The Atlantic University Sport championship football game between Acadia University and Saint Mary's University will go ahead on Tuesday, a judge ruled Sunday after a marathon court hearing in Halifax.
The game will be held Tuesday at 2 p.m. on Raymond Field at Acadia University in Wolfville, N.S. The winner will have four days to recover and take on Western University, the Ontario champion, in the Uteck Bowl in Nova Scotia on Saturday.
"Saint Mary's University is pleased with the action of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia," Margaret Murphy, the university's associate vice-president of external affairs, wrote in a statement shortly after the judge's decision late Sunday.
The game between the Saint Mary's Huskies and Acadia Axemen was scheduled for this past weekend, but was abruptly cancelled Thursday by AUS over eligibility concerns about one of Saint Mary's players.
Jack could play Tuesday
Murphy said the university would have no issues with the player, wide receiver Archelaus Jack, playing the Nov. 14 game.
Jack was at the centre of the controversy because he was on the CFL's Saskatchewan Roughriders practice roster until October 2016.
U Sports is the national governing body of university sport in Canada. It states any former CFL player, or anyone who remains on a CFL team's practice roster after Aug. 15, has to wait one year before playing for a university team.
U Sports informed AUS of the potential issue earlier this month.
Murphy would not say if SMU would take legal action against AUS for cancelling the game. "We're just focused on getting to the field," said Murphy.
AUS defends decision
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. "There's still an eligibility question that is unresolved and that is why we made our decision in the first place," he said.
"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."
Acadia won't challenge ruling
Scott Roberts, executive director of communications and marketing at Acadia, said the school will not challenge the ruling.
"That's what the courts decided so the game will proceed," said Roberts. "We're going to get ready for the game on Tuesday."
Lawyers from Saint Mary's, Acadia University and AUS were back in Nova Scotia Supreme Court on Sunday morning after a 5½-hour hearing on Remembrance Day.
The last-minute hearing dealt with a motion from Saint Mary's to have the game reinstated. Court adjourned Sunday afternoon, and Associate Chief Justice Deborah Smith released her decision at 5 p.m. AT.
SMU 'geared up and ready' to play
Murphy said Saint Mary's University is "geared up and ready" for both the Uteck Bowl and the Loney Bowl.
"Our team has continued to practise throughout this and we expect that's the same of the other teams involved as well," said Murphy.
The tight turnaround between Tuesday's Loney Bowl game and Saturday's Uteck Bowl could pose problems for the players, said Richard MacLean, president of the International Federation of American Football and the past president of both Football Canada and Football Nova Scotia.
He said there should be a minimum of 48 hours between games so that any concussions have time to be detected, MacLean said.
He said while four days fall within a safe standard, it still presents challenges for students who have other priorities such as upcoming exams.
"You're going to have players that are still sore, still banged up. That's not ideal going in to face one of the top teams in the country," he said.
The lawyer for Acadia University, John Keith, said the team followed the rules, won the regular season, and had the right to move on to the Uteck Bowl under the regulations.
Keith had argued it would be a game "that it would be played in a haphazard, slap-dash, very rushed way."
"It would be a game that would be unsafe for the players in terms of recovery time, it would be a game that would do a disservice to the town, to the university, to the fans of Acadia," said Keith on Sunday.
SMU argues contempt of court
About a dozen people showed up to the courtroom Sunday, including players from the Saint Mary's Huskies.
Nicholas Bartolacci, centre right guard for the Huskies, said he was pleased with the decision.
"I'm just excited to play. I'm really excited about how things went in there," said Bartolacci.
Brian Hope, a kicker, said the last few days of uncertainty around the game have been stressful.
"We've just been patient and obviously we're very pleased," said Hope.
Brad Herbst, a linebacker, agreed.
"We're ready to play and we're ready to go," said Herbst.