Yet another collegiate athlete has been banned from competition by the NCAA for what might seem like an innocuous reason.
BYU cross-country and track runner Jared Ward.(Image source: Brigham Young University)
Jared Ward, a Brigham Young University cross-country and track runner and four-time All-American, was told by the NCAA he was ineligible to compete for a year because he had run in a race for fun -- before he was even enrolled at the university.
This race was one that included everyone from teens to 70-year-olds and was "so lighthearted that some of the entrants (wore) costumes," Doug Robinson with Deseret News reported
“I had to get in a workout that day anyway, so I thought I’d just jump in the race,” Ward told Robinson of the race that took place before a more formal regional cross-country race he had gone to watch his brother run. “A lot of the entrants try to get a laugh out of the kids, so they wear costumes. I recall someone wearing a tuxedo and another guy in a bird suit and a monkey or gorilla costume. It’s not uncommon."
This was in the fall of 2009 and Ward wasn't yet enrolled at BYU. He had just returned from a mission trip and was two weeks too late to attend the university in the fall semester.
Ward enrolled at BYU for the spring semester, filling out NCAA compliance forms to compete on athletic teams.
“Jared noted that he had run in the coaches race," BYU coach Ed Eyestone told the Deseret News. "He felt it was innocuous enough that it would be ignored. Yes, the race was timed and it was organized, but there certainly was no advantage gained by it. He was just there to support his brother and decided to run in the race.”
The NCAA rule (bylaw 22.214.171.124.1) now penalizing Ward for running in this race before he ever started his collegiate career states "student-athletes that do not enroll in college within a year of their high school graduation will be charged one year of intercollegiate eligibility for every academic year they participate in organized competition."
It's this same rule that prevented a former Marine from playing college football and another missionary who played on a church league from playing basketball at school. In both cases, after the stories went viral, the NCAA quickly reversed its stancemaking the athletes eligible for competition.
So far this cross-country season, Ward has not competed due to his being ruled ineligible. He did however make good use of his time off, competing in the Oct. 13 Chicago Marathon, taking 19th place and qualifying for the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials. Runners World reported he didn't take the prize money though because he is still eligible to compete in track events for BYU this spring.
BYU appealed the NCAA's decision in Ward's case twice and was denied.
(H/T: The Post Game)