Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Rugby East Drop: Wheeling’s Latest Obstacle

by Ryan J. Trost
This is American Rugby – Rugby East

Wheeling Jesuit came under some scrutiny before their match with West Virginia University last week. USA Rugby, Division 1A, Rugby East and the team are all working together to try and iron out the issues as quickly as possible, but (long story short) the eligibility of three Wheeling players has been brought into question.

D1A already has rules in place regarding the statuses of Peter Malcolm and Allan Hanson, who had received monetary compensation for their rugby service with the Ohio Aviators of PRO Rugby North America.

Section 4.3.1.b.ii of USA Rugby’s 2016-17 Eligibility Regulations states: 
A college player may receive compensation from the PRO Rugby organization and retain their collegiate eligibility provided the player; 1) joins the PRO Rugby competition after his college 15s season has ended for the year, 2) has received an approved USA Rugby membership waiver, and 3) re-enrolls in college within two semesters of the end of that year’s PRO Rugby competition.”

Take the jump to read more.

As long as Malcolm and Hanson have their waivers in place, which by all accounts they do. Their cases are closed and Wheeling can happily play on with their two star performers. The case against Chris Vakasisikakala (C. Vaka  – Not to be confused with his younger brother, Joji) though, is still in process.

The 2015 All-Conference Inside Center had played for a short time at Penn State before transferring to Wheeling-Jesuit. He has taken time off from rugby here and there in the past to work on school, but has also had to take a part time approach to school on occasion, for personal reasons. Wheeling Jesuit Rugby was under the impression that Vaka is in his 7th year of college, and 5th year of collegiate rugby.

Section 4.3.e of the Regulations states: 
Every student--athlete has seven years in which s/he may compete a maximum of five (5) years.

Section 4.3.i further recommends:
A student is eligible to receive a waiver to compete in his/her seventh (7th) year following high school graduation upon submission of a waiver request, accompanied by official college transcripts and verification of the date of high school graduation prior to the start of each competitive cycle to the College Eligibility Committee.

C. Vaka and WJU Rugby have filed such waiver with the appropriate office. The Eligibility Committee is now awaiting Vaka’s Penn State transcripts, in order to make their decision on his eligibility. He sat out the West Virginia match and will continue to do so until such time as the Eligibility Committee has made their decision on his status.

Both D1A Commissioner Kevin Battle and Rugby East Conference Commissioner Clarence Picard affirm that Vaka’s waiver is in process, but cannot comment further until such time as that process has been completed.

This is all exactly the sort of administrative work that WJU Rugby would have been more able to take care of prior to the season if their coaching situation had been finalized at an earlier date. As it stands, it is only one more obstacle in their season of perseverance. If it so happens that C. Vaka is ruled ineligible to play, Duffy and the Cardinals will continue on without him on the field, while still supporting him as one of their own, in his Academic efforts.

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