Nova Scotia

3-minute warning: Acadia readies for Saint Mary's in controversial game

The head coach of the Acadia Axemen football team says the turmoil surrounding whether his team would play in the Loney Bowl is putting his team at a disadvantage.

Acadia coach concerned about short turnaround between Tuesday's game and another potential one on Saturday

The Acadia Axemen practise on their home field on Monday. (CBC)

The head coach of the Acadia Axemen football team says the turmoil surrounding whether his team would play in the Loney Bowl is putting his team at a disadvantage.

The Axemen will play the Saint Mary's Huskies on Tuesday at 2 p.m. in Wolfville. The game is only happening because the Nova Scotia Supreme Court ruled on Sunday that it must go ahead.

The two teams were scheduled to play each other last Saturday, but Atlantic University Sport (AUS) abruptly cancelled the game four days ago over eligibility concerns with a Saint Mary's player.

Acadia has not played a game since Oct. 21 and Acadia head coach Jeff Cummins said that's a "huge" deal.

"We've never had this situation before. When I was in college, we had a bowl game, but we knew who we were playing for 30 days," said Cummins.

"In this situation, it went from possibly Mount A to to St. FX to Saint Mary's to none of them and playing an OUA [Ontario University Athletics team and then] pointed back to Saint Mary's, so it's been an interesting week and a half, two weeks."

Player safety is top concern

Cummins said his biggest concern is his players' safety because if they win, they would only have four days before their next game against Western University, the Ontario champion. The Uteck Bowl will happen Saturday and be hosted by the winner of the Loney Bowl.

While NFL teams sometimes play in games that are only four days apart, Cummins said this isn't the same thing.

Jeff Cummins is the head coach of the Axemen. (CBC)

"The difference between us and the NFL is they have all the money in the world and they start their therapy and treatments before they ever get on the plane, as they walk off the field and put on ice boots and ice tubs and all the rest of that stuff," he said.

Cummins said the university will do its best to ensure the players are healthy and ready should they get the opportunity to play another game on Saturday.

Controversial player

Cummins declined to comment on Archelaus Jack, the Saint Mary's player whose eligibility is being questioned. Jack is a wide receiver who was on the CFL's Saskachewan Roughriders practice roster until Oct. 2016.

U Sports, the national governing body of university sport in Canada, says 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.

According to court documents, Saint Mary's interpretation of the rule is that it was one academic year, which would mean Jack doesn't have any eligibility issues.

'Sports should be played on the field'

Richard MacLean, president of the International Federation of American Football and the past president of both Football Canada and Football Nova Scotia, said the last-minute dispute over Jack's eligibility was avoidable.

"Sports should be played on the field. These issues should have been cleared up many months ago. There are governing bodies. They have to do their jobs, they have to make tough decisions," he said.

Richard MacLean is the president of the International Federation of American Football and the past president of both Football Canada and Football Nova Scotia. (CBC)

MacLean said Saint Mary's could have done more due diligence to avoid this situation.

"Why did Saint Mary's not ask the AUS the first day of training camp, 'Is this player eligible?' Get it cleared up. That, in my mind, should've happened. It's the integrity of the sport," said MacLean.

He also said other teams in the league could have raised the issue sooner.

Going forward, MacLean said Atlantic University Sport and U Sports should clarify what went wrong in this case and how to avoid similar situations in the future.

A push for more transparency

Leo MacPherson, the director of athletics and recreation at St. Francis Xavier University, hoped the situation would have result in the X-Men playing the Axemen.

In a statement released Tuesday, MacPherson said U Sports tried to resolve the issue in a tribunal that was stopped after SMU took legal action.

"We encourage Saint Mary's University to remove any impediments that may prevent U Sports from making a ruling on the student-athlete eligibility and to release that ruling to the public," he said.

Tickets to the Loney Bowl. (CBC)

With files from Colleen Jones and Amy Smith