Last-minute Loney Bowl to be held Tuesday after N.S. court battle

WOLFVILLE, N.S. — The Loney Bowl is back on at Acadia University on Tuesday after a Nova Scotia judge reinstated the once-cancelled Atlantic football championship.

Saint Mary’s University will play the Acadia Axemen in Wolfville, N.S., at 2 p.m.

The winning team will have four days to prepare to take on Western University in the Uteck Bowl this weekend. The winner of the Uteck Bowl plays in the Vanier Cup, the Canadian university football championship.

The Atlantic matchup was supposed to go down last Saturday, but the Saint Mary’s Huskies were sidelined amid concerns about the eligibility of one of the Halifax university’s players.

Atlantic University Sport (AUS), the governing body for university athletics in the region, cancelled the game last week and awarded the championship title to Acadia.

After a whirlwind hearing over the weekend, Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Deborah Smith ruled on Sunday that the game should go ahead.

Western athletic director Christine Stapleton said the Ontario university has been keeping track of the case, but is focusing its attentions on the football field rather than the courtroom.

“It’s not our battle to fight,” Stapleton said in a phone interview on Monday. “Our big approach to all this is the integrity of the championships. We’re just looking forward to having an AUS champion crowned.”

Still, she said the controversy surrounding the Loney Bowl has rippled beyond Atlantic Canada.

“I think it’s everybody’s (problem),” said Stapleton. “There’s a lot of layers here that at some time will hopefully get sorted.”

The executive director of Acadia athletics said the university was disheartened by the circumstances leading up to last week’s cancelled game, but respects the court’s decision.

“These are matters that will be dealt with at a later date in a much more substantive manner, but right now we are focused on the immediate future,” Kevin Dickie said in a statement. “We are going to push these external distractions aside in order to concentrate entirely on what will be happening on the field.”

The fate of the Loney Bowl has been mired in a complex legal battle spanning two provinces and calling several of the season’s games into question.

The player at the centre of the dispute is Archelaus Jack, a wide receiver with the Huskies.

Jack’s eligibility to compete in a university football league has come under scrutiny after it was revealed he was on the CFL’s Saskatchewan Rough Riders practice roster until October 2016, according to documents filed in Ontario Supreme Court.

U Sports – which oversees Canadian university sport — requires that players who have been listed on a CFL team’s practice roster after Aug. 15 wait one year before they can join a university football team.

According to court documents, U Sports said Saint Mary’s violated its eligibility policies and the Huskies may have to retroactively forfeit five games it won this season due to Jack’s participation.

Saint Mary’s disputed the body’s interpretation of its rules, and claims U Sports agreed to drop the matter in exchange for the university not pursuing legal action.

An Ontario Superior Court judge sided with Saint Mary’s last week, but while the matter was still before the courts, the AUS called off the game after receiving complaints about the eligibility issue from four Atlantic universities.

Saint Mary’s challenged the decision in Nova Scotia court, and while the judge ruled in the university’s favour, AUS executive director Phil Currie told reporters the eligibility issue remained “unresolved” after Sunday’s decision.

Saint Mary’s associate director Margaret Murphy said all of the Huskies are eligible to compete in Tuesday’s game, including Jack, but it’s up to the coach to decide which players take the field.

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