Fredericton’s Andrew Hickey, right, stands with University of Waterloo Warriors’ teammate Hugo Lopez after the announcement the school was suspending its football program for next season in the wake of a drug scandal involving as many as nine of the players. Hickey, who starred at quarterback at Fredericton High School before opting for Mount Allison University, transferred to Waterloo in time for the 2009 season. He says he’ll look elsewhere if the school holds firm with its decision to ban football.

Hickey in limbo in wake of Waterloo suspension

By Bill Hunt

Andrew Hickey's goal was to be the starting quarterback for the Waterloo Warriors football team this season.

But the 21-year-old Fredericton native has been sacked in his tracks.

The University of Waterloo suspended its football program for the 2010 season in the wake of a steroid scandal in which nine players from the 62-man roster were found to have committed doping infractions by the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport.

Hickey, hoping to graduate next spring with his degree in kinesiology, was among those summoned to a mandatory team meeting at the end of March at the team's locker room. The players were locked in the locker room with representatives from the CCES and forced to submit to testing.

"The whole team was urine tested and about a third of the team was tested for both blood and urine," he said. "I got both. We understood and we backed the university's decision by doing that. They told us they wanted to clear the clean players."

Hickey said he is clean.

"I tested negative. I went through everything. I've never taken anything in my life," he said.

Hickey and his roommates got a phone call from a teammate Monday morning informing them the program had been suspended.

Hickey felt it was "all planned out.

"They didn't let the coaches know until the last minute. They didn't let the players know until the last minute so they wouldn't be able to get in the way."

Hickey said the players met with athletic director Bob Copeland and head coach Dennis McPhee in the locker room Monday. McPhee, who was placed on paid administrative leave while the school conducts a full review, was "shattered," said Hickey.

"He feels like he let the whole team down. He did nothing wrong. He's a great coach. He cares a lot about everyone on the team."

McPhee tried to recruit Hickey to St. Francis Xavier, where he coached from 2000-02, but Hickey opted for Mount Allison.

However, he transferred after one year at the Sackville school.

"I came here to play for him," said Hickey. "My brother played for him and I knew how great a coach he was. The same with (assistant) coach Paopau," a former Canadian Football League head coach.

Assistant coach Marshall Bingeman, also a full time staff member, was also placed on paid administrative leave.

Hickey said it "hurts a little bit that the university would do this to us."

"I only came out here because of football," said Hickey, a six-foot-one inch, 215 pound product of Fredericton High School whose older brothers Sean and David both had successful careers in the CIS. Sean was a quarterback with the Mount Allison Mounties, leading the team to a berth in the CIS Vanier Cup championship game in 1991. David was a starry running back with the St. Francis Xavier X-Men.

"That's the reason I'm in Waterloo right now. After the press conference (Monday) a bunch of players asked the CIS representatives who were there if we were allowed to transfer without sitting out a year. They told us that where the program was suspended for a year that it technically still exists. So we'll have to sit out a year. We'll have to appeal that if we want to transfer. I think I can speak for all the guys who are around here this summer, that if the decision to (uphold) the suspension goes through, none of us will ever suit up for the Warriors.

"I'd like to play football again, and I know most of the other guys would too. So I guess I'll have to look at somewhere else to go."

Hickey said the offended players will appeal to the administration to reverse their decision, "but it doesn't look too promising right now."

A Facebook group and petition to bring back Warrior football formed yesterday had 1,648 members as of yesterday afternoon.

But he said the players have a self-imposed Friday deadline to get the decision reversed before resolving to move on. Hickey is in courses at Waterloo until the end of July and had planned to stay there all summer to work with the team's receivers.

"I knew the offensive system like the back of my hand," he said. "It was second nature now. I felt ready to come in. That was my goal, to start next year. But I guess it won't be happening any more."Hickey is taking four summer courses with the plan to graduate from the kinesiology program at Waterloo next spring, "so I have to stick it out this summer," he said.

But "I can't see myself going to school and not playing football," he said. "I don't know where I would go right now, whether it would be around here or the Maritimes somewhere. I haven't really had time to think about that yet. But I can't see myself not playing football."

The school must have a kinesiology program, of course.

"That's the most important part," he said. "But I'm going to look everywhere I guess. I'm open to anything. Hopefully, I'll get some phone calls from some coaches around the country once this all settles down."

Hickey made it clear he won't be a proud alumnus of the University of Waterloo.

"I don't think too many people on the team can say that," he said. He said receiver Josh Svec, who transferred from Waterloo to the University of Western Ontario in London, Ont. last year has told Hickey "he'll never call himself a Waterloo Warrior again."