According to the dogged work of American Rugby News, USA Rugby is looking at the ever present problem of college athletes moving from program to program looking for greener pastures, or at least different opponents.
From the article (please click the link and read the entire piece):
The issue has now bubbled over to the point where Phillips is calling on USA Rugby to implement rules of engagement and codes of conduct for USAR coaches.
The sticking point is Phillips’ assertion that All-American assistant coach Blake Burdette first had contact with Shephard after the High School championships in Salt Lake City and then had further conversations with him on the 2009 All-American tour to South Africa.
Once again, massive kudos to Brian Lowe and his excellent staff at American Rugby News for staying on top of this story. At first glance it appears that this is not important to cover, but if rugby wants to be taken as seriously as a collegiate sport then players can’t jump from program to program like they’re NAIA athletes. Boulder needs to come up with some kind of monitoring program to hold athletes accountable to the programs the decide to play for.
A side benefit of this kind of program might be to spread the athletic talent to universities based more on the school’s academic program than whether or not they can offer scholarships, or other perks, to players – or whether these teams field All-American coaches as well who have a level of unfair contact with athletes. Let’s be honest here, there are a handful of collegiate teams that have an unfair advantage by being able to offer rugby-specific scholarships and enticements such as varsity program status (and access to NCAA-caliber facilities).
(Not to mention the ever moving target of when collegiate eligibility runs out – is it after a set amount of time, or can players who have been in and out of college at the whim of their coach (whenever they need them for a season) return to play at anytime)
Interestingly, Todd Bell from USA Rugby commented to Lowe that he had been apprised of the situation as early as this summer. If that’s true, then my next question is – why did it take a move by Indiana coach Tom Phillips to the media to get some kind of action?