USA Rugby announced Thursday that the College Management Council has finalized new eligibility rules for collegiate play.
These new rules are effective immediately and come after pressure from a variety of groups, who believed the previous rules unfairly affected military players and those who stop playing for religious reasons.
The rules instituted for 2012-2013 started a player's eligibility clock once he or she graduated from high school. From that point, a player had five years to play, but could apply for an extra year based on a variety of issues.
This meant that a player who took two years off for a religious mission could only get one year back. It also meant that players who missed significant time due to military service could only get one year back - this happened to Dartmouth captain Michael Burbank, who was denied entry into USA Rugby's Collegiate 7s Championships because he deployed twice with the US Marine Corps.
Burbank's story prompted a group to form to pressure USA Rugby to change the rules.
They have done so, but perhaps not completely to the protesters' satisfaction.
The new eligibility rules now say a player has five years of playing eligibility, and must complete those five seasons within a seven-year time period following his or her graduation from high school. No waivers will be given for any extra years, and there are no exceptions. Everyone is playing under the same timetable. (Players who want that 6th or 7th year need to provide paperwork stating that they missed time playing rugby.)
This could still mean that a player who, for example, enlists in the military out of high school and is in the military for four years, would only have three years of college rugby available to him or her. But under the 2012-2013 rules, that player would have only been able to play for two years.
In USA Rugby's statement, USA Rugby Collegiate Director Rich Cortez said the changes were made in part because the Council was asked to reexamine the rules.
“This change in eligibility regulations is a result of the standard annual review of the regulations as well as a number of requests from college representatives and the D1A member teams to examine the rules in light of a number of issues related to fairness, equity, returning veterans to school, and a myriad of other situations,” said Cortez. “The College Management Council has determined the new rules can be applied equitably and uniformly and they take into account a person’s life choices and balanced that with the opportunity to play college rugby.”
See also: Varsity Cup Elligibility Rules Differ from USA Rugby's