Over the past several days, we've heard from you: Our Viking athletes, students, parents, supporters, and fans. You've shared your questions, concerns, and frustrations about the announcement that we will be withdrawing from the 2020-21 sports season.
We would like to reassure you that we remain 100% committed to supporting our Vikings. Our student-athletes and the Augustana student experience will continue to be at the heart of Augustana's mission, which includes, of course, continued and sustainable athletics success.
Because there has been some misinformation shared, we would like to clarify and, hopefully, dispel some of the concerns you have expressed about the future of Augustana's athletic programs.
First and foremost, please know that athletics programming still has a home at Augustana Campus. Like other sports here and across Canada, our regular season is on hold; however, our teams will continue to train this year and are expected to return to competition following the pandemic. Given the health and safety regulations that must be in place for post-secondary sports to return, including the creation of an effective vaccine, the likelihood that competitive sports would be able to restart in January remains questionable.
That's why our decisions have and will continue to be guided by the health and safety measures, recommendations, and directives available from Alberta's Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health as well as the U of A's own Public Health Response Team. When asked about where post-secondary institutions may be with restrictions for the Winter 2021 Term, the Office of Alberta's Chief Medical Officer of Health replied "At this time, it is not possible to predict what the status of COVID-19 will be in January to April 2021, and what restrictions may be required. Until an effective vaccine is identified and made widely available, post-secondary institutions should continue to plan for blended in-class/online delivery of instruction, with an emphasis on online/remote instruction wherever possible." Maintaining the health and safety of our Vikings community must and will inform what we do.
While reviewing the implementation of a possible January start, we felt that there were too many uncertainties that could not be addressed adequately now and for the foreseeable future. We wish to ensure that our athletes and coaches are safe. We do not have the financial capacity to maintain safety health measures (for example, PPE and increased cleaning) that we know will be needed to ensure safe participation. Just imagine the enormous consequences of daily testing for all involved—and what would happen were one person to test positive. And when it comes to travel, we are not prepared to place student-athletes and their coaches in situations whereby safety could not be guaranteed and where costs would be prohibitive.
At the U of A, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a number of temporary layoffs, and Athletics programming has been touched by this. However, these disruptions are temporary. It has been our goal all along to bring the impacted staff back immediately.
Again, the student experience is at the heart of Augustana's educational vision. Our Vikings deserve to train, practice, and play in a safe and supportive environment. We are using the best information available to us, and we are taking the best available steps to ensure a positive student experience. In the spirit of this approach, we will work to create meaningful training and competition opportunities, though the reality is that, like university classes across the nation, they too may have to be delivered virtually or remotely. We are committed to transitioning to an in-person model when we can effectively and consistently meet the required public health safety measures.
Finally, we have made the announcement about our 2020-21 season now because we want to provide everyone with as much clarity as possible as early as possible.
The Vikings are and will remain a critical part of life at Augustana.
Demetres P. Tryphonopoulos, Dean and Executive Officer, Augustana Campus
Ian Reade, Director of Athletics, University of Alberta