An NCAA Runner Lost A Year Of Eligibility For Participating In This Race

  • Rick Chandler

Well not this race exactly, but one just as absurd — some of the other competitors included a guy in a gorilla costume, a chicken costume, and another in a tuxedo.

It was a Fun Run for coaches, athletes and their families; a bit of whimsy in which most participants dress in costumes, children and grandparents are allowed to enter, and many don’t even run. But Jared Ward, a returned missionary at BYU and a four-time cross country and track All-American, listed the event on the usual NCAA compliance forms, and was later informed that he would lose a year of eligibility because he broke the rules.

Such BS.

According to NCAA rules, 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.

“Jared noted that he had run in the coaches race,” says BYU coach Ed Eyestone. “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 not only ruled that Ward would lose an entire season of cross country for one 16-minute effort, it intimated that he was lucky the penalty wasn’t more severe. BYU appealed twice and was denied twice.

Irony? Yep. If Ward had returned two weeks earlier from his mission, he would have been able to train with his team, and would not have gone to see his brother’s race, where the Fun Run took place.

Meanwhile, Johnny Manziel is accused of selling autographs for thousands of dollars — a real NCAA violation — and his penalty was to sit out one half of a football game. Does that seem consistent or fair?

So if you’re in a fun run and notice a guy in a chicken costume watching you, it’s most likely an NCAA official.