The national governing body of university sport has responded to Atlantic University Sport’s decision to cancel this weekend’s Loney Bowl, saying it both respects and understands the decision.

"The AUS made the decision it​ believes​ to be the best to protect the integrity and fairness of its​ football season,” said Graham Brown, president and CEO of U Sports.

“U Sports respects this decision and understands it​. We also wish to acknowledge all of the players, coaches and programs that competed fairly all season long. To those competitors who played fairly, and the universities and fans who support them, we know this is an unfortunate ending."

AUS announced Thursday that it has cancelled the Loney Bowl and handed the title to Acadia University over an alleged eligibility violation involving Saint Mary’s University’s football team.

AUS executive director Phil Currie said the decision is a result of SMU’s football team being investigated for allegedly fielding an ineligible player.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty around where we’re at in terms of who will be playing the championship,” Currie says. “We just felt that, in terms of supporting our integrity and principles, cancelling the Loney Bowl is probably the best way to go.”

The AUS says the game will not be rescheduled and the Acadia Axemen will advance to represent the AUS in the national semifinal game.

U Sports started an investigation Friday and is striking a committee to look into the allegation.

“We thought the eligibility ruling was going to come a couple of days ago, and then yesterday and then today, and it's still not coming so we had to be prepared for the consequences,” Currie says. “I'm sure that U Sports would love to give us that decision, but they're not able to right now because of the legal situation.”

U Sports won't say what player is being looked at, but a CTV News investigation has revealed a player who may be ineligible – starting receiver Archelaus Jack.

Jack was listed on the practice roster for the Saskatchewan Roughriders last year. According to U Sports eligibility rules, a player with CFL opportunities can return to the university level if they are no longer listed on the player roster after Aug. 15. Otherwise, they can't play for 365 days.

The CFL confirmed with CTV News Friday that Jack was released Oct. 11, 2016, bringing into question his eligibility for the five games he played for SMU between Aug. 25 and Sept. 30 this season.

In a statement, Saint Mary’s University said, "It is very unfortunate that the AUS is taking such action against one of its own members, without affording them due process, and in so doing is attempting to undercut a pending decision by the Ontario Superior Court.”

“The university maintains its position that there is no eligibility issue and strongly disagrees with the AUS's decision to forgo the championship game and appoint an AUS conference champion."

Acadia University will host the Ontario University Athletics conference champion on Nov. 18 in the 2017 U Sports Uteck Bowl. The Axemen posted a 6-2 winning record and finished the regular season by winning four straight games. 

Despite moving on to the UteckBowl , Acadia University says it is, “disappointed it will not be hosting” the Loney Bowl, as the event is special for the community.

"These championship games are a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many players and I don't think we could be more excited to be playing at home in front of our tremendous fans and in this community," says Acadia Axemen head coach Jeff Cummins.

"We have had a long layoff and we're ready for Saturday, but now we have to turn our attention to getting ready for the Uteck Bowl."

Currie said this is the first time the Loney Bowl has ever been cancelled. He says further repercussions for Saint Mary’s are “yet to be determined.”

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Laura Brown and Heather Butts.