Utah Utes men's rugby suspended through 2013

Published: Monday, May 6 2013 10:25 a.m. MDT

Utah's Randy Pati runs with the ball during the Wasatch Cup rugby match at BYU in Provo on Saturday, April 7, 2012.  (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News) Utah's Randy Pati runs with the ball during the Wasatch Cup rugby match at BYU in Provo on Saturday, April 7, 2012. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

The Utah Utes men's rugby team has been suspended through 2013, according to a statement released by the university Monday morning. The suspensions came after over a month's worth of discussion after the team was found to have violated the terms of a previous suspension issued in May of 2012.

The statement included the remarks from Barbara Snyder, vice president for student affairs, on the matter.

“The members of the team have taken responsibility for their mistakes and now must be held accountable," Snyder said. "The rugby program has a rich history with a passionate following and I'm confident it will emerge stronger after this unfortunate chapter."

The team issued a statement of its own, part of which stated "a complete and full accounting has been made, club member leadership, alumni, and coaching have been reassessed and applicable changes have, or will be made, to ensure that University of Utah standards of conduct will be employed and maintained into perpetuity."

The alluded changes already appear to have had an effect, particularly when comparing the statement released this morning compared to the statement the team issued on April 4. The latter was less compliant, stating that the team's latest suspension — which had yet to be finalized by the school at that time — was "deemed excessively harsh and unfair."

While the school was tight-lipped about the reasoning behind the suspension, the team's April statement alluded to the use of alcohol, stating that "Utah Rugby does not deny an incident involving alcohol which occurred in May 2012..."

The team's statement released on Monday went further, going on to describe in detail infractions that have led to a series of probations and suspensions.

"In May 2012, while returning from an away match, several students on the Rugby Club team purchased and drank alcohol during the drive home. One student also assaulted a trainer during the trip. Neither the coach, nor any of the club members brought these violations of policy to the University's attention."

The University of Utah sport club manual lists "use of alcoholic beverages or any illegal drugs during club activities or sanctioned travel" as one of six infractions that result in expulsion.

The result of the misdemeanor was a school-issued suspension, the terms of which the team then violated by "[competing] with many of its Pac-12 rivals during 2012/13 and [wearing] jerseys during the competitions bearing the University's drum and feather logo," the team's statement said.

It continued, saying that "mistakes, many unintentional, were made by few zealous alumni, players and coaches that have brought the club's relationship with the University to this point."

The club was immediately forced to withdraw from the annual Wasatch Cup, which pits the Utes against in-state rival BYU. Utah was also forced to withdraw from the Varsity Cup National Collegiate Rugby Championship, a league boasting several elite university rugby teams, including BYU, California, UCLA and Notre Dame.

The Varsity Cup filled Utah's spot in the championship field, inviting Central Washington to replace them. The national championship concluded on Saturday when BYU beat California on a last-second drop-kick.

The school concluded it's statement saying that "administrators will meet with team members and outline a Memorandum of Understanding which clearly defines expectations that must be followed in order for the program to continue. Once the suspension is revoked this coming January, the team will then be on probationary status for two years.

Matt Petersen is the Sports Web Editor for DeseretNews.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @TheMattPetersen.

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