Late last week I received an e-mail from the current president of my former college team, the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Women’s Rugby Football Club, giving all of my fellow alumni and I an update on their successful year and then telling us that they were getting kicked off campus for a year.
Wait … What?!
Even better, they were getting kicked off because the men’s team was busted for hazing, theft and alcohol violations. And the women’s team was now guilty by association and by playing rugby.
Wait … What?!
In this culture of over-litigation and intolerance for differences, the university and our overall state university system had decided to protect itself from discrimination and funding legal issues by combining student organizations if they separated themselves from others by sex, race, religion, etc. I fully admit to not knowing all the ins & outs, but essentially, as of this July, my alma mater (and eventually all UW System schools) will be combining student groups that had separate men’s and women’s clubs. So this July, my former women’s rugby team was going to have to combine with our men’s team as one club. I read this as combining all administrative, funding, etc., aspects, not that co-ed playing of rugby.
So, okay, big picture, that isn’t a huge deal if you have two clubs of good leadership and responsibility. But my former team was concerned that their male counterparts would mess this up (due to past history) for the women’s team and had warned the university and asked for help and not to combine. And sure enough, the men’s team got busted for hazing, theft and alcohol violations. So the men’s team was immediately suspended from campus. And as of July and the combined club, the women’s players will be suspended from campus for one year as well. And the university said, Sorry, you are the same club now.
I have met a lot of the current players. The coach is a friend of mine and he is also my senior selects coach and the head coach for the U-19 selects team I assistant coach. This team, with this coach, made the decision to step beyond typical collegiate rugby, and the negative stereotypes associated with it, to start playing competitive, stellar rugby. I have also gone up and helped at a few practices and even got to guest coach the team at a tournament. And you know what? These women’s players kicked ass! They worked hard and they played well.
This women’s team qualified for the Midwest playoffs the past two years, a feat that we would never have thought of when I played there. And they were undefeated in state play this past year.
And now, because some idiots don’t respect the game or their club enough, this team is getting kicked off campus. Guilty by association. And the current women’s players and my fellow alums and I are working together to see what we can do.
Just to clarify, I’m not pointing fingers at the men’s team directly. However, I think they – and any rugby players who do the same – are stupid for not realizing how their actions and decisions could affect their club or the sports’ reputation. Especially since the club would be combined with the women’s team in the future.
But I’m saddened that the University looked at this situation and couldn’t find some way to help the women’s team more. These are dedicated student-athletes who are now losing their sport for the poor decisions of someone else, a fact the university has clearly pointed out.
And I’m sharing this with everyone, because I can guarantee that this will affect more than just my college rugby team and more than just my former university. This is affecting other sports clubs, this will affect other universities.
Further, within our state union, a club suspended from campus is not eligible to play games against other teams in good standings. Simply put, the women’s team will be kicked off campus and other teams will be unable to play them too. Essentially, this club and its players is destroyed for a year. Through no fault of their own.
ADDED: I forgot to mention this, but I had shared it with my alumni group. I happen to think that combining men’s and women’s clubs could be beneficial for given teams. I think the idea of a “community” effort on any front, sport or otherwise, is always better than separate but equal. So, had the university brought the clubs together and the men’s club had not been suspended, we may have seen an even strong rugby club at my campus. It also could’ve been worse. You don’t know. But it’s the fact that the women’s players are being suspended for an incident that happened prior to their combination and they weren’t involved. Much like I’m sure there are some men’s rugby players who are pissed that the whole team is suspended when they may have done nothing wrong too.
I have also heard that the men’s team has allegedly been trying not to stand up and handle this maturely, but trying to continue playing off campus and pretending to be a different team to play in tournaments, etc. Our state union has reminded other teams that if they play a “rogue” team, there will be fines per the union rules. I can just imagine what will happen when July rolls around. Ugh.