Penn State rugby team suspended amid arson claims
STATE COLLEGE (AP) – Penn State has suspended its men’s rugby team amid claims two players torched the team’s storage shed and an investigation that revealed what police call the team’s discontent with its coach.
The university said Friday the team had been placed on summary suspension from practice and games against Navy and Susquehanna scheduled for this weekend have been canceled.
Two rugby team members, identified in court documents as Sean Herbert, 21, and Christopher Petri, 22, were charged Monday with felony arson and other crimes stemming from a Jan. 15 fire that destroyed an equipment shed for the rugby and cross-country teams. The fire caused more than $30,000 in damage.
Herbert and Petri were arraigned and released on $25,000 unsecured bail each. Their preliminary hearing is scheduled for Wednesday. It couldn’t immediately be determined Friday if they had attorneys.
Police, while investigating the fire, interviewed members of the team, coaches and staff and learned of “ongoing issues of discontent within the ranks” of the team over disagreements “with the head coach, his coaching style and the overall status of the team,” a criminal complaint said.
Head coach Don Ferrell declined to comment on Friday, citing the ongoing investigation.
Penn State’s Office of Student Conduct has started a judicial review of the case, and the athletics department also is reviewing the matter, the university said in a statement. There will be no further comment from the university until the reviews are complete, it said.
The rugby program is classified by the university as a team sport, rather than a club sport, and because of that is part of Penn State’s intercollegiate athletics department.
Penn State’s rugby began in 1962, when a graduate student from New Zealand and a research associate from England met and lamented the lack of any team field games at the university, according to its website. The men’s and women’s rugby programs have since established themselves as elite programs in the country, it says.