Football: Saint Mary's Archelaus Jack ends up as a political football, for shame

#ChampSZN now includes lawyerball.

Saint Mary's defeated St. Francis Xavier in the AUS football semifinal on Saturday. That should be that .sThe statute of limitations on eligibility questions, in any sane universe, should be up well before the start of the playoffs. If no one called a team on it after the first couple games, well, too bad. Yet here we are, since a mountain has been made out of a situation that Saint Mary's surely was aware of since the day the player in question, believed to be wide receiver and former Saskatchewan Roughriders practice squadder Archelaus Jack, took his talents to the south end of Halifax.

From Jim Mullin:
Does anyone really believe there is the will to overturn a playoff game and send St. Francis Xavier to the Loney Bowl against Acadia, thus erasing the game that was played?

Anyone with a passing familiarity with university football knows about the Aug. 15 cut-off date for players on practice squads. By rule, an athlete who played university ball the season prior must be released in order to be eligible to play the upcoming season.

Is that applicable to Archelaus Jack? The CTV Atlantic article published on the eve of the game purports it is: "According to U Sports eligibility rules, a player with CFL opportunities can return to the university level if they are no longer listed on the player roster after Aug. 15. Otherwise, they can't play for 365 days.

"The CFL confirmed with CTV News Friday that Jack was released Oct. 11, 2016, bringing into question his eligibility for the five games he played for SMU between Aug. 25 and Sept. 30 this season."

That typically has come into play with student-athletes who were drafted by the CFL after their fourth season, stuck around for the early portion of the regular season and then opted to return to school, for whatever reasons. Regarding Jack, though, he was not a university player in 2016, or '15. Jack played in the Northern Football Conference with the Oakville Longhorns. How would U Sports have jurisdiction over the decisions of a human being who was playing somewhere else? 

The legal interpretations and grey areas within that Aug. 15 rule can be parsed by people at a much, much higher pay grade than I, a hobby blogger who works a straight job. There have been more than a few instances of players coming into the U Sports/CIS/CIAU by way of a CFL stint. I cannot quote chapter and verse about whther each one got his walking papers from the pro league by Aug. 15, and that is precisely the point. It was never contestable until last week.

Again, I don't want to play internet lawyer or take people into the wrong grey areas. There's letter of the law and the spirit of a law. Is it possible that the Aug. 15 cut-off date only applies to returning players? Also, based on my limited understanding, if something is a common enough practice, then the courts' wont is to take that as case law.

That's a convoluted way of saying this can only get uglier the longer it is pressed. A flag definitely should be thrown on the well-after-the-fact whistle-blowers. The timing fails the sniff test. And U Sports, ideally, would have the perspective to realize three things:
  1. It is bad optics to make any student-athlete a political football. This is a league that has long acknowledged that there is no one, direct from high school to university at age 18, path to becoming a university student-athlete and using that, ideally, to better oneself. And here the person is not being put first.
  2. A league should not have the limited amount of oxygen it gets in the Canadian media landscape used up on a controversy where no one comes out smelling good. It's always bothered me that in the general news judgement of the typical Canadian media outlet, a university team forfeiting games or cancelling a season is newsworthy, but their actual games are not. And here is U Sports fanning the flames.
  3. Again, if this is such a problem, have an auditor of football eligibility. For a salary in the mid to high five figures, surely a qualified person can be found, who can make sure the reals are 100-per-cent crystal clear amd make sure every player has the all-clear. This should not be decided by ad hoc committees after someone basically runs up to the teacher to tattle-tale.

    An annual salary and benefits amounting to, ballpark figure, 100 grand a year works out to fewer than four grand per team. No one's going to go broke chipping in to fund that position.

    Or in this case, takes their sweet time strolling over in order to time things to have the maximum impact on the AUS playoffs and the media. That seems curious and dubious.
Again, I'm no lawyer nor am I a fly on the wall of any conference rooms. But I doubt that Acadia is acting like it has to prepare to play either SMU or St. FX.  


Another update:
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