In 1939 when the Second World War broke out it was business as usual for the universities. While a number of students left their studies to enlist there was no widespread recruiting campaign for university students as the government viewed them as invaluable resources in research and development. Young men were encouraged to participate in the Canadian Officers Training Corps whilst completing their studies if they wanted to be more involved in the war effort. The 1939 football season was played on a full schedule with the senior team going undefeated to win the Yates Cup.
As casualties in Europe mounted, universities faced a disgruntled public which demanded justification for the exemption of students from military service. Western and other universities responded by promoting post-secondary education as a key contributor to the war effort while warning students not to annoy the public with drinking and other shenanigans.