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UBC athletics erred on four players' eligibility

FOI documents reveal anxiety of staff, anger of donor

A University of B.C. Athletics internal review on Dec. 12, 2011 found four football players were incorrectly assessed for eligibility, but only one was found in violation of rules.

Thats according to records obtained via Freedom of Information after the Thunderbirds 6-2 regular season and 1-1 playoffs were nullified last Dec. 20.

The documents also show how staff painfully acknowledged the mistake, although their admission was not enough for at least one donor to the football program.

A defensive lineman for the team unknowingly exhausted his eligibility in 2010 but the error wasnt noticed until 2011. The other three players, who also had more than two years of junior football experience, were also incorrectly assessed before playing in 2009 for UBC. The trio was eligible that year, but did not return the next.

Canadian Interuniversity Sport slapped UBC with the maximum $2,500 fine and charged $150 for costs on Dec. 16. Canada West Universities Athletic Association ordered UBC to forfeit its 2011 wins, pay a $1,000 fine plus $250 in costs and be on probation for the 2012 season.

UBC discovered the linemans ineligibility three weeks earlier, just three days after McMaster upset Laval in the Vanier Cup national championship at B.C. Place Stadium.

It has been brought to my attention that one of our players might have run out of eligibility this year, wrote head coach Shawn Olson in a Nov. 28 email to associate athletic director Theresa Hanson. He was here before I arrived and so I am a little unclear about his details prior to arriving at UBC. I have included the eligibility certificate with the email.

Hanson encouraged Olson to keep it between us at the moment and admitted I am sick to my stomach if he is ineligible and my office missed it.

Hanson disclosed the violation in a Dec. 3 letter to CIS director of operations Tom Huisman. He graduated prior to 2007-2008 and was listed on both the 2009-10 and 2010-11 UBC football eligibility certificates and was subject to the rules that were in place when he entered in the CIS (2009-10), Hanson wrote. She admitted he should have been charged with three years of eligibility entering UBC, with two years remaining in CIS.

Hanson took full responsibility, but cited coaching staff changes and a revolving door of four athlete services coordinators in five years. The coordinator of athlete services at that time also erred in the application of the number of years he had remaining in the CIS.

She said a new compliance officer position would be created before the 2012 season.

There was no malicious intent on anyones part, least of all the student-athlete, she wrote. He is understandably upset that he may have put his team and their success in jeopardy.

After a Dec. 20 news release, a self-described avid fan and UBC football donor, whose name was censored, called the situation absolutely infuriating in a note to UBC.

A simple oops, we made a mistake, well do better going forward cannot be acceptable when all of the blood, sweat and tears of an entire teams season efforts are wiped out, said the message.

Hanson did not respond to Courier interview requests. The UBC Athletics directory lists athlete services coordinator Ashley Burke under Hanson. Stephanie Snow, who was in the position from August 2008 to May 2010, is listed as on leave of absence May 11. There is no one with a compliance title.

Longtime athletics director Bob Philip has a new job July 16 as senior adviser to vice-president of students Louise Cowin. A new athletics and recreation director will be sought in the fall.

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