PROVO — The women's rugby club isn't the first BYU team to refuse to play in a national tournament game because it was scheduled on a Sunday.
"Not playing on Sunday has been a part of the athletic program since its inception," said Glen Tuckett, BYU's athletic director from 1976 to 1996. "We haven't practiced or played on Sunday ever. It's a known fact, before we go into a sport or the playoffs."
In 1958 and 1961, BYU's baseball teams qualified for the College World Series but withdrew because of potential Sunday play. The '61 team was undefeated in league play and had a 24-game winning streak.
The NCAA rebuffed the 1958 team's request for a revised schedule. "Your schedule of games has been arranged so that we would be required to play on Sunday," BYU President Ernest L. Wilkinson wrote to the NCAA. "This is a violation of Christian principles which motivate us as a Christian institution of higher learning."
After the '61 team refused to play, the NCAA created the "BYU rule," which created accommodations for schools with written policies against Sunday play. "We created some interest when we refused to play in the NCAA playoffs," said Tuckett, who was BYU's baseball coach from 1959 to 1976, "which led to some lobbying with good friends who were involved in athletics throughout the country, which led to the rule being changed."
In 1996, an NCAA executive committee eliminated the rule. The committee reversed course when 99 other schools, including Duke, Michigan and Stanford, came to BYU's defense. The rule was reinstated but changed to accommodate schools with policies against play on any day, not just Sunday.
The rugby team's situation, then, is unusual even for BYU.
"I feel sorry for the girls and the coaches when they have had such a good year," he said. "To have played so hard, so well and then to have their season aborted, you feel bad for them. On the other hand, that is the way it is at BYU and of course that is the way we want it to be."
BYU and Sunday
BYU athletes and teams have declined to play Sunday throughout the school's history. Some memorable examples:
1958 Baseball turns down College World Series berth
1961 Baseball declines College World Series berth
1977 Football opts for Japan Bowl instead of the Fiesta Bowl on a Sunday
1995 Eli Herring turns his back on NFL career to avoid Sunday play
2004 Golfer Todd Miller reaches Utah men's amateur finals and forfeits
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