate level. They chose to attend SFU primarily for this reason.”

SFU has graduated more Canadian Football League draft picks than any other university. Since 2010, it has been the only Canadian member of the NCAA.

The lawsuit said that SFU coaches made commitments, promises or representations to the plaintiff players that SFU was strongly committed to student athletes’ success and SFU football players in particular.

It also said SFU induced the players to attend SFU, rather than some other university, but did not inform the players that there was any risk, possibility or likelihood that SFU would terminate its program without reasonable notice.

“In accepting SFU’s offer to attend SFU, the plaintiff players relied on the express or implied commitments, promises or representations made by SFU or its representatives to the effect that the plaintiff players would be able to play on the SFU football team in the NCAA for their entire collegiate career, and that SFU was committed to the football program.”

SFU made the April 4 announcement that it was immediately cancelling football because it had no place to play in the 2024 season due to the Lone Star Conference’s decision to end its membership after the 2023 season.

Terry Fox Field (SFU Football)

“[Athletic director Theresa] Hanson did not explain to the plaintiff players why SFU had decided to immediately terminate the SFU football program, despite having the opportunity to continue in the NCAA Lone Star Conference for the 2023 season, at least, during which time other possibilities could be explored for next season.”

An affidavit in support of the players, from ex-head coach Michael Rigell, said shutting down the Red Leafs’ football program would be contrary to what he told them when they made their decision to attend SFU. Specifically, that “they would have the opportunity to play competitive football for their full eligibility while attending an elite academic institution.

“In making this representation to them, I relied on representations made to me by multiple members of the SFU Athletics department that they would maintain the football program,” said Rigell’s sworn statement.

Rigell recruited players since he joined SFU football in 2018 and was head coach from March 2020 until last week when the program was sacked.

“Given the timing of the decision to terminate the SFU football program, many of the student-athletes, including the plaintiff players, will have difficulty finding comparable places to play football and also accomplish their academic objectives,” Rigell’s statement said. “No advance notice was given to myself or the players about this decision, or even that the elimination of the football program was being considered by SFU.”

None of the allegations has been tested in court and SFU has yet to file a statement of defence. SFU management offered one-on-one meetings to eligible players seeking to transfer to another football-playing school for this fall. It has also offered to honour the 2023-2024 scholarships for players who want to remain students at SFU.

Quarterback Key’Shaun Dorsey was outside the Law Courts Thursday afternoon, in support of his teammates.

“Personally, my dream is to play football, so as much as I appreciate them offering one more year of academic scholarship, I don’t think I could stay here,” Dorsey said. “Just due to the fact that I want to pursue my dream to play football.”

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Filed Notice of Civil Claim – SFU Football by Bob Mackin on Scribd