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Old Blue is coming under fire in this DIII club playoff for possibly loading up their DIII team with DI players.
This level of criticism appears to be bolstered by rumor, as teams assembling in Pittsburgh for the club quarterfinals see players they recognize. RUGBYMag.com has looked into this and here's what we know:
1. RUGBYMag.com's predecessor, GoffonRugby, wrote a story on this exact topic and on this exact club nine years ago.
It continues to be an issue for big clubs that field teams in more than one division.
2. Old Blue has 79 players on its club list. Of those, 36 are not eligible to play DIII rugby, and if they are in Pittsburgh this weekend, are there to support their clubmates and have a good time, not play.
Forty-three other players were eligible to play for the DIII team.
3. There are no USA Rugby regulations that prohibit a player who has played minor minutes in DI (or higher-level, such as Elite Cup or PRP) from playing DIII. This has been true for some years.
4. Old Blue's policy is to try to get every player on the club at least some time in a DI game. A half against Mystic should not, and USA Rugby agrees, preclude that player from playing DIII.
5. Old Blue has a player named Sam Scroggins, an accomplished former college football player who got a look with the Detroit Lions, on their roster. Scroggins is talented and athletic, but very green in rugby terms. He has played every DIII game for Old Blue. Because of injuries and player unavailability, he was also used May 3 in the DI play-in game against Life. That one game does not make him ineligible for a DIII playoff, nor should it.
6. USA Rugby's rules are clear on player movement between divisions on the same club:
Any player who has played in 50% or more of a club's League/Qualifying Matches in an upper division is not eligible to play in a lower division of the USA Rugby Championships.
Old Blue played 13 DI league and qualifying matches, which means you'd have to play in six games to be ineligible. As stated above, 36 Old Blue players are in that situation.
7. USA Rugby also prohibits player movement if a player played in a USA Rugby Championship event. USA Rugby specific does not consider the play-in game between Old Blue and Life to ba a Championship Event.
As stated in the USA Rugby Eligibility Rules (3.3.e):
Any player who has played in any USA Rugby Championship Event is not eligible to play for any other division for the remainder of the USA Rugby Championships.
For purposes of this rule, a USA Rugby Championship Event is defined as those events under the authority and jurisdiction of USA Rugby, including:
i) USA Rugby Playoffs (Competitive Region/Round of 8 matches); and
ii)USA Rugby Semi-Finals and Finals.
8. The spirit of the rules is that a player who is on the cusp of a DI club, should be able to get some time and learn about playing at the higher level, without losing a chance to play more regularly in a lower division.
In addition, the rules are designed for an older player, who might be moving toward retirement, to keep playing. The rules are also designed to prevent a club from being hamstrung at the most important time of the year, playoff time, by not having enough players to play for either their DI or DIII team.
Old Blue will field some players with DI experience, but that, according to USA Rugby rules, is OK. Playing in one or two DI games does not make you Superman.