NEWARK, DE – Obituaries are being written, tears shed and hundreds of future graduates are throwing their applications, with spectacular violence, into their trashcans. University of Delaware has dealt its own rugby team a five-year death penalty. The death penalty resulted from a now notorious I’m Schmacked Party, which was hosted by two members of the rugby team Anthony Ladisernia and Evan Touzzoli. Two members… not the entire rugby team!
This all came to my attention when one of my former players told me Delaware was his #1 school choice For next year; because of academics and rugby. This has now gone up in a gulp of drunken foolishness.
It was called a rugby house frat party, held by the rugby team. But if the Delaware Rugby President is to be believed, it was not a rugby house, but a house where two members of the rugby team lived. The result of this party? A near riot involving thousands of students running around the streets of Newark, causing criminal damage and mocking university security.
Videos of this “party” do not make a good case for the defence. It looks like a drunken protest, and authorities are maintaining that it was started by two young men who played rugby for the University.
Now let’s get to the varying sides of the argument, either agreeing or disputing the stringent penalty applied by the UD governing body… A five-year death penalty is considerably worse than five years of no rugby for the college. In five years the university will reinstate rugby. Since UD does not offer rugby scholarships, they will spend at least three years attempting to convince and cajole recruits into coming to their school to play rugby, as well as trying to gain the trust of the U.S College Rugby governing body. They will spend perhaps another two years trying to get close to their former stature – at the top table of U.S collegiate rugby. So, a death penalty of five years is in fact a ten-year moratorium on rugby at the University of Delaware. And it gets worse, when you consider that these estimates are on the hopeful side. Many will argue this is too harsh.
Consider that in the recent email scandal that engulfed West Point, the team was suspended (suspended not killed) and 15 seniors involved were kicked off of the team. West Point, the pinnacle of American can-do attitude, suffered a nationally publicized embarrassment and it dealt with the culprits with swift and merciless speed. Delaware suffered a nationally publicized embarrassment and killed of the entire rugby program.
Many will argue it was over-zealous, others will remind you that rugby is a team sport and if one of you fails you all fail. Something to bear in mind is the very fact that this became a national story. If it had been something that happened in-house at the University, without any real coverage on national news, then perhaps Delaware would have acted more in line with West Point; expelling or suspending players involved, and suspending the program for a period of time. This would show that rugby was not the thuggish sport that some idiots seem to believe it is. However, university officials must have felt such incredible embarrassment when their dirty laundry got aired in public, a knee-jerk reaction was not entirely unwarranted. And make no mistake this was a knee-jerk – this event happened but a week before the death penalty was dealt. Perhaps more time should have been spent thinking through their official reaction?
All of the arguments against the death-penalty, can be crystallized by this example: In 2013 four members of the University of Alabama’s football team were suspended after they robbed and beat unconscious a fellow student. After the judicial process, they were then expelled by the University. The program carries on, yes the Crimson Tide are a nationally acknowledged sporting powerhouse. But rugby, which is not yet recognized by the NCAA, has no protection from knee-jerk reactions by university officials.
Should what happened in Delaware go unpunished? Of course not. But rugby is still trying to gain traction in the USA’s national psyche and it’s parallels are so very similar to those of the NCAA, yet the results so very different.
Oh, and then there’s this:
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