Innocent held hostage at Waterloo

STEVE SIMMONS, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:52 PM ET

TORONTO - What if nine students got caught cheating on a final exam at the University of Waterloo?

Would the course be cancelled?

Would the professors be put on administrative leave?

Would the students who passed the exam fairly be penalized by the process?

Essentially, that’s what was determined Monday at one of Canada’s leading academic institutions. Nine football players were cited for anti-doping violations and now the program has been shut down for a year.

The rest of the roster — which last season listed 87 players — has no place to play.

The 33 high school players who already have committed to the university for academics and football this fall are now caught in limbo, not certain if there are places elsewhere for them, not certain if there is scholarship money available at other schools, their lives being turned upside down from a scandal they had no part of.

It is a mess of unprecedented proportions. There really is no other words for all the confusion that surrounds the bombshell dropped Monday by Waterloo. The response of the university to what already has been called the largest doping scandal in Canadian university history was noble.

Noble, but not necessarily wise.

“The vast majority of my team made the conscious decision to not take the route,” said Joel Reinders, the former Waterloo lineman now with the Cleveland Browns.

“I strongly disagree with the university’s decision. The reason for drug testing is to find out who is breaking the law. Judge the guilty. Give free passage to the innocent.”

The decision made by Waterloo has wide-ranging ramifications. The OUA is now a nine-team division, down from 10. That means a bye-week has to be built in the new schedule. That means homecoming weekends may have to be juggled to make sense of a new schedule. That means the group of surviving football players wait to find out what their options are.

Will they be allowed to transfer universities without having to sit out a year in order to play?

The CIS rule is clear: If a program folds, any player from that program can change schools and immediately play sports. But this isn’t clear: Waterloo didn’t fold the program. It suspended it for a year.

It puts student lives on hold.

“This is all about the kids,” said a man close to the situation, but not wanting to share his name. “It’s what these programs are all about. I understand them (Waterloo) sending a message. I just don’t understand the message.”

The CIS may set up a situation where it deals with Waterloo transfers on an individual appeals basis. The assumption being, a student-athlete, who made his choice to go to Waterloo based on both academic and athletic reasons, should now have the option to continue on the promise that was made to them. Now that athlete should be given the right to transfer without prejudice, without having to sit out a year.

The Waterloo decision impacts at every level possible. Michael Warner happens to be an offensive lineman from Waterloo, trying out for the Argonauts. He may make the team out of camp but it’s more likely he will not. He is one year away from his degree in civil engineering, with one year of eligibility left for football.

But now, there’s no program for him to play in. His final year may not be portable. His opportunity to make it in pro football may depend on him playing one more year at the collegiate level.

Which means what for him?

Was anybody out there thinking of Michael Warner, or of Jordan Verdone the excellent young linebacker, or of the kid defensive back, who doesn’t step on the field but has his entire social life and academic life built around all that football can provide.

“I feel for these kids,” said Ward Dilse, the executive director of the OUA. “I can’t imagine what must be going through their heads. There’s a lot of kids caught in the wake of this. It’s really vital we do something for them.”


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