Provo, UT — The biggest game on the rugby calendar in the state of Utah has been canceled today due to university violations by the University of Utah rugby team.
No specific details have been released as to what violations were made by the Utah rugby program, but University of Utah officials have suspended the rugby team from playing the 2013-14 season and reportedly put the program under long term probation.
A few minutes before 11 a.m., the Utah Rugby Facebook page and Twitter account posted "Utah Rugby is currently unavailable for comment. Details will be forthcoming regarding this development." Twenty minutes later, the Utah Rugby Facebook page was deleted. The twitter account remains active.
Utahrugby.org, the website listed on the Utah Rugby Twitter and Facebook page, currently redirects to a Wordpress blog with the headline "Entertainment games."
Rugby is not a sport sanctioned by the school's athletic department and is considered a sports club that falls under the university's Campus Recreation Services. A phone message left by the Deseret News for Mary Bohlig, director of Campus Recreation Services was not immediately returned.
A phone message left for Utah rugby coach Blake Burdette also went unanswered.
BYU head coach David Smyth said he was disappointed at hearing the news directly from the University of Utah administrators who informed him that this Friday’s Wasatch Cup match could not take place under any set of circumstances.
“The timing of the news is obviously not good,” Smyth said. “Our boys are definitely disappointed at not being able to play against our rivals, the University of Utah. The Wasatch Cup is a big deal here in our state and it not only hurts both of our programs to not play this game, but it hurts rugby in general here in Utah. It’s a sore and sad day for both programs.”
Given the effect on the local rugby community that the Wasatch Cup had, Smyth said it’s imperative that the BYU rugby program do its part to support youth, high school and collegiate rugby in other ways.
“We hope our fans and alumni will see that this unfortunate turn of events can be used as a positive and not a negative,” Smyth said. “Our program hopes to help grow the game not only nationally, but also here in Utah and now that we have a little more free time on our hands this week we’ll be focusing our efforts to do just that.”
Smyth said his team and coaching staff will be involved as support staff with the upcoming Utah Collegiate Rugby Conference Division II playoffs, despite not having a team present on account of the Cougars’ Varsity Cup post-season commitments.
He also pointed out that BYU rugby players and staff will be in attendance of numerous local high school and youth rugby matches over the coming weekend and beyond to help show support to the teams and players within the local Utah area.
Smyth also said that in lieu of having Friday night’s Wasatch Cup match for the local rugby community to participate in, the Cougars would offer a free clinic to all youth and high school rugby players April 12th on BYU’s Helaman Field. Players will be asked to bring their own rugby ball and cleats, and to dress weather appropriate.
At the clinic, BYU players and coaches will help the players continue their rugby development through games and drills. The clinic will start at 4 p.m. MT and run until 6 on April 12th.
With the cancellation of Friday’s Wasatch Cup match, the Cougars will now turn their attention toward their postseason championship efforts in the Varsity Cup National Collegiate Rugby Championship.
BYU will open in the quarterfinal round of the Varsity Cup at UCLA where the Bruins will host the Western Super-Regional that will feature Air Force taking on a yet-to-be-named team that will replace the Utah rugby team, while UCLA hosts the Cougars.
The Varsity Cup Western Super-Regional is slated for April 20 on UCLA’s picturesque North Athletic Field. Air Force and the yet-to-be-named team kick off at 2 p.m. PT with UCLA taking on BYU at 4.
The Varsity Cup Easter Super-Regional is slated for April 20 as well at the Naval Academy’s Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. There, Cal will take on Notre Dame at 1:30 p.m. ET, while the hosts will square off with Dartmouth at 3:30.
Should the Cougars win their quarterfinal match they will return to Provo to host the winner of the Air Force vs. TBD quarterfinal on April 27 on South Field.
The two winning semi-finalists will play for the Varsity Cup National Collegiate Rugby Championship at South Field Stadium on May 4 at 1 p.m. MT.