A Change.org petition has been started by the University of Massachusetts Amherst rugby team in order to convince USA Rugby to allow for military-related exceptions to its age eligibility rules.
Ryan Martin is a senior at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and a veteran of the Marines who served two tours in Afghanistan. In 2012, following his return from Afghanistan, he enrolled at UMass Amherst, and tried out for the rugby team. This year, however, according to a letter he was sent from USA Rugby, he was too old to play because he graduated from high school in 2006.
USA Rugby is the governing body of college rugby in the United States. Rugby is not an NCAA-sponsored sport at this time.
According to USA Rugby rules, a person is eligible for seven years following their high school graduation, and is only able to play five of those years. Because Martin graduated from high school in 2006, his eligibility has expired, despite the fact that he was overseas serving his country for the majority of that time. There are no exceptions or exemptions for the age policy.
Currently, the petition has just over 1,600 signatures.
USA Rugby should amend its age rules to allow for exceptions in situations like this one. Martin’s case is obviously unique, and he should not be shut out of a year of rugby as a penalty for serving in Afghanistan. This policy unfairly punishes veterans, and should be fixed.