UC Irvine has been forced to forfeit a pair of Pacific Mountain West matches for playing an ineligible player. Irvine’s 43-7 defeat of USC and 43-15 loss to UC Santa Barbara have been made 28-0 forfeits and result in point deductions in the Pacific Mountain West table, which bump the Anteaters from the conference semifinals. Claremont Colleges will take their place as the fourth seed.
Irvine put in eligibility waiver requests for two Irvine Valley College (IVC) students. IVC is a community college near the UC-Irvine campus.
USA Rugby Eligibility rule 4.2 (d) governing college eligibility states: "The player must play on the team representing the school in which he/she is enrolled."
While the waiver requests were being processed, one of the IVC students played in the aforementioned league matches. The other played for Irvine in non-league reserve matches. USA Rugby denied the eligibility waivers.
“USA Rugby said they were going to deny it just because of the issues of not being a student there,” said Irvine coach and Pacific Mountain West commissioner Vince McLeod. “I argued back and forth with them a little bit, but it was standing, so it was what it was.”
McLeod is the commissioner of the Pacific Mountain West.
The league is still governed by the Southern California Rugby Football Union, because, as Mcleod explained it, the league did not get its constitution ratified prior to the start of the season. A grievance was filed with SCRFU in regards to the ineligible players, leading to the matches being ruled forfeits
Asked why he played the IVC student in a qualifying match while his eligibility was still up in the air, McLeod replied, “We hadn’t heard back, and I really thought, and this is more of a judgment lapse on my end, I really thought it was a slam dunk case.”
Upon the receipt of USA Rugby’s ruling, McLeod, in his capacity as commissioner, took no action against his own team, which had played an ineligible player in a league match. But the email from USA Rugby announcing the decision was also sent to Jim Wilson, former interim commissioner of the league.
Wilson, who serves on the SCRFU executive committee as a DII college rep, made the ruling known to other conference members, including Claremont coach and SCRFU DI college rep Jeremy Ognall. McLeod believes Ognall filed the grievance which led to Irvine's exit from the playoffs.
“Which was frustrating to me, because in October, that’s when I took over as commissioner,” said McLeod of Wilson being copied on the email from USA Rugby. “It seems like it was a little bit of a Jim Wilson and Jeremy situation.
“It seemed very ironic that two guys that are in with SCRFU administration at the top now are CC’d in the email, as well, that we were being banned, and are on the voting competitions committee structure, so it just seems that shouldn’t you guys be removed from that decision altogether? Because it definitely seems like Claremont has some say in it, and they’re the team that benefits from us getting out of it.”
Ognall said he took himself out of the Irvine vote.
McLeod says other teams aren’t playing by the rules, either.
“We have other teams playing with fields that aren’t fully marked, posts that fall over, and other teams have done this for years. The only difference is I finally went out and did it legally and tried to get a petition through USA Rugby, whereas in the past, they just changed their CIPP numbers and no one ever checks,” he said.
“So I’m pretty, pretty disappointed, because we beat (Claremont) head-to-head, and we get treated like this. So I guess what they’re saying now is you need to go about things illegally and change the system.
“I guarantee if you look at people’s CIPP roster, and you actually looked at their legitimate government ID, you would find teams that do not match. If you want to clean house, I think you should clean house with everyone, and not just make it a USC case like in football years ago.”