Caught up in customs

Running back Tyler Varga ’16 leads the Bulldogs and is third in the Ivy League this year with an average of 106.3 rushing yards per game.
Running back Tyler Varga ’16 leads the Bulldogs and is third in the Ivy League this year with an average of 106.3 rushing yards per game. Photo by Sara Miller.

For three weeks it seemed that nobody could stop running back Tyler Varga ’16. Then, last week, the NCAA received a complaint about Varga’s eligibility.

After powering his way to 799 yards, 15 touchdowns and the Canadian Interuniversity Sports Rookie of the Year award in 2011, Varga transferred to Yale from the University of Western Ontario. But Varga did not dress for Saturday’s 34–14 defeat against Dartmouth after Yale received word of the NCAA complaint.

Head coach Tony Reno stated that the University was informed of the complaint regarding Varga’s eligibility late Friday evening. While teammate and running back Mordecai Cargill ’13 expressed hope that Varga would be able to return to the field next week, Reno was less certain.

“We’re at the liberty of the NCAA and whatever they so choose to take timetable-wise, we have to abide by their rules,” Reno said.

Director of Athletics Tom Beckett added in a message to the News that the University’s Compliance Office reviews the eligibility of all Yale student athletes on a yearly basis.

According to NCAA rules, transfer students — including those from international institutions — must have fulfilled “one academic year in residence” before competing in athletic competitions. But there are exceptions: If a transfer student plays a sport other than baseball, basketball, men’s ice hockey or Football Bowl Subdivision football, he or she may waive the year-in-residence requirement. Yale plays football in the Football Championship Subdivision, one tier lower than the FBS within Division I.

As a member of Ontario University Athletics (OUA), a regional association analogous to college athletics conferences in the United States, University of Western Ontario abides by the OUA constitution’s ruling that each member may award a maximum of 47 “athletic financial awards” to players on their respective football teams. Each student is not allowed to receive more than 4,000 Canadian dollars-worth of benefits per academic year.

UWO Football Director of Academic Programs Rande Kostal said the University’s definition of scholarships could be distinct from that of scholarships in America.

“We don’t have any tradition of giving athletes a full ride or a break academically,” Kostal said.

He added that unlike at traditional American colleges, scholarships at UWO are awarded to student-athletes only after gaining admission to the University on their own merit. Even then, Kostal said that these scholarships are handed out at the discretion of the head coach.

As Varga’s season remains shrouded in uncertainty, Reno and the University will not speculate on the possible penalties. On Saturday, Reno declined to comment on whether the Bulldogs could have to vacate the season’s lone victory — a Sept. 15 win at Georgetown in which Varga dashed for 103 yards and two scores.

Varga leads the Bulldog ground attack with 319 rushing yards and three touchdowns this season.

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