The NCAA took away a year of eligibility from a BYU cross country runner because he ran in a recreational race in which participants are allowed to dress up in costumes.
Jared Ward, whom the Deseret News describes as “a returned missionary at BYU and a four-time cross country and track All-American,” was “denied” a year of eligibility after he revealed that he “once ran in a recreational cross-country race against fat, old guys and people wearing bird costumes.”
According to the Deseret News:
Ward served an LDS Church mission right out of high school. He returned in September 2009, a couple of weeks too late to enroll in school. He decided to spend the next three months training to regain his fitness after two years of inactivity before he enrolled for winter semester. That fall, he traveled to California to watch his younger brother compete in a regional cross-country race. Just for the fun, as a prelude to the real race, there was a recreational race for coaches, parents and other supporters of the athletes. It is a just-for-fun event whose entrants range from teens to 70-year-olds. The race is so lighthearted that some of the entrants wear costumes.
“I had to get in a workout that day anyway, so I thought I’d just jump in the race,” Ward told the outlet. “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.”
According to the NCAA, “athletes who are a year removed from high school are not allowed to compete in organized competitions that will give them a competitive advantage. It is designed to prevent athletes from participating in competitive leagues that would give them an advantage before beginning college.”
This year, the NCAA has already overturned its initial denial of eligibility for a Marine veteran who had played in a recreational football league on a military base. Recently, the NCAA denied a college basketball player a year of eligibility for playing in a recreational church league.