Penn State

Penn State rugby: Coach resigns, program reinstated after university investigation of alleged arson

The head coach of Penn State’s men’s rugby team resigned Friday, just after the program was reinstated by the university, athletics spokesman Jeff Nelson said in a news release.

Don Ferrell resigned “immediately,” and Chris Amoratis was named interim coach, Nelson said.

Penn State suspended the men’s rugby team in March after two players, Sean Herbert and Christopher Petri, were charged in connection with a January fire that destroyed a shed used to store equipment for the rugby and cross-country teams.

Penn State conducted an investigation that concluded that a “limited number of players” had any connection to the incident, David Joyner, director of athletics, said Friday.

“We are extremely disappointed that two members of Penn State’s rugby program were allegedly involved with and have been charged with arson for the fire that led to the destruction of the rugby and cross country teams’ shed on Jan. 14,” Joyner said in a release. “However, based upon the results of a thorough investigation by the Office of Student Conduct, Penn State Intercollegiate Athletics has determined that a very limited number of players were connected to the incident in any way. A vast majority of them were unaware of the crime’s connection to the team. As a result, the team’s suspension has been lifted immediately.”

Police said that while investigating the fire, they 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 showed.

On the night of the fire, police said, Herbert and Petri were at a party in their North Patterson Street home, known as the Rugby House because several players live there. The two left the party with a lighter and a bottle of lighter fluid, police said in the court documents.

Herbert and Petri are accused of then setting fire to the shed, located near the Red A parking lot next to the university soccer fields on North Atherton Street.

People at the party, including multiple rugby players, were venting frustrations with the status of the team, police said.

Penn State’s 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, according to its website.

Joyner said team members cooperated during the university investigation.

“After meeting with the team’s student leaders, we feel strongly that positive strides are being made to honor and respect the history and legacy of rugby at Penn State. We also believe that team members will positively represent themselves, their teammates, Intercollegiate Athletics and Penn State in a first-class manner at all times,” Joyner said. “Although this was an extremely unfortunate situation, we are confident that the men’s rugby program will learn and grow stronger as a result.”