David Suzuki Grizzlies’ season ends in abrupt and controversial fashion

The David Suzuki Grizzlies of the Region of Peel Secondary School Athletic Association (ROPSSAA) were 2-2-1 heading into their final game of the regular season against the 4-1 St. Roch Ravens on November 2. A win for Suzuki would have guaranteed them a playoff spot, while a loss would have eliminated them from playoff contention.

It was a back-and-fourth, “crazy” game, according to Offensive Coordinator Chuck Crabbe. With 20 seconds remaining, and the Grizzlies up 18-17, the Ravens lined up to kick what was almost assuredly – barring a 2nd incarnation of the Monday Night Miracle – a game-winning field goal that would have ended the Grizzlies’ season.

The kick was blocked. Arvind Randhawa got his hands on it, sending their bench into a frenzy, the team to the playoffs, and sending them back to David Suzuki after a massive upset.

“Our kids were going bananas,” Crabbe said.

That was until the next morning, when they learned the win had been overturned due to a “playing regulation violation,” and St. Roch would be given a default 21-0 win, ending the Grizzlies’ season in the most unimaginable of fashions.

“To do this to 35 young men is just wrong,” Crabbe said by phone last week. “Suspend me, or suspend the head coach, but don’t do this to the kids. It’s just crazy to me.”

The Ravens filed a complaint with ROPSSAA alleging that a David Suzuki coach, who was also a U Sports recruiter, attended two Ravens’ practices on unspecified dates in September to scout players, which is illegal under the ROPSSAA Constitution.

“It came out of the blue for us,” Crabbe said, clearly still disappointed at the ruling. “When we told the kids, they had no idea who [the U Sports recruiter] was.”

They heard of the ruling at 11:30 am, and had until 3:30 that day to appeal the decision.

“To make us do that, in the middle of the work day, when everyone works at different schools, is unfair,” Crabbe said. “We were left scrambling to talk to [the recruiter], talk to [everyone involved at our school] and have the appeal ready for 3:30.”

The governing body for secondary athletics in Brampton and Mississauga ruled in favour of the Ravens, concluding that David Suzuki violated Section 7(e)(i) of the Playing Regulations, which states, “All games/scrimmages involving another team can be scouted and videotaped.” According to the Brampton Guardian, who spoke with ROPSSAA chair Paul Freier, this means that all games and scrimmages involving other teams are allowed to be scouted and filmed, but scouting practices, without another team present, is not permitted.

The Grizzlies believe, in coming down with the ruling, ROPSSAA violated Article XII, Section III(b) of the its Constitution, which reads: “The Jury of Appeal shall communicate with any individual considered to be knowledgeable of the protest.” Crabbe says that when the initial decision was made to overturn the win, their side of the story was not considered. It was only when they filed their appeal of the ruling that ruling that their side of the story was heard “a little bit.”

There is some confusion, though, in terms of which appeal (the initial appeal by St. Roch of the win by Suzuki, or Suzuki’s appeal of the overturned win) that section of the Constitution applies to: “I’ve asked that question several times to ROPSSAA, quoted that part of the Constitution to them in emails, and I get nothing,” Crabbe said.

We reached out to Freier, the U Sports scout in question and the St. Roch Ravens. The recruiter said he did not want his name assigned to our piece in any fashion, and we have yet to receive a response from Freier or the Ravens at the time of writing.

Crabbe says the U Sports recruiter, who is a teacher in the Peel District School Board, was on a Long Term Occasional (LTO) contract at David Suzuki from September 5-October 25. According to what Crabbe heard following the completion of the appeal process, the major point of contention from ROPSSAA’s perspective is that the recruiter was listed on all of David Suzuki’s game sheets.

“For liability purposes, you have to list anyone who may want to watch a game from the sideline on your game sheet,” Crabbe said. “Our coaches are on there, our trainers are on there. He came out to three of our practices to talk to some of our kids. He hasn’t been to a game, practice, or team event in well over a month.”

CFC, in a season preview of the Grizzlies, has the recruiter listed as a ‘Defensive Coach:’ “At the time [when I sent the email for the preview piece], I wasn’t sure what his commitment level would be. I wanted him to feel like, ‘Oh, look, they’re including me.’ I wanted him to feel included,” Crabbe said when asked to explain why the U Sports recruiter was listed in a coaching capacity.

Since the ruling, many parents, and Crabbe himself have been taking to Twitter demanding answers from ROPSSAA. Many have called for “transparency” from the body, and requested explanations from ROPSSAA on how the appeal process was handled. The Peel District School Board has also taken some heat, but has said many times that the Board is independent from ROPSSAA.

“ROPSSAA has a constitution and guidelines that have been co-constructed between Peel [District School Bpard] staff, [Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board] staff, and private school staff, in accordance with the OFSAA constitution and guidelines,” the School Board tweeted. “ROPSSAA has always been, and continues to be, an arm’s length association from the boards. As mentioned earlier, all decisions are made by them based on the constitution and guidelines.”

This is an event that has put an end to some players’ careers. They, too, have been very vocal about the ruling, tweeting at ROPSSAA to inform them of the implications the decision has had on their lives and careers.

ROPSSAA did respond with one tweet regarding the situation, saying “ROPSSAA has reviewed football concerns raised, in accordance with its policies/regulations. We have connected with staff involved at both schools to explain our position. The matter has been addressed.”

“The game [the Grizzlies were supposed to have played in] has been played already; we can live with that. We just want an apology,” Crabbe said, making it clear he is speaking on behalf of himself and not David Suzuki in asking for answers. “We just want ROPSSAA to admit they went about this the wrong way and screwed up.”

Crabbe also made it clear that he realizes the coaching staff should have been more careful with the paperwork, and not listed the recruiter on the game sheets after he stopped coming to team functions.

“I have no problem admitting there was a clerical error here,” he said. “I have no problem admitting we should have been more careful with our paperwork.”

Crabbe feels like his team has done nothing wrong, here, and their program has taken a major hit in the community since the saga began.

“I genuinely feel like we are on the right side of this,” he implored. “People in the community are calling our players and coaches ‘cheaters;’ it has damaged our reputation.”

He says he would be willing to discuss with ROPSSAA and the opposing coaching staff what the decision was based on, and admit wrongdoing if necessary.

Crabbe informed us late last night that a ROPSSAA representative has agreed to discuss the matter with him later this week.

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