The NCAA denied Jared Ward, a four-time All-American cross-country and track star at BYU, a year of eligibility after he participated in a recreational race – where some participants even ran the race in bird costumes -- according to The Deseret News.
Similar to Colgate basketball player Nathan Harries -- recently granted his eligibility after some outlets took up his case – Ward was a returned missionary at BYU. The runner returned in 2009, following his hiatus, but was a couple weeks too late to enroll.
From The Deseret News:
“That fall, he traveled to California to watch his younger brother compete in a regional cross-country race. Just for 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.”
Ward said he was planning to get a workout in that day and decided to hop in the race, completely unaware that the run could jeopardize his status. “I recall someone wearing a tuxedo and another guy in a bird suit and a monkey or gorilla costume,” he said.
Since Ward had been out of high school for more than a year, the NCAA said that he had gained an unfair advantage by participating in the “competitive” event before enrolling, thus he was in violation.
“Jared noted that he had run in the coaches race [to the NCAA],” his coach Ed Eyestone said. “He felt it was innocuous enough that it would be ignored.”
Ward may have to skip his senior year because BYU has appealed the decision twice, and twice been denied, according to the paper.
The decision also hurts BYU's cross-country team, which is ranked fifth in the country and has a chance to win a title at the NCAA championships in two weeks. That's likely out the window without Ward.
As Ward noted, “If I were trying to gain an advantage by running in a competitive race, I wouldn't have chosen that race. It's not a competitive effort.”
Perhaps fortunately for Ward, the stories of Harries and former Marine Steven Rhodes – another victim of the NCAA's lunacy – may provide a basis for overturning the NCAA's ruling.