One expensive Zulu …

A friend forwarded me this memo from the Midwest Rugby Football Union regarding a recent disciplinary decision for a college team’s zulu.

Seriously kids, there may be a time and a place for a zulu. Right after winning your territorial playoff tournament ain’t that time. Idiots.

To: File
From: MW RFU Discipline Committee
Date: 11/2/2007
Re: 10/27/07 Conduct of Illinois-Champaign
The MW RFU Discipline Committee and Collegiate Competitions have received a complaint of objectionable after-match conduct by the University of Illinois (Champaign) (hereinafter “Illinois”) at the second round of the MW Collegiate Men Division II playoffs in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on October 27, 2007. The conduct complained about falls under the discipline guidelines involving Off-Field Conduct (Sections II and III), even though it technically occurred on the field, only after a match. The conduct involved the “Zulu” exhibition by a member of the Illinois club after Illinois defeated Wisconsin-Madison. That is, after the game was completed, a member of the Illinois team ran completely unclothed before all people in attendance while the remainder of the club encouraged the display.

The club, through its officers, has acknowledged and apologized for the conduct.
After the display, when a MW RFU official and the site coordinator approached the club complaining about the poor display and its impact on the image of the game of rugby, the player remained unclothed for another 30 seconds, in full view of anybody who happened to be passing by. Soon thereafter, an Illinois player’s parent became loud and belligerent toward the complaining parties.

The complaint submitted by the Site Coordinator included the following description:

The Illinois Zulu was just a classless display. I recorded all the contact information in [the MW RFU official’s] journal. Spoke with the club president. Seemed to be the only one with a moderately level head.

Zulu lasted at least 30 seconds until I got over there, and [MW RFU official] as well. Definitely family and children present – general public, etc. Lots of events at the Complex this weekend: Soccer, Cricket, Lacrosse, age-grade kids soccer, hurling, Iron Man Football. Plenty of Milwaukee Area non-rugby populace that would have benefited from seeing our sport in a positive light.

Shortly after the final whistle blew with Illinois winning over University of Wisconsin, there was a bit of celebration on the far sideline. Looked away to talk John [name omitted] (coach of Catholic Memorial High School Girls who ran touch for the Men’s Semis [former USA U-19 Girls Manager]) when he pointed and said “that’s stupid.”

Turned around to see an Illinois Player running – completely naked – towards the goal line. Started over to confront the situation apparently at the same time as [MW RFU official]. Kid was actually dumb enough to sit there naked for a good half minute while we confronted the club president, and other members of the team just kept citing it as a “tradition for their club and the clubs they play after every match.”

Makes me wonder just what the hell is going on down in the Illinois RFU.

U of Illinois President tried to talk it over in the parking lot. Told him there was nothing to talk about.

Apparently a parent of one U of Illinois player confronted [MW RFU official] in the parking lot of the Sports Complex in a relatively belligerent manner.

Currently waiting for damage report from the site Hotel from Sales and Marketing Director [name omitted]. Will forward that ASAP.

My general opinion is that these kids, although good athletes and self-coached, clearly have no idea the damage their behavior causes. Also seem to be completely unaware that the Animal House days of rugby are a dark moment in the culture of rugby that cropped up in the 70’s and has no place in today’s sport – particularly if it wishes to ever achieve a legitimate status. And to add insult to injury, their acts at the hotel are just criminal.

Later, at the hotel where the same MW RFU official was staying (as well as the Illinois team), a vase was thrown out the window and struck the car in which the official had been traveling.

The club has acknowledged responsibility for that incident as well and is undertaking restitution directly with the hotel and, presumably, the owner of the vehicle.

USA Rugby Disciplinary Regulations and Procedures, section II. B. provides, in pertinent part:
The Territorial Disciplinarian***is responsible for the following:
1. Incidents at a Territorial Union event***
2. Incidents between two or more LAUs and/or their member clubs within the TU
Accordingly, this matter is properly before the MW RFU Discipline Chair for decision. This matter has also received input from the entirety of the MW RFU Discipline Committee and the Collegiate Competitions Chair.

II. Disciplinary Structure:
B. The Territorial Union Disciplinarian or Committee is responsible for the following:
3. Off-field incidents (including those that affect rugby in a negative fashion) by clubs or players or supporters that occur at a location outside the club’s or player’s or supporter’s home LAU.

IV. Undetected Foul Play / Off Field Misconduct – Action to be taken is the same for both situations.
3. Off field incidents will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Proven allegations of misconduct that tends to place the game in disrepute are to be dealt with in the strongest manner. As a reminder, clubs are responsible for the activities of their members and supporters as they relate to the image of the game. Clubs are expected to provide for the discipline of their members and supporters who bring the game into disrepute.

This is a sensitive issue because it involves the setting at a youth competition, because youth competitions tend to have family and younger spectators present and because the allegations involve conduct at two different points, both of which can fairly be described as potentially criminal in nature. As such, the decision here is one reflecting the seriousness of the environment in which it occurred and the need to provide deterrent affect to others confronted with similar circumstances from allowing the risk of a bad display to come to fruition.

It is noted that the club has made apology and explanation in a seemingly contrite way. However, it appears from communications with outside witnesses that the club’s response has been less than fully genuine. For example, the explanation of the display submitted by the Illinois club President, Colin Fitshenry, appears to downplay the incident as restricted to a given time and area of the field when, in fact (or at least disputably), the incident was far more disruptive and visible than an short-lived and unexpected loss of judgment. In fact, the incident seems fully premeditated and completely without consideration of the obvious problems that could result. Also, where Fitzhenry has suggested that the club is philanthropic as a practice within the community, it appears that the leaf-raking exercise for senior citizens that he describes was actually an activity that the club chose not to be involved with in this most recent season. The point is not so much whether the club participates elsewhere, but whether the club is now putting a convenient “spin” on the incident and the club in some respect—at a time when full and forthright disclosure is paramount. In short, these selective descriptions make it appear that the club is sorry that the behavior was reported, not that the club has work to do toward the elevation of rugby and its image.

The Illinois club is suspended (i.e., eliminated) from further participation in this year’s collegiate playoffs. The Site official, MW RFU Collegiate Competitions Coordinator and the home union of the other clubs eligible to advance (both of which come from the Wisconsin RFU) will be consulted for the actual team that will be named to advance to the MW RFU Collegiate Men’s Final Four in Cedar Rapids, Iowa on the weekend of November 10 and 11.

In addition, the Illinois club will be on probation status for the next two league competition seasons. If any discipline report is submitted against the club and is found to have merit, the club will be suspended from all college rugby participation for five years.

In addition, the club will submit a proposed community service plan of not less then 150 hours that will require MW RFU approval and which will be monitored for completion by a yet-to-be-selected member of the Illinois Rugby community. The Illinois club will be required to have a willing, proposed member for monitoring purposes.

Failure to make full restitution to the subject hotel and car owner will constitute a violation of the probation status set forth above.

Finally the Illinois club will be caused to have this entire incident reviewed by the university and will therefore be subject to whatever sanction the university sees fit to impose. Should that university-based review result in a suspension of the club, then the probation and community service aspects of this report will not apply.

The elimination from the playoffs is not a sanction that can be appealed due to the logistical concerns that will require another club to prepare for taking the place of the Illinois team at the upcoming MW Final Four.

Any appeal on other aspects of the decision can be submitted pursuant to the appellate guidelines found in the USA Rugby Disciplinary Regulations and Procedures accessible at

Respectfully submitted,
MW RFU Disc CH, on behalf of
MW RFU Discipline Committee and
MW RFU Competitions and Coordination

In turn, our local men’s college team now gets Illinois’ seed for playoffs because they kept their clothes on. Good luck guys!

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Filed under college, Idiots, Midwest RFU

8 responses to “One expensive Zulu …

  1. nina

    i cannot think of a better reason to drop the pants than winning something important.

  2. Philippines

    I can’t believe such a rugby fan as yourself would actually side with the decision here. The zulu is a long-standing tradition in rugby. While I may understand the desire by some to phase out this tradition, taking away a team’s playoff victory and placing them on 2-year probation is just ludicrous, not to mention cruel.

    Additionally, the referees apparent outrage at the incident makes me wonder just how out of touch he is with the teams he referees!

  3. Alison

    I’m surprised that you can’t understand that this was not an appropriate time and place for a zulu. Getting naked in front of the crowd at a game, which may include children, is inappropriate and illegal. This is not necessarily a comment on whether or not zulus are acceptable but rather on using some common sense.

  4. Em

    Yes, Phillipines, the question here is not, “Should I do a Zulu to celebrate my team’s victory?” It is, “Should I get naked in front of a bunch of children?” Streakers at soccer games are escorted off the premises in handcuffs. This guy was lucky he did not end up the same.

    I, personally, think the American obsession with nudity is Puritan and embarrassing, but this was not the time or place to challenge it, nor was challenging it the apparent intention of the player.

  5. Anonymous

    So part of me is embarrassed to be a student at UW-Madison who apparently made a big deal out a something that is a rugby tradition and benefitted to the point of advancing in playoffs. The other part of me says it is completely inappropriate to run a zulu at an event that takes place in conjunction with other sports.


  6. traditionalist coach

    Exactly when where and how did a “zulu” as exemplifed by the Illinois team and apparently accepted by a number of commenters become a “rugby” tradition vs a rather boorish and generally collegiant streaker tradition from the 70’s?????
    The collegiant coaches and mentors I had in the late 60’s and early 70’s who were from Scotland, Australia, and New Zealand never passed on to us a tradition of ‘zulu’ …….. or public nudity that needed to be done to be ruggers.
    and I am not sure I have seen top level or even mid-level international competition that involved post match streaking…
    certainly have never seen it in tours of Wales, England, and Australia…..
    gee ……maybe it is not really a “rugby” tradition.

  7. Blondie

    I’m very much with Coach on this. Zulus are the product of drunk college or clubsiders needing a reason to get naked after a game. Nothing else. And as someone who ran a full zulu as a drunk college kid and seen far too many zulus from people who probably should leave their clothes on even when they shower, it’s most definitely not a “long-standing tradition in rugby”. It’s a long-standing tradition for some rugby players, but not rugby.

    We don’t do it on our club and should I ever coach a team, I’ll ask them not to do it there either. Get naked on your own time.

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