Football Roid Rage

Erin Matheson - 2B Chemical
Posted on: June 19, 2010

A bomb was dropped on the Athletics department that was heard across the nation. On June 14th during a press conference held by UW administration, it was announced that the team would be suspended from play for the 2010-2011 season following “The most significant doping issue in CIS history,” as described by Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) CEO Marg McGregor.

This all began following the arrest of player Nathan Zettler by Waterloo Police. Zettler was charged with possession of steroids and human growth hormone for the purpose of trafficking. Following his arrest, the University ordered to have the entire team tested for steroid use. A urine test from linebacker Jordan Meridith found Tamoxifen, which is commonly used by athletes to fight steroid side effects. It is a banned substance as per the 2010 World Anti-Doping Agency’s prohibited substance list. Meridith fessed up to using the substance and has been suspended from the CIS for two years. Linebacker Joe Surgenor also admitted to using banned substances, and has been subject to the same penalty. A total of nine players from the Warriors football team tested positive for banned substances.

Following these results, administration decided to suspend the team from play for the upcoming season and give the two of the team’s coaches, head coach Dennis McPhee and assistant coach Marshall Bingemean, one year paid leave. This decision sent a shockwave through the entire student body, with groups voicing their opinions against the administration immediately. The friends and families of the clean 53 players organized a press conference at Columbia Ice Fields on June 17th, which I had the opportunity to attend.

Supporters packed into the CIF gym alongside the members of the team, all sporting yellow t-shirts with the word ‘believe’ written in black letters across the front. The goal of the press conference was to let the University hear their plea to let the clean players play the upcoming season. Senior players, an incoming recruit, the father of the new recruit, as well as Carl Zender, a former assistant coach of the team all made statements to the media with the support of the crowd that surrounded them. Their statements attacked the University’s decision to completely disband the team, and they begged that the clean players be put on probation versus a suspension, so they could play the upcoming season. Zender accuses the administration of planning to lay down the suspension after incoming recruits had already chosen to come to Waterloo, “If you don’t think that this all, all of it, was thought out behind the scenes, give your head a shake.” They blamed part of the understanding on the fact that the current Provost has yet to be in an administrative position at a school with an active football program until now, which is true. Zender went on to explain how current players who were planning to leave Waterloo to play football elsewhere would loose most of their credits and be set back in school. He also warned that the administration was punishing the innocent and endangering the varsity athletics program as a whole. Every statement made was accompanied with thunderous applause and roaring chants of, “Let them play, let them play.”

Later that same evening, the university circulated a statement that read in part: “The decision stands to suspend the team from competition.”  Since the CIS amended their rules to allow clean Waterloo players to transfer to another school to play football this season, instead of having to wait the standard year after transferring, the clean players are left with one of three situations.  There are about 27 players who will now begin the process of transferring schools, including applications, registration, and getting onto another school’s roster before the CIS football training camps begin towards the end of August. Even if they are able to play football elsewhere, these players will be set back academically, since a credit-for-credit transfer is never possible. “A fourth year student here will be lucky to be given credit for two, maybe two and a half years elsewhere,” Zender explained. The second are the new recruits coming in who have already committed to coming to Waterloo but cannot transfer. They will be forced to spend a year at a school they chose for football without even attending a single practice. The third, and most heartbreaking, are those in their final year of study here who cannot transfer, and cannot play. For some, hopes of being drafted into the CFL are now gone, but for all of them, the ability to play the game they love for one more year has been taken away.

The program is scheduled to resume in 2011, but at this time the team is only expected to have about 38 players. “They’ll have to recruit 50 incoming freshmen because you need about 80 players because of safety and liability issues,” Zender explains, “You can’t put players out there who could hurt themselves, they have to be trained and ready.”  It is expected that the team won’t return to its current level of play for at least another 5 years after that while the team rebuilds. The worst of it all is that by then, most of us will be gone and the current students would not have been around when this suspension happened, and Waterloo will simply be known as the school with the outrageously bad football team. Where will the motivation for the athletes come from then? The direction of the team as well as the remainder of the varsity program could not be more unsure, and sadly all the athletes and fans can do now is simply sit and wait.