Taken from USA Racquetball’s National Intercollegiate Championship entry form:
"STUDENT PARTICIPATION: A student enrolled in a recognized U.S. college or university shall be eligible to compete in the U.S. National Intercollegiate Championships if they: • are a full-time student as defined by the individual U.S. school entered • are making satisfactory progress toward a degree • have been enrolled full time at the same school, for one complete term prior to - and including - the term in which competition is scheduled and • meet all the requirements above, but are taking only the final courses that are necessary to graduate in the semester in which the competition is scheduled. In the event a member school is represented by a player who is found to be ineligible, all points earned by that player will be forfeited and said participant disqualified. A player will be permitted four (4) years of intercollegiate competition. Eligibility will be governed by the United States Intercollegiate Council.
ELIGIBILITY: Only U.S. colleges or universities may compete in the Intercollegiate Championships. VERIFICATION: MANDATORY! A list of all participants, certified by the registrar (bearing official seal) and indicating name, classification, years of competition used, and the number of hours enrolled shall be sent to the tournament director prior to competing in the national intercollegiate championship."
On the day Erik Garcia was set to travel to Arizona for the USA Racquetball Collegiate National Tournament, he was informed that he was ineligible to play. Erik Garcia is enrolled in CSU Pueblo’s English Language Institute as a full time student. The roll of the institutions program is to fully prepare their full time, non-English speaking students for college course work. Erik who is from Chihuahua, Mexico, lives on campus and attends classes everyday (fulltime) as well train alongside his CSU Pueblo’s racquetball teammates. Prior to his tournament disqualification, he was the teams #2 Gold player and a part of their #1 Gold doubles team. So, upon being informed of the situation, Erik was naturally very disappointed and was left disheartened.
With Garcia’s disqualification, it became necessary for CSU Pueblo’s coach Richard Krinsky to quickly rearrange his team standings for the draw. This after many attempts by Krinsky, to fully address Erik’s “fulltime” status with USA Racquetball, well ahead of the tournament date. (There had been a precedent set with a similar situation some years back, where the student was allowed to play.) The “why Erik’s paperwork was singled out” may be a matter that has to do with a deliberate attempt to disrupt a team that was significantly ready to have a strong showing in the results. Or, it might just be something that is just a random sighting on radar, and Erik’s course load had been deemed “not collegiate enough”. Now, in the matter of the first speculation, if that were so, then that would just be a backhanded way for some to negatively impact a team for personal or competitive purposes. Universally, anyone can agree, that would just be foul. On the other hand, if the matter were just a situation that came about randomly, my take is, that, could be a far more significant problem for USA Racquetball.
My thinking on this generates questions. Why Erik’s paperwork? Which other students among the 227 players had their paperwork scrutinized? I’m more inclined to ask these two questions after there were reports about a particular team taunting CSU Pueblo players about how that team’s coach had gotten Garcia tossed out of the roster. And also hearing a term quoted to me, “not collegiate enough” run through my head. Words like “arbitrary”, “discriminatory” and “elitist” then naturally pop in and out of my thinking. Words that I do not associate with USA Racquetball. But that these words do pop in my head (in anyone's head,) in reference to a key USAR event, is more a problem for the organization, but in ways the organization may not realize.
If you look at the above USA Racquetball’s National Intercollegiate Championship Student Participation statement, that CSU Pueblo’s registrar deemed Garcia eligible, should have been enough. I know that a decision to uphold the event director’s and USAR collegiate council finding on Erik was indeed given by the executive board. That’s where the ball was dropped. I feel this way because it was at this point in time, (as well as with the college council,) that a true look at who and what Erik Garcia represents for racquetball in the US could have been recognized.
A hard and serious look at diversity issues would do USA Racquetball some good. I’m not talking about skin color, because addressing diversity is not about skin color. It’s about deeply looking at growth possibilities for racquetball in a way that would benefit the group as a whole through inclusion. Instilling diversity through an organization is not an easy thing to do and is often met with defensiveness. But once you work past these initial feelings, you get real buy-in. That is when big things start to happen. I’m thinking community colleges, alternative smaller colleges and accessing areas, programs and groups where currently USA Racquetball has no significant reach.