From the files of the NCAA's poor judgements comes a case about a BYU runner who took part in a fun-run and was suspended for a year.
Doug Robinson of the Deseret News reports on the case of Jared Ward, a BYU cross-country runner who is facing an extreme punishment for a harmless act.
After graduating high school Ward completed a mission through the Mormon church, and when he came back in September 2009 it was too late for him to enroll in school. So he took some time off to train before entering BYU. That fall Ward traveled to California to watch his brother compete in a regional cross-country race in California.
Before that event there was a recreational race for coaches, parents and other spectators. Just a lighthearted way for supporters to have some fun.
As Ward recalls, some of the runners in the recreational race were even wearing costumes.
“I had to get in a workout that day anyway, so I thought I’d just jump in the race,” Ward told Robinson. “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."
Ward self-reported his participation in the race on the customary NCAA compliance forms that he filled out at BYU. He didn't think anything of it, but the NCAA did. According to the NCAA, athletes who are at least a year removed from high school are prohibited from competing in organized competitions that give them a competitive advantage. While Ward didn't gain much from racing against a costumed gorilla, the NCAA ruled that what he did merited losing a year of eligibility.
Hoping he would eventually get the punishment overturned, Ward competed for his first three years at BYU. But even after two appeals from BYU the NCAA didn't budge. Now Ward is a graduate student hoping to have one last chance to compete, and with the NCAA Cross Country Championships in two weeks, his chances are slim.
(H/T to For The Win)