The United States College Athletic Association is not actively pursuing sanctions against Southern Virginia University after its women’s soccer team forfeited a tournament championship match scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 7.
“We are not going to do anything right now,” said Bill Casto, executive director of the USCAA. “This has raised some issues that we haven’t faced before. We had been dealing mainly with Seventh-day Adventists, and the problem was on Saturday night. This is one of the first times it has come up that there was a conflict with either the Mormon faith or others we have in our association.”
SVU, a liberal arts college in Buena Vista, Va., that embraces Mormon values, has a longstanding tradition of Sabbath-day observance. The school sent its soccer team to the tournament despite being informed that any forfeiture would violate tournament rules and may result in sanctions affecting future postseason play. SVU defeated host school Vermont Tech and Florida College in the qualifying rounds, held in Burlington, Vt.
SVU President Rodney K. Smith believes the decision was best for the team and the school.
“Having just welcomed these courageous scholar-athletes back to campus, I have never been prouder of any team,” President Smith said. “To me, they are real champions and have indicated anew that acting upon one’s conscience can come at some apparent worldly cost, but I am equally confident that the Lord compensates when his children sacrifice, as these young women have.”
Main Fort Kent took first place in the tournament by defeating Florida College, which took SVU’s place in the championship game.
In order to avoid religious conflicts in the future, Casto said the USCAA would form a committee that will hear from various faiths to find long-term solutions that work for everyone.
“There were many people upset with us by not having a true championship, so there is a long-term problem here we have got to address,” Casto said. “We think we have some possible answers, but we want them to really take a look at the whole issue.”
Castro wants to make sure that each competing school has a voice and equal opportunity to adhere to its internal or religious guidelines, while still upholding the rules and regulations of the USCAA.
The week leading up to the tournament was filled with back-and-forth attempts between SVU, the USCAA and the host school to avoid the problem altogether. However, it was decided that any changes to the Friday, Saturday and Sunday play schedule would not be possible or financially viable for the parties involved.
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