Warriors down, not out

MIKE GANTER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:25 AM ET

Even before receiving a show of public support on Thursday, the on-life-support Waterloo Warriors football program got a much-needed ray of hope.

The ray of hope came in the form of news that the university board of governors, university president David Johnston and vice-president of academics and provost Feridun Hamdullahpur -- who sentenced the program to a one-year suspension on Monday -- were meeting to further discuss the matter.

Hamdullahpur made the decision to suspend the program for a year after nine of the 62 players who were tested for steroids, tested positive. The team test was ordered when a member of the team was arrested for possession of steroids with intent to traffick in March.

Hamdullahpur's decision has been roundly criticized as it punishes 53 individuals for the actions taken by nine.

The players and former receivers coach and recruiting coordinator Carl Zender -- who resigned to help the players protest the provost's decision -- are hopeful that meeting will result in a change of heart by the administration.

The players are giving the administration until 1 p.m. Friday to reverse the decision or give some indication that the current ruling won't stand. Barring that, all 53 and the 25 remaining recruits -- 13 have already found new schools for next season -- will be encouraged by Zender and the team seniors to seek new schools where they will be allowed to play football.

Zender said some have already begun looking into the transfer process.

The CIS ruled Wednesday that it has altered its transfer rules to allow Waterloo players who do switch schools to do so without having to sacrifice a year of football.

Even so, transferring one's academic credits between institutions is not always a one-for-one situation.

Zender warned some of those who do transfer might be credited with just 50% of what they have already accomplished at Waterloo.

Zender called Hamdullahpur's decisions "arrogant and outrageous" and begged the administration to opt for probation over suspension.

Earlier in the week, a meeting between Hamdullahpur and Zender and his son Dustin, who is a receiver on the team, left both father and son frustrated.

Dustin Zender, who would be going into his fourth year at Waterloo, wanted Hamdullahpur to explain why he felt it necessary to cancel the program.

Instead of a reason, Hamdullahpur offered to help Zender transfer, according to both father and son.

On hand for yesterday's conference were 40 of the players affected by the decision as well as plenty of alumni.

Throughout the speeches a crowd of some 300 friends, family, and supporters interrupted with cries of "Let them Play." One supporter suggested Hamdullahpur be sent packing instead of the team.

"We just hope he finds it in his heart to change his mind," Dustin Zender said of Hamdullahpur.

Carl Zender believes the administration is sadly mistaken if they believe a one-year suspension won't have much more dire consequences for the program.

"What they don't understand is that if football players leave and if recruits don't come in, they kill the program," Zender said.

Talk from earlier this week of legal action by the players against the university remains an option but is not Zender's focus. While he suggested the alumni have the resources to build a fund for such an action, he said he personally had no interest in going that route.

"I just want the kids to play," Zender said.

MIKE.GANTER@SUNMEDIA.CA


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