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USA Rugby published a plethora of changes to their eligibility regulations Thursday concerning club, representative, college, high school and 7s rugby.

USA Rugby’s eligibility committee(s) have changed drastically in the last 8 months, with the once overarching, all-encompassing eligibility committee being abolished in favor of separate committees serving the college or club game exclusively. The new eligibility rules are the new eligibility committees’ first cracks at legislation.

Part of the new eligibility rules, those pertaining to the club 7s game, were announced several months ago, prior to the club 7s season. And many of the 15s regulations were foreshadowed by decisions the new club eligibility committee made during their existence in the latter half of the 2010/2011 competitive cycle.

Perhaps the most public of those decisions was the Aspen-to-Glendale debacle, where numerous players who attempted to transfer from defunct Aspen to Glendale midseason were denied the right to play in the postseason. Precedents set by previous eligibility committees, including the one that presided over the game the first half of the 2010/2011 competitive cycle, were reversed or ignored.

Some of the new regulations that appear relevant to the Aspen-to-Glendale situation:

The Eligbility Committees reserve the “Power to Amend or Make Further Provisions During the Season In the event that any USAR Eligibility Committee considers it is in the interests of USAR or an USAR Competition, it may amend Eligibility Regulations and/or make further regulations during a Season.”    

An eligible senior club player “must not have played in a Qualifying Match for any other Club, regardless of the division of, or the geographical distance between the two clubs, during the Fifteens Competitive Season.

A common acceptable exemption from an eligibility regulation: “Legitimate geographic relocation for non-rugby reasons. Waiver request must be accompanied with documentation of extraordinary circumstances: job or military transfer, enrollment in educational program, personal situation. The timing of the request (league standing and remaining schedule of the original club) will factor into waiver consideration.”

The last several years, and maybe during the entire history of clubs fielding multiple competitive side, there have been complaints about a higher-level player representing his club’s lower-division side.

The outcry was fairly loud when OMBAC won the 2010 DIII title after pulling out of Super League and DI competition that same season. Metropolis, which fields a DI side, followed OMBAC as DIII titlists in 2011. The Midwest has placed increasingly suffocating restrictions on their Super League sides fielding teams in DI, resulting in the Chicago Lions’ exit from the RSL.

The club eligibility committee was apparently listening to the outcry. New Rules pertaining to clubs fielding teams in multiple divisions of play:

The movement of lower division players to upper division sides in Qualifying Matches played on the same day and/or weekend is allowed only when the lower division match is played before the upper division match. Up to three (3) players may be listed as a RESERVE PLAYER for the higher division Qualifying Match. That limit may be increased to four (4) RESERVE PLAYERS if at least one of those players is a front row specialist. Otherwise a player is permitted to play for only one divisional side per weekend.

In addition to the two (2) match minimum cited in Section 3.2-b, a player must play in at least one additional Qualifying Match, for a minimum of three (3) Qualifying Matches, at the divisional (or lower) level entered in the USA Rugby Championship Event.

Any player who has started in at least two (2) or played in three (3) or more of a club‟s Rugby Super League or Women‟s Premier League matches, or has played in the RSL or WPL Playoffs during the current competitive season, is not eligible to play in any other division of a USA Rugby Championships.

Any player who has played in 50% or more of a club‟s Qualifying Matches in a higher division is not eligible to play in a lower division of the USA Rugby Championships.

There are several more changes to the eligibility regulations, especially when it pertains to the high school sector, so a full review of the regulations is encouraged.