Simon Fraser University abruptly canceled its football program on April 4. In an effort to capture and project some of their voices, we reached out to several players to gain perspective on what they are going through. These players were asked the following question:
“If SFU football announces it is going to continue playing will you return or would you prefer to transfer to a different school unless additional changes are made?” Players were also invited if they wish to describe themselves as a player and what positive qualities they believe they bring to a football team.
A Brief Recap of the Program’s Cancellation
Simon Fraser University canceled its program suddenly without warning on April 4. On April 20 they announced a special advisor will review future football opportunities and will report back at the end of the year. They also again reiterated they will not play this year at that time.
5 players attempted to sue the school for breach of contract due to the nature of the program’s cancellation. Many voices in and outside of football across Canada have been very outspoken against this decision including CFL team owners, coaches, the CFLPA, and mayors. A petition has gone around in support of the team continuing to play. BC Lions’ owner, Amar Doman, pledged to match donations of up to $500,000 for a fundraiser to help support the team.
The school stated they canceled the program due to not having a future place to play. They were a member of the Lone Star Conference in the NCAA who informed them they will not renew their membership in 2024. The school decided to cancel the program effective for the 2023 season. An application to play in U Sports and compete once again against Canadian schools was never submitted.
The future of Simon Fraser Football remains uncertain for the student-athletes who play for Simon Fraser University. Players can only wonder what future playing opportunities they will have with no concrete answers yet from the administration for what their future will look like in football.
Jacob Anderson, OL @jacob_ander1562
“I will absolutely stay at SFU if the program is reinstated. I’ve been a student at SFU since 2020, and am only 3 semesters away from graduating, so the ideal situation is continuing to play FB here. “
Player Profile: “I am the Left Tackle at SFU. I believe that I bring a strong leadership and high level experience to a room. I am a strong pass blocker and love to finish run blocks. I am coachable and willing to listen to anyone with advice; always looking to get better.”
Tank Brewster, DL @BrewsterTank
“If SFU announces it will continue playing, I intended to stay and play another season. My ultimate goal was to acquire my Degree, which I’ve done, then second priority to take football as far as I can. If there was another season, I would look forward to jumping through the hoops to be a part of the team again.”
Player Profile: “I feel that I bring a determination and leadership by example that will bring any team to a higher level. I am Extremely coachable and passionate, and will give everything I have always. Technique-Sound, athletic, strong, and have an ability to make plays. Finished with 6.5 Sacks, 2 safeties, double digit tackles for loss, and top on the team in tackles. Team player, will do anything to contribute.”
Christian Butenschoen, OL @butenchr000
“Unfortunately for me this was my senior season and the way they had ended the program impacted my ability to be recruited to another institution. In terms of transferring my credits it would not be a viable option as I only have 5 courses left to get my bachelors degree. It would be too costly to go to another institution in the states considering the scholarship I was on at SFU. It’s all very unfortunate for the seniors who battled through Covid, multiple coaches, offensive coordinators, defensive coordinators and assistants. The school never cared about football, sadly that was decided through the decision to cancel it altogether and placing student athletes at risk.”
Antonio Cusati, DB @antonio_cusati
“I will definitely be returning to SFU if the program is reinstated.”
Player Profile: “I am a cornerback who has three years of eligibility left. Some things I bring to my football team are my top tier athleticism, great work-ethic, and leadership.”
Sam Davenport, WR/P @SamDavenport20
“I think me and a lot of other teammates are waiting to see if Dr. Johnson is actually willing to put more into the program. We have dealt with broken promises before and it was not fun being left with the scraps. If changes are made and the program is given a chance to succeed then many of us will be back on that field.”
Player Profile: “I’m a loyal hard-working athlete on and off the field. I was a late-bloomer in high school and that meant I had to work hard to get an edge and become an integral part of the team. That mentality helped carry me over into university as a preferred walk-on. I was probably a project receiver at first and worked my way to first team reps last year. This has stuck with me through all of my training, and influenced who I train with. I have a unique style of route running and I want to keep working on my strength and control to be a more dominant route runner.”
Aiden Domino, TE @AidenDomino2
“I will stay at the school if football is brought back, I would only transfer if I knew for sure the team would not come back. I am trying to stay optimistic as I love the situation I am currently in with the school. It is my hometown, close to me, and close to family and friends.”
Alexis Ferland, WR @AlexisFerland
“If SFU football comes back, I’d comeback for sure! No matter what this program has gone through or the factor of receiving other opportunities that seem “better”, I owe this program my dedication! I committed here and I don’t believe in leaving without finishing my job! This program has a lot of hope and it takes players like my teammates and I to stick through it to rebuild the culture and success! We have a coaching staff that’s on the same page as the players for once and a game plan ready to turn this program around! It would be very selfish from me to leave my team behind after all we’ve gone through together! SFU became home for me and I have coaches and teammates that believe in me and make me better everyday. It’s where I want to be if the opportunity is still there!”
Player Profile: “I think I’m a hard worker! I’m not the best at anything, not the biggest, strongest, fastest but I’ll give more effort and heart than anyone else! I think I’m a good teammate when it comes to the classroom as well, I’m always willing to tutor or help others do better in school whether it’s to stay eligible or have better results for other reasons. I aspire to coach more than to play pro which made me study the game a lot and I try to help my teammates get better in any way I can just like they push me to be better everyday on and off the field. In brief, I believe to be a good resource when someone needs help with anything on the team. I’ll always put my teammates first no matter what. I owe them my best effort and support! As for on the field, I’m a very physical receiver who’s willing to block hard and have a big impact on special teams! I’m willing to put anything on the line for my team and I think that’s what I bring that is special/ making me worthy of playing at this level! I’m a student of the game!”
Luca Iallonardo, DL @IallonardoLuca
“Yes, I plan to stay at SFU and will play football if the program is reinstated.”
Evan Mak, DB @EvanMak1
“Growing up in Burnaby, I heard about the SFU football team from various sources, including newspapers, coaches, and past alumni who had played under the SFU banner before me. While SFU was always my top choice for education, football wasn’t necessarily on my mind. However, the sport proved to be a valuable asset, teaching me skills that cannot be described with words. Unfortunately, during my senior year playing for the Saint Thomas More Knights, I suffered a season-ending shoulder injury that made me think I would never play football again. Later that year I reached out to several coaches but received no response, except from my defensive coordinator, Jerome Erdman. Without his help, I might never have played another down of football. SFU gave me an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up. Over the past year, I’ve made numerous friends and had unique experiences, making SFU a special place. The university provides opportunities for those who aren’t highly recruited, and they help students become stars.
“If someone were to ask me if I would transfer out of SFU, I would say, Hell no! I don’t believe you could find another place quite like SFU.”
Kai Tinker, OL @Kai_tinker56
“If SFU continues the football program for the 2023-2024 season I have full intention of playing for the Red Leafs. I have made a home in Burnaby over the last three years and I would like to finish my lifelong dream of playing college football and I intend to do so at Simon Fraser University.”
Ishmael Togi, DL @Ishmael_Togi
“If SFU football returns for the 2023 season, I am 100% all in. I was going into my senior season at SFU until we heard the announcement that the program was being cut. I have 2 semesters left to obtain my degree and if I transfer out, I would lose academic progress and have a longer estimated time of Graduation. I want to finish my senior season here at SFU. I want to play with the guys that I’ve stuck through all the trials and tribulations with for the past 3 years. I WANT to be here. Whatever happens is in God’s hands though. I’m strong in my faith and I truly believe that whatever is going to happen is in God’s best interest for me.”
Player Profile: “I was part of coach former head coach Thomas Ford’s last recruiting class in 2020. In the 2023 season, I will be entering my 4th year at Simon Fraser and my final season with the team. I’ve started at Defensive tackle ever since my freshman year in 2021 (didn’t play 2020 due to covid cancelled season). As a guy from the States where football culture is much bigger than it is here in Canada, I try to transfer that culture up here to SFU and really help the guys feel the passion for the game that we do in America. I’ve always given some wild speeches before games just trying to fire my guys up because they all know that whenever that clock starts ticking and we’re on the field, it’s not a game anymore, it’s war we’re going to. No matter what our schedule looks like in 2023 if we are to get reinstated, I know that I will have a blast playing next to my guys.”
Maliq Washington, OL @officiallwash
“If SFU says it will bring the program back, I would gladly return to play for the team. The bonds I’ve made with my teammates, coaches, and their families have all contributed to why I would return. The community up on the mountain is special and like no other!”
Player Profile: “As an Offensive Lineman, leadership and leading by example is very important for a football team. I would describe myself by saying I’m a skillful lineman on both sides of the ball. Definitely someone a coach could build a team around with other like-minded players. Some good qualities I’ve learned from football is being patient and some leadership skills. This sport trains your body physically and mentally.”
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