Penn State Rugby Coach Resigns, Team Reinstated After Arson Incident
The coach of Penn State's men's rugby team is out, and the rugby players are back in competition.
Penn State assistant athletic director Jeff Nelson released a terse statement late Friday night which says in its entirety, "Penn State men's rugby coach Don Ferrell has resigned, effective immediately. Chris Amoratis has been named the interim head coach. Men's rugby is a team sport that is part of Penn State's Club sports program."
Earlier Friday, Penn State Intercollegiate Athletics announced that the men’s rugby team will be allowed to compete again after being suspended following an arson incident. Reports surfaced three weeks ago about two Penn State Men’s Rugby players being charged for burning down the team’s on-campus shed, and the entire team was subsequently suspended in the midst of a student conduct investigation.
“We are extremely disappointed that two members of Penn State’s rugby program were allegedly involved with and have been charged with arson for the fire that led to the destruction of the rugby and cross country teams’ sheds on Jan. 14,” said athletic director David Joyner in a statement. “However, based upon the results of a thorough investigation by the Office of Student Conduct, Penn State Intercollegiate Athletics has determined that a very limited number of players were connected to the incident in any way. A vast majority of them were unaware of the crime’s connection to the team. As a result, the team’s suspension has been lifted immediately.”
Penn State’s club sports programs are under the purview of Intercollegiate Athletics, although they are not considered varsity sports. The two players are still charged with eight counts, including arson, criminal conspiracy and criminal mischief.
According to the police report on the shed fire, the rugby players left a party at their house that night with a lighter and a bottle of lighter fluid and made comments about going to “mess with the shed.” The two players reportedly admitted to burning down the shed in police interviews last month, claiming they only meant to burn a piece of equipment in front of the shed, but the fire spread too quickly to put out. It was located near the Red A parking lot on North Atherton Street. The shed was used to store equipment for the rugby and cross country teams.
“After meeting with the team’s student leaders, we feel strongly that positive strides are being made to honor and respect the history and legacy of rugby at Penn State. We also believe that team members will positively represent themselves, their teammates, Intercollegiate Athletics and Penn State in a first-class manner at all times,” Joyner said. “Although this was an extremely unfortunate situation, we are confident that the men’s rugby program will learn and grow stronger as a result.”