Queen’s Athletics announced Wednesday that Gaels football will forfeit their first two games of the OUA season after dressing an academically ineligible player.
Second-year defensive back Brendan Morgan was ruled ineligible after violating CIS academic policy. Gaels head coach Pat Sheahan confirmed Morgan’s ineligibility at a press conference Thursday.
Morgan transferred to Queen’s last season after spending multiple seasons with the NCAA’s University of Virginia Cavaliers. He played in the Gaels’ first two games of the 2014 season, including a 39-30 victory over the Windsor Lancers on Sept. 1, which will now be recorded as a 1-0 Gaels loss.
The team’s home loss to the Ottawa Gee-Gees on Sept. 6 will remain a 37-30 defeat, dropping the Gaels’ record to 0-2 on the year.
In addition to forfeiting both games, Morgan won’t be allowed to play for the remainder of the season. Named OUA defensive player of the week for his 11.5-tackle performance against Ottawa, his statistics from the season will no longer count.
In a statement read by Sheahan on Thursday, Morgan accepted responsibility for his ineligibility.
“I accept the fact that, ultimately, the responsibility for ensuring I meet the eligibility requirements is mine,” the statement read. “I apologize to the Athletics department and my teammates for the problems this has caused and the setback it creates for the team’s standing this season.”
Athletics found Morgan to be academically ineligible and self-reported the infraction to the CIS on Wednesday.
Director of Athletics and Recreation Leslie Dal Cin said Wednesday that the ineligible player, later confirmed to be Morgan, was flagged in Athletics’ academic eligibility tracking report earlier this week. The infraction stems from Morgan’s academic standing from the 2013-14 school year.
CIS athletes are expected to pass 18 credits per academic year. Sheahan said Morgan failed to do so in 2013-14, but was not on any academic probation lists.
Sheahan said that while the forfeit of the Windsor game is disappointing, the team remains supportive of Morgan.
“The whole of idea of forfeiting the victory at Windsor, it was a body blow, no question about that. That one hurt,” he said. “But by the same token, we’ve rallied around Brendan, as we’re going to. We’re going to stand by him through this time because it’s difficult.”
Morgan’s identity as the ineligible player wasn’t revealed until Thursday. Sheahan said waiting a day allowed the program to confirm all the details.
“I think it required the better part of 24 hours just to make sure that we had everything organized and make sure the communication was appropriate,” he said. “I think it was appropriately handled.”
In addition to forfeiting the two games Morgan participated in, Athletics will be under CIS probation for two years. The case will be examined by a CIS panel, which could place further sanctions on the football program, including fines.
Dal Cin said she doesn’t know what sanctions will come from the panel, but said Wednesday that she doesn’t think they’ll be severe.
“We feel based on the fact of our clean record for 20 years, the fact that we self-reported, the fact that we already determined how the error took place, plus we’ve already done manual checks on everyone else, that there’s not a broader scope here,” she said.
“We’re putting our best case forward and think all those factors will be taken into account by the panel.”
Dal Cin said Athletics’ program for checking academic eligibility is considered one of the best in the country.
“We’re going to be looking into ways — our program is good — but how can we make it even better,” she said. “That will mean we’ll put in additional checks, we’ll put in additional contact points with athletes and coaches along the way. We’ll strengthen an already strong system.”
In addition, Dal Cin said Vice-Provost and Dean of Student Affairs Ann Tierney has started a review of Athletics’ academic eligibility process.
Queen’s next football game is Saturday at Richardson Stadium against the Western Mustangs (1-0).
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