A good friend and former teammate of mine, Ryan Martin, is a Marine Corps Veteran and rugby player for the University of Massachusetts Amherst. After graduating high school in 2006, Ryan served two tours in Afghanistan. He was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with a Combat Distinguishing Device for Valor in addition to a Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal. Upon returning home in 2012 he enrolled at UMass. Shortly after enrolling he decided to try out rugby.
Ryan is a senior now and recently received a letter from USA Rugby deeming him ineligible to play. The current rule states:
"Every student--athlete has seven years in which s/he may compete a maximum of five (5) years:
(I) The seven-year period for College Rugby Eligibility begins in the Academic Year immediately following high school graduation date or the graduation date of his or her class (as determined by the first year of high school enrollment) or based on the prescribed educational path in the student athletes country.
(II) There are no exemptions or exceptions to this seven-year window for college rugby eligibility."
As Ryan graduated in 2006, he is beyond the seven year eligibility window. We find this to be unacceptable, not only for Ryan, but for all those who were brave enough to enlist and serve our country. Rugby has been a coping method for my friend and other veterans in colleges across the country. Rugby in particular provides comraderie that many veterans seek in absence of their fellow soldiers. However, the inflexibility of this rule deems nearly all veterans ineligible shortly after enrolling in college.
This simply has to change. Not only out of respect for our veterans, but to help provide an outlet for those left with an emptiness that so many feel upon returning from duty. Please sign this petition and help put Ryan and many other brave young men and women back on the rugby pitch.
Enlisting in the military is the ultimate sacrifice from civilian livelihood. It means taking a vow to protect our country and all of its ideals. It means risking life so we may enjoy the more beautiful things, such as rugby.
Denying our veterans the opportunity to participate in rugby is a shame. Please, reconsider this rule and the repercussions it may have on the livelihood of our troops. It could be all the difference.