OUA facing schedule headache

RYAN PYETTE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:28 AM ET

The University of Waterloo's decision to suspend its football program for a year could cost two other Ontario schools playoff spots this fall.

After the Warriors' 2010 season was sunk Monday under the weight of a steroid scandal that uncovered nine positive tests, Ontario University Athletics has struck a scheduling committee to discuss if the now nine-team league should reduce its number of playoff-bound teams from six to four or try squeezing in another regular-season game, likely before Labour Day.

A revised schedule without Waterloo could be passed by the province's football-playing universities as early as Thursday.

"With nine teams, you can only play four games at once so one team would have to sit each week (on a bye)," OUA football convener and Laurier athletic director Peter Baxter said. "The committee has been looking at what's the best available option. We want to ensure every team has four home games and we want to do whatever we can to preserve Homecoming dates."

Adding in an early two-game week will be difficult. Some schools have already committed to out-of-conference exhibitions in late August. Western will head to Saskatchewan to face the Huskies.

"It's going to be tough because there aren't a lot of available dates in there," Western head coach Greg Marshall said.

Several former Waterloo players from the club's golden era in the late 1990s believe their alma mater has put the entire program in peril by cancelling the season and placing coach Dennis McPhee on administrative leave.

"It's a really sad day," said former Warriors offensive lineman Paul Sguigna, an all-Canadian centre and a key part of Waterloo's two Yates Cup wins.

"I understand the school felt its reputation was at stake but I'm thinking of those fourth- and fifth-year guys and the rookies coming in who don't get a chance to play," Sguigna said. "I just think it would've left a better taste in our mouths if Bob (athletic director Bob Copeland) had to make this decision instead of a guy (vice-president academic and provost Feridun Hamdullahpur) who has never been to a football game.

"This team was making strides. It will be very difficult to come back from this."

Baxter isn't ready to believe the suspension will kill the Warriors' program. A half-dozen years ago, the Golden Hawks had two players arrested for assault and star running back Derek Medler suspended four years for testing positive for cocaine and charged in an attempted murder case.

Head coach Gary Jeffries offered to resign but Baxter refused it.

"There's always going to be doom-and-gloom in the beginning and sure, it's going to be tough on Waterloo for a while," he said, "but you look at what happened with us. We had a situation where we didn't know the details until they came out in court. I remember (head coach) Gary Jeffries coming to me and offering his resignation and I refused it.

"I told him you're in a hole now but you're going to dig out of it and I'm going to help you."

Two years later, the Golden Hawks won an unlikely Vanier Cup. Of course, they never punted their program to the sidelines for a year.

"We put it on the players to come up with a new (code of conduct) and they developed the One Team program and the cohesiveness that team had built went a long way to winning again. I believe Waterloo can do the same thing," Baxter said.

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