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Brendan Morgan identified as academically ineligible player at Queen’s

September 11, 2014

By CLAUDE SCILLEY

The football player declared to be academically ineligible by Queen’s University Wednesday is described by his coach as “a model citizen, ever since his arrival at Queen’s.”

Brendan Morgan is a pleasure to work with and a fine young man, Pat Sheahan said. “He just happens to find himself in an unfortunate situation.”

Morgan was identified Thursday as the player Queen’s disclosed to Ontario University Athletics and Canadian Interuniversity Sport who should not have played in the Golden Gaels’ first two games of the season because he was academically ineligible to do so.

As a result, both games were ordered forfeit, and that meant Queen’s Labour Day victory at Windsor was stricken from the books. Forfeiture was moot for the Gaels’ other game, which they lost to Ottawa.

A defensive back from Pickering, Ont., Morgan transferred to Queen’s from the University of Virginia. He arrived last fall as a running back but early on he was moved to defence, where his play earned him a spot in the East-West Bowl, a spring showcase for players entering their professional draft year.

Morgan was named the OUA’s defensive player of the week this week, for his 10-tackle performance in the losing cause Saturday against Ottawa.

In a routine check of transcripts Wednesday, it was revealed that Morgan had not completed the requisite 18 credit hours between playing seasons, in violation of CIS rule 40.10.3.3.1

At a news conference Thursday, Sheahan read a statement from Morgan:

“I accept the fact that ultimately the responsibility for ensuring I meet the eligibility requirements is mine. I apologize to the athletics department and my teammates for the problems this has caused and the setback this creates for the team’s standing this season. I am devastated by the situation. I wish it had not happened and I wish the team the best for the rest of the season.”

Previous checks of his eligibility did not reveal the deficiency, athletics director Leslie Dal Cin said in an interview Wednesday.

“We do a series of reports and the report came up clean for a couple of weeks,” she said. “All of a sudden the athlete was flagged in a report.

“Our eligibility system has a number of checks and balances in it … we believe it was a situation of system and human error, in combination (that led to his being allowed to play).”

Without elaborating, Sheahan described it as “a very unfortunate set of circumstances.”

“This seems to be he’s the victim of a perfect storm.”

The academic requirement to remain eligible, Sheahan added, “is something that every athlete knows, or should know.”

“In this case, it was misunderstood.”

At Thursday’s news conference Sheahan said there was no reason to suspect anything was wrong, with respect to Morgan’s status.

“There was no imminent catastrophe there,” he said. “We had a few situations that needed to be dealt with (in training camp),” he said. “There was a little scrambling with some other athletes … but there was no mention of him. That’s part of the reason I believe it slipped through the cracks. He wasn’t on any academic probation list, he was in good standing, the credit deficiency didn’t pop up.”

Team members learned the news in the dressing room late Wednesday afternoon from Janean Sergeant, manager of the interuniversity sport program, as they were preparing to take the field for practice.

“There was a little bit of shock,” Sheahan said. “Rarely is there complete silence in that area, but there was complete silence.

“There was undoubtedly some disappointment, on many levels. We’re a very tight team, and Brendan is a very popular member of the team. There was definitely sadness for both him and the team that we would no longer have him participating. The whole idea of forfeiting the victory at Windsor was a body blow, no question about that. That one hurt. That was a hard-earned victory; to give it back is very difficult.”

Nonetheless, Sheahan said, the team then proceeded to have a good practice.

“They responded the way Queen’s student-athletes and the way young men are supposed to: You look adversity in the face,” he said. “We don’t have much time to deal with it because there’s another challenge coming down the road in about 48 hours, so we’re on to the next thing.

“The kids, I would say, handled the news appropriately.”

As the Gaels prepare for their game Saturday against the defending Yates Cup champion Western Mustangs, Sheahan was asked if the situation surrounding Morgan would be a distraction or a rallying point.

“Probably both,” he said. “I think you can forgive the kids for dealing with a little bit of shock last night but … this is the same thing as if a very good player got injured. It wouldn’t be welcome news but it is something you very quickly have to deal with and you have to get past. After the initial shock of it all our guys got back to the preparation for Western and I thought it was a pretty spirited practice, to be honest with you.

“We continue to lament Brendan’s loss from active duty but by the same token we understand that come Saturday it’s not going to matter much once the two teams take the field. We’ve got to move on, because we have to, and I think the players are in the process of doing that now.”

Morgan is eligible this year for the Canadian Football League draft, and Sheahan said he would be welcome to continue practising with the team.

“He’s a member of our team,” Sheahan said. “Our coaching staff is going to do all we can to let everybody at the professional level know he is a superior athlete. He performed well in the East-West game last spring, so he’s on the radar as a (prospect) for this year’s draft.

“Provided that he has a good academic year, and I see no reason why he won’t, should he require another year of CIS participation he’s more than welcome to come back to Queen’s next year.”

 

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