Canadian school SMU practiced for the Loney Bowl Friday before they knew if they could play.

Short-rest games are a hot topic in the NFL at the moment, and they’re fast becoming one in Canadian university football.  And this time around, they’re being debated not thanks to league scheduling, but thanks to a court order. The controversy from Atlantic University Sport’s cancellation of Saturday’s Loney Bowl conference final over the eligibility of a Saint Mary’s Huskies player wound up in two different courts this weekend, and ended with a Halifax judge deciding in favor of SMU and forcing AUS to play the game rather than just continue with their initial plan of anointing the Acadia Axemen as champions.

That game, between the Huskies and the host Axemen, will take place Tuesday, though, and the winner will face the Ontario University Athletics champion Western Mustangs just four days later in the Uteck Bowl to see who advances to the Vanier Cup, the national championship. That would be tough against any team, and is perhaps even tougher against the Mustangs, who are 10-0, ranked second nationally, and are coming off a 75-32 win in the 110th Yates Cup over the Laurier Golden Hawks Saturday. And that’s raised plenty of questions about the short rest the AUS champions will be on. Neate Sager has a rundown of Sunday’s court decision and the implications for the winner over at The CIS Blog:

Three days to heal up to play a very physical, much more rested Western Mustangs team reeks of a ritual sacrifice, but that’s not for a court to decide.

Justice Deborah Smith has granted an interim injunction to Saint Mary’s, which will compel Atlantic University Sport to hold the Loney Bowl between Acadia and SMU by no later than Tuesday. Justice Smith, who took just more than 10 minutes to outline her decision after considering two days of arguments from lawyers for Acadia, SMU and AUS, seemed to centre the decision on whether AUS followed its bylaws. Toward the end of Sunday’s proceedings, Smith asked the counsel for AUS if its bylaws contained a provision for creating the executive committee which was responsible for cancelling the game last Thursday (right as Saint Mary’s was seeing its first injunction in Ontario Superior Court against U Sports). The response of “it’s not anywhere,” amounted to a tacit admission that the conference overstepped its bounds.

This will be back in court soon enough, but the game will be played.

The devil is in the details; but sometimes it’s in the practical reality that is outside the purview of the court. The ruling puts the winning team in a scenario of playing twice in five days since the Uteck Bowl against Western is scheduled for Saturday. That’s an unfair strain on NFL players, just ask Richard Sherman, never mind student-athletes. The ideal recovery period after a football game is six or seven days. Now it’s been pared to three. It is still outside of a 72-hour rule that Football Canada has on the books (i.e., no team can play twice within 72 hours), but it cuts it awfully close.

This all began with a debate over the eligibility of SMU receiver Archelaus Jack, who was on the practice roster of the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders until last October. There’s a rule from national governing body U SPORTS that players on a CFL roster and receiving compensation after the start of one university season have to sit out a year, and first a tipster and then the Huskies’ AUS competitors complained about this, but the Saint Mary’s interpretation apparently questions both the compensation Jack was receiving and the definition of a year (365 days versus one season). This has led to back-and-forth court filings and discussions between the school, the conference and the national body, and it led to AUS deciding Thursday to cancel the Loney Bowl, following SMU’s 16-15 win over the St. Francis Xavier X-Men 16-15 last Saturday to set up the matchup against Acadia. And the court fights may not be over, as this CBC piece notes that AUS is still set to argue the eligibility question:

Phil Currie, executive director of AUS, said the organization respects the decision of the court.

“We know there’s going to be a game played and we wish both teams in that game, the Loney Bowl, a very successful and very safe game Tuesday,” Currie said.

But Currie said AUS still believes “very strongly” its decision to cancel the game despite court proceedings that were ongoing in Ontario at the time. The Ontario court ended up ruling in favour of SMU on the issue of player eligibility.

Currie noted the judge’s decision is interim and AUS will have its time in court, adding “there’s still an eligibility question that is unresolved and that is why we made our decision in the first place.”

“We really believe the court at that time will favour … our decision,” said Currie.

“We still stand behind our values and principles in terms of providing a level playing field to all our participants regardless if it’s in the Loney Bowl or any of our competitions. That’s what we stand behind and will continue to stand behind because that’s who we are.”

So, the court fights may not be over yet, and there may still be an attempt to rule Jack ineligible and nullify the Huskies’ wins. However, thanks to this court ruling, SMU will get a chance to fight for the conference championship on the field Tuesday. We’ll see what happens there. In any case, though, it will certainly be tough for the winner to turn around and play the Mustangs just a few days later, and that’s perhaps the most unfortunate part of how this has played out.

[The CIS Blog]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.