The Appellate Panel convened to decide whether the University of California rugby team could be eligible for the D1-AA playoffs has decided that Cal cannot seek an at-large bid to the D1-AA championship.
The Panel, made up of Gary Lee Heavner, Jim Russell and Francois Viljoen, with the assistance of Ed Todd, interviewed Cal Head Coach Jack Clark, Cal Athletics COO Solly Fulp, USA Rugby Men’s Collegiate Competition Committee chair Kevin Battle, and USA Rugby CEO Nigel Melville during their month-long deliberations.
The Panel examined the ramifications of USA Rugby’s Collegiate Operating Document, which holds that conferences must submit their competition plans by June 1 of each year. The COD defines a “Regular Season” as “the period between September 1 and the start of the USAR playoffs.”
It also defines the pathway to a playoff is through conference player. Teams can qualify for the playoffs by winning their Automatic Qualifier conference; or, if they are in a non-automatic conference (because the conference is too small), they can apply for an at-large bit. The Panel found that the COD requires at-large teams to be in a conference.
Cal pulled out of D1-A December 23, 2011, and then in January petitioned to join the Northern California D1-AA, a request that was denied by that league because it was made after teams had finalized their schedules.
The program’s next choice has been to petition USA Rugby for an at-large big. The USA Rugby Men’s Collegiate Competition Committee denied that request, and Cal appealed.
As stated in the Appellate Panel’s decision:
“It is the opinion of this Panel that because Cal is not a member of any USAR conference, according to COD 1.7(a)(ii) and COD 3.3(c)(i)(2) Cal shall not be permitted to be eligible to be considered for an at large spot in the 2012 Division I-AA playoffs and hereby affirm the ruling of the USAR Men’s Collegiate Competition Committee.
It is with difficulty that the Panel has determined to bar Cal from contending for a USAR National Championship due to their exemplary competitive history and their outstanding record of achieving success while demonstrating high levels of sportsmanship and character. Notwithstanding any of the unsettled issues referred to above, the undisputed fact remains that Cal is not a member of a USAR Division 1-AA conference, much less any USAR conference. Without being a member of any USAR conference, Cal cannot be, and is not, eligible for the 2012 Division I-AA playoffs.