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An Extra Year Of College Rugby Because of COVID? Probably Not

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An Extra Year Of College Rugby Because of COVID? Probably Not

David Barpal photo.

Talk has been drifting around the college rugby arena about a make-up year of eligibility because of COVID-19; we’re here to tell you that it’s not going to happen.

OK, maybe not completely “no.” The NCAA is giving an extra season to athletes, and that will apply to student-athletes in NIRA, as well. But elsewhere? Probably not.

The USA Rugby College Council has agreed that each division will decide this issue independently. So you might see different approaches from different divisions, but for the most part that won’t happen. D1A is, according to sources, highly unlikely to give a blanket extra year, and D1AA teams as well as Women’s D1 and D2 teams working under the College Rugby Association of America will probably not give that extra year.

Why? A couple of reasons:

1. Rugby student-athletes already have seven years in which to play five years of rugby (if they get a waiver for year six or seven). Even if a group makes that six years to play five, that’s still a lot of time to play a lot of rugby.

2. The Sevens (or six) Years to Play Five approach also allows a college rugby player to apply for a waiver and plead a case as to why the COVID-19 pandemic affected their college rugby career (had to drop out? family got sick?). Most divisions told us they would be more inclined to take these issues on a case-by-case basis.

3. If you give a blanket extra year, you might be giving someone an eighth year as a college student-athlete, and most teams are against this.

There are two groups who might be a little different here. We talked to National Collegiate Rugby and they have not formally approved a COVID waiver yet, but there’s a good chance they will. Now, that’s not all that different from the policy above; the difference is that NCR might specifically list COVID as a reason to ask for another year. But the student-athletes would still need to fill out a waiver to request that additional year; they wouldn’t get it automatically.

And D1 Elite women are much more inclined to give that extra year. That group of four teams—Life, Lindenwood, Central Washington, and Penn State—will only expect to have a handful of players ask, and will take them on a case-by-case basis. But overall, D1 Elite is a bit more liberal in what it allows its players to do. The division allows, and even encourages players to play in the Women’s Premier League as college students (and includes the Seattle Rugby Club, which plays in British Columbia, as an approved club as well). The idea is that D1 Elite is a high-performance division, and should be encouraging high-performance choices by the players. 

So outside of the NCAA there will be no blanket additional year of eligibility because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Most divisions will at least consider a waiver request, but it will depend heavily on what competition your team is in whether that waiver will have a good chance or a slim chance of being approved.