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Should College Rugby Players Get An Extra Year?

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Should College Rugby Players Get An Extra Year?

Back for another year? Maybe.

Should USA Rugby, D1A, and NSCRO award college rugby players an additional year of eligibility because o the season has been shut down due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak?

Coaches and observers have already put forth that idea, some within hours of hearing that USA Rugby has shut down the season. And there's no gray area here—the college rugby season is over.

USA Rugby Suspends Rugby For 30 Days, Cancels College Championships

D1A, D1 Elite Confirms Cancelation Of Season

NSCRO Cancels Rest Of Regular Season; All-Star Tourney Still On

The same can be said for other college sports played in the spring. And the NCAA has taken notice. According to the Associated Press, the NCAA is planning to give athletes in spring sports and extra year of eligibility. This would cover all divisions. Even the Ivy League, which is known for not allowing the fifth year in sports, is looking at it.

So this isn't just a fly-by-night, rugby-only idea. It's being seriously looked at by the Zeus of college sports, the NCAA.

If this were to be considered seriously, here are a few issues to think about:

1. Four organizations will likely have to look at this. NSCRO has already announced it is separating its operations from that of USA Rugby starting in the fall of 2020. So for NSCRO teams (and any who join the organization as it looks to expand) that's NSCRO's decision to make.

(This also brings up the fact that tracking eligibility, and when a player's eligibility clock starts and ends, will become NSCRO's problem, too.)

The College Rugby Association of America will likely make this determination for D1A teams, and might well be asked to oversee this determination for D1 Elite women. Certainly there's a chance that USA Rugby might say "yes" and CRAA might say "no."

The National Intercollegiate Rugby Association (NIRA) runs the women's varsity competition in the fall. They, too, will likely make their own decision.

2. USA Rugby has been known to deny dispensations when many feel like they should be awarded (injured in first game of the year, and hoping for a waiver for that year, for example). But the USA Rugby regulations are currently quite open to the idea of a Coronavirus Outbreak Shutdown Waiver. The current waiver application (for those looking for eligibility in 6th or 7th year after graduation) leaves the reason for such waivers open. The form suggests reasons (travel, work, military, religious, family) but doesn't limit the reasons. A campus shutdown seems like a decent reason.

However, USA Rugby could argue that teams all had some rugby this semester, so, tough.

3. USA Rugby's rules also strictly prohibit playing college rugby more than seven years after high school graduation. It will be pretty difficult for the National Governing Body to throw that rule aside. So if we see an added year of play for college rugby players, it might be that such a dispensation doesn't apply to players who are concluding their 7th year this spring.

4. The NCAA is giving a full year of eligibility, but only for spring sports. Football players don't get an extra year. And since the shutdown happened in March, it's reasonable to argue that, hey, a prop for Bowling Green or Ohio State got to play a full fall, so why should they get another chance?

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With those caveats in mind, it seems it would be very reasonable to at least offer players an additional semester. Student-athletes could decide when to use that semester, but that's basically what has happened to everyone. Everybody got the chance to play in the fall, but not in the spring. If you then choose to use your extra semester for an extra fall, or an extra spring, that's up to you.

But it might just be easier to add on a year and move on.