Winthrop University’s 2012 men’s soccer team was forced to forfeit its Big South Conference tournament championship because of an ineligible player, a conference official told The Herald on Friday.
The conference forced Winthrop to vacate the title after learning that a player accumulated too many penalty cards and did not sit out the title game in accordance with NCAA rules, said Kyle Kallander, conference commissioner.
Winthrop identified the player as midfielder Adam Brundle, a junior in 2012 who played this year.
The title was revoked immediately after the November 2012 tournament, but until Friday Winthrop and conference officials did not release any information about the penalty to the public.
Winthrop was required to forfeit the title because of a violation of the NCAA’s rules that govern how many penalty cards a player can receive before facing suspension. Big South officials referenced a violation of “Rule 12.11” as Winthrop’s offense but did not offer further details on Friday.
That NCAA soccer rule covers a range of scenarios, including players being forced to sit out a game after receiving a fifth yellow card in the regular season and players being allowed three extra yellow cards in postseason play.
Jack Frost of Winthrop’s athletic department said the championship was vacated because of “a rule interpretation regarding the yellow-card rule system.” He said the missed interpretation was not caught by Winthrop or the Big South Conference during the 2012 tournament.
“As a result, a Winthrop player was allowed to participate in the conference championship game when he should have been held out due to the card rule,” Frost, assistant athletic director for media relations, said in a statement released Friday afternoon. “Winthrop’s appearances in the NCAA tournament first and second round games were not affected.”
But Brundle and head coach Rich Posipanko were suspended for the post-season contests, Frost said.
Winthrop beat Coastal Carolina University on Nov. 11, 2012, to claim the Big South tournament championship. Coastal Carolina won the regular season championship.
The Eagles won by one goal and advanced to the NCAA tournament. Coastal Carolina was ranked 12th in the nation.
In the 2012 Big South tournament, Winthrop was seeded sixth among conference teams. The Eagles knocked out three higher-seeded teams during the conference tournament and advanced to the NCAA playoffs. Winthrop defeated Southern Methodist University in the first round but lost to Louisville in the second round.
It was “regrettable,” Kallander said, that the Eagles had to vacate the 2012 conference title.
Conference officials did not release information about the infraction because they did not see the need to, Kallander said.
Frost said Winthrop did not release any information before now because Big South officials asked the school to direct any inquiries to Mark Simpson, the conference’s assistant commissioner of public relations. “But we nor Mark received any requests for information,” Frost said.
Rules about the number of penalty cards a player can have can be complicated, Kallander said. But, he said, it is “part of the game” to effectively track a soccer player’s penalty cards.
Soccer game referees most commonly use yellow or red cards during play to issue penalties or caution players. Depending on the number of cards issued, penalties against players can result in suspensions.
A yellow card can be issued against a player who displays unsportsmanlike behavior, fails to give enough distance to an opponent attempting to corner-kick or throw-in to restart the game, or delays the game’s restart in some way, according to several soccer-related websites. A red card is a more severe penalty and can be issued against a player who is violent, uses abusive language or deliberately handles the soccer ball.
After learning that Brundle should have sat out of the 2012 championship title game, Kallander said, the Big South acted swiftly to rectify the issue. About one week after the title game, the Big South consulted with the NCAA and proceeded to strip Winthrop of its title.
Brundle, 21, of London, England, played three seasons at Winthrop. In 2012 he scored two goals and had three assists, and in 2013, he scored two goals and had five assists.
Frost said that after Winthrop was eliminated from the NCAA tournament, the school appealed Kallander’s decision to vacate the 2012 soccer championship to the league’s presidents, but the commissioner’s decision was upheld.
“Winthrop athletics has always been proud of its record of abiding by NCAA and Big South Conference rules and regrets that the yellow-card rule error occurred,” Frost said.
It’s rare, Kallander said, for a Big South team to have a championship title taken away, but the Winthrop men’s soccer team of 2012 is not the conference’s first.