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BYU Out of Varsity Cup?

College Men

BYU Out of Varsity Cup?

BYU in action this past spring against Saint Mary's.

Various sources tell Goff Rugby Report that the Brigham Young University administration has pulled its men's rugby team out of the Varsity Cup.

This news comes from multiple independent sources, none of which wanted to go on the record. According to these sources, BYU was under some scrutiny for the eligibility of some of their players. One player, Nic Purcell, actually played in the NFL and is 30 years old, was an obvious example, and in fact Purcell was pulled from lineups late in the season. There were other players over the years that Varsity Cup member teams wanted to know more about in terms of their rugby, sports, and education background.

This was a point of contention between BYU and the Varsity Cup, and last week, according to sources, the University told the Men's Rugby Team to pull out - citing player privacy as one of the reasons the school didn't want the rugby team in the competition.

According to some sources, however, there's more to it than just players' privacy being invaded, and BYU was also slated to receive some sanction from the Varsity Cup, and would likely have the team's 2015 championship vacated.

(Note: Goff Rugby Report called BYU Head Coach David Smyth twice, and members of BYU's communications and sports information departments as well, but did not receive a call back.)

The Varsity Cup competition as a whole came under some internal criticism for not having its policies in writing. Neither United World Sports, which owns Varsity Cup LLC and runs the competition as a legal entity, nor the member teams, had written down a set of by-laws, or eligibility regulations. (Addendum - to be clear, UWS doesn't actually own the Varsity Cup competition, and the teams develop the schedule and manage each round, while UWS operates as the competitions legal and PR arm.) By mutual agreement, teams had followed eligibility regulations that were pretty much the same as USA Rugby's, which a couple of differences (one being that players got their eligibility extended on a one-to-one basis if they missed time due to military service or religious mission; USA Rugby limits the time allowed to play).

Dan Lyle, who runs the Varsity Cup for United World Sports, did confirm that some teams are re-evaluating their membership in the competition, and in fact confirmed that Texas has opted not to compete anymore - at least until their program starts winning a little more. But he did not say whether BYU was out - only suggesting they are considering their position, and that the door is open for BYU to still be a part of the independent post-season tournament.

But other sources made it sound much more final, with the key fact being that it was the BYU school administration, not the rugby team coaches, who made the decision.

One upshot from this is that the Varsity Cup teams are forming new committees - a competition group and a development group. In addition, certain rules (such as eligibility) are now being documented.

It is unclear whether BYU will want to try to compete in USA Rugby's DIA, or whether the member teams in DIA would approve that. BYU is, like all of the Varsity Cup teams, a dues-paying member of USA Rugby, and thus would have to be considered. However, DIA has eligibility rules, too, including some regarding time lost due to religious missionary work that BYU might disagree with.