Eligibility: York Lions' brief history of OUA forfeits

How many people does it take to check player eligibility? Or more to the point, how many times can York University play an ineligible player and not have severe consequences?

Further to that, what does it say about the state of Ontario University Athletics that media — choose your adjective(s); corporate media, old media, legacy media, traditional media, the salary-and-benefits media — does not even deign to cover it? Apart from the blogs maintained by us hobbyists who find other ways to get paid, the York Lions' men's basketball team's ouster from the OUA Wilson Cup was hardly covered, by anyone.

This is a public university, funded by the province, and no one seems to care that one of its most public departments is dropping the ball. By unofficial count, starting with the most recent first, York has forfeited games five times since Jennifer Myers' hire as director of sports and recreation in 2008. Myers is also a past OUA president.

2015-16, men's basketball — Forfeited nine games after using Raheem Isaac, who was not eligible since he had played exhibition games for Windsor and OUA rules proscribe playing for two teams in one season.

2011-12, women's volleyball — Disqualified from hosting the OUA final four after playing middle hitter Michelle Pierce during a 3-0 quarter-final against the RMC Paladins. Pierce, another Windsor transfer, had not played an OUA match in 365 games, but was not eligible for the playoffs since she had not competed during the regular season. As a result, OUA had to move the final four to Ottawa. As CIS Blog alumnus Andrew Bucholtz put it at that time, "From what's come out, York has to bear most of the blame for this fiasco."

2010-11, women's soccer — Relatively minor, since this was self-disclosed, although the culprit was midfielder Rita Keimakh, who was a former national under-20 and Big Ten player. On Tuesday after Thanksgiving weekend, Keimakh dropped a class, reducing her load to 7½ hours per week. York required 9 hours in order to be considered a full-time student and, thus, OUA-eligible. Keimakh competed one day later. It was caught and the game was forfeited to McMaster six days later. To her credit, Keimakh competed for York in later seasons.

2009-10, football  Patrick Hooey had played for Saint Mary's in 2008, and enrolled at York with intentions to start a new degree, so he could play right away. Instead, he was enrolled as a "full-time undergraduate student" but coach Mike McLean allowed him to play in the season opener against Windsor. If memory serves, York self-disclosed the error, calling it a "breakdown in communications," after Saint Mary's athletic director Steve Sarty alerted them.

McLean (career record: 0-16) left coaching after that season.

2008-09, men's soccer — Where have you gone, Andrea Lombardo? A shut-in sports blogger turns his lonely eyes to you, woo-woo-woo. Actually, Lombardo works at York, in the admissions department, and no doubt is great at his job. Hopefully, he would be a good sport about his line of work seeming ironic, lo, these many years later. In 2008, he played four games for the No. 1-ranked men's soccer Lions after having played for Toronto FC during its maiden Major League Soccer campaign.

As MacLean's put it: "The fact that they managed to play four games with this illegal player ... is just mind blowing. The fact that they didn’t know it was illegal is somewhat hilarious."

I apologize, fully completely, to Mses. Keimakh and Pierce and Messrs. Hooey, Isaac, Lombardo and even McLean that unpleasant incidents from their past have to be exhumed. It's just that a thread runs through all of this, which is that is seems like this isn't begin taken very seriously, by anyone whatsoever.

That is very, very bad. That goes for the scary thought that this happens since there is essentially no check and balance. Those have to be there. It can derive from 1) some combination of intensely local news coverage that has a collective long memory; 2) engaged alumni who expect more from an alma mater's varsity sports program and 3) an athletic conference, OUA in this case, keeping member schools accountable. Honestly, I feel like the Walter Sobchak character in The Big Lebowski, minus the concealed carry, of course.

This is not 'Nam ... this is high-performance sport. There are rules.

York is far from alone in having had player eligibility issues, of course, and this is not meant to be a call-out or a castigation. It just bears pointing out that a serious sports conference takes these matters seriously. That might help with getting the media to pay attention outside of Vanier Cup and Super Championship Weekend time, when they wonder why no one cares when they do a drive-by on something they have ignored for the other 49 weeks of the year.

Here is a brief list of other eligibility-related forfeits in recent years:

2015-16 — Waterloo men's volleyball

2014-15 — Queen's football; Calgary football; Mount Royal men's soccer

2012-13 — Bishop's football; UPEI men's soccer; St. Francis Xavier men's soccer

2011-12 — UBC football; Montreal football

2010-11 — Laurier football

2009-10 — Manitoba football; Simon Fraser football.
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