MIDDLESEX CENTRE, ONT. -- Sports programming at Ontario's colleges and universities has been suspended through the end of the year due to COVID-19, their ruling bodies announced Monday.

Statements released by Ontario University Athletics (OUA) and the Ontario Colleges Athletic Association (OCAA), both say all school sanctioned sports have been suspended for the fall semester with the health of athletes, coaches and officials in mind..

Gord Grace, OUA president & CEO, said, “While this has been a challenging course of action for all involved, the health and safety of our student-athletes and all participants remain paramount...and we will continue to work toward achieving a safe return to play when the time is right to do so.”

The OCAA says fall varsity sport impacted include; baseball, softball, rugby, rugby sevens, outdoor soccer, golf and cross-country running.

OCAA President Nathan McFadden said it was a difficult, but necessary decision to protect the health of everyone involved.

"We understand and share the deep disappointment this especially causes for our 4,000 student-athletes. We will get through this, and when we resume competition, the viability of the OCAA will be more important than ever before in uniting both our campuses and communities together in sport."

College sports scheduled in the 2021 winter semester, including basketball, volleyball, badminton, curling and indoor soccer are expected to go ahead with reduced schedules.

The OUA says no decisions have yet been made regarding athletics beyond Jan. 1, 2021, and Grace added, discussions are expected to continue with health officials before any decision is made.

“We remain hopeful that we can provide quality experiences for our student-athletes starting in the new year and will be closely monitoring the ongoing health considerations and viability for these future opportunities over the coming months.”

Western University says despite the cancellation it remains committed to its student athletes.

“While this news is a disappointment for Western and our Mustang community, we support the decision in light of the challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has presented,” said Christine Stapleton, director of Sport & Recreation in a statement.

“We recognize travel between schools is uncertain at this time, and ensuring the safety of our campus community remains Western’s top priority.”

Championship cancellations prompt scholarship changes

U Sports, the national governing body of university sport in Canada, says the cancellations will change eligibility and scholarship regulations.

Changes to exemptions and qualifications pertaining to athletic scholarships and eligibility can be found here.

Among the championships cancelled are; women’s field hockey, men’s and women’s cross-country running, men’s and women’s soccer, women’s rugby and football including the national semifinals and the Vanier Cup.