The Ohio State University women rugby players who posed without shirts in front of the Lincoln Memorial on Saturday have apologized to the school, and in return, the team's suspension has been reversed. But that doesn't mean that the players are returning to the field any time soon.
Late Tuesday, university officials lifted a suspension imposed on the team the day before. But the same night, the Midwest Rugby Union, the regional governing body for rugby clubs, decided to bar the team from competition for the rest of the fall season.
"We felt that the girls needed to serve some punishment even though they broke no laws," said Tom Rooney, Ohio collegiate coordinator for the Midwest Collegiate Committee of the Midwest Rugby Union. "When you carry the university name, you need to be made aware that you are held to a higher standard."
At least a dozen of the 37 team members in town to compete against American University posed for a picture without jerseys or sports bras, and their stunt attracted national attention.
Matt Hull, president of the Ohio Rugby Union, said the players' actions have unfairly given the sport a bad image. "It was a silly thing to do and not what we would want to promote in rugby," he said.
The Midwest Rugby Union suspension means that the team will miss its two remaining regular-season games. It also will be ineligible for postseason play. The team may be placed on probation for the spring season.
On Saturday, the players called the picture nothing out of the ordinary for rugby, which one team member described as a "crazy" sport. But when they returned to Columbus, school officials weren't amused. They canceled the team's practices and remaining games while they interviewed the coaches and players about what happened in the nation's capital.
Although rugby is a club sport, rather than a varsity sport, at Ohio State, it still receives some university funding and represents the university when traveling off-campus, said David Williams, vice president for student and urban/community affairs.
Williams said he reinstated the team after players who admitted taking off their shirts apologized and discussed "things that they would like to do" to make up for it, he said, such as community service.