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Team could have to forfeit 8 wins

November 2, 2002

By Gail Wood

Olympia, WA - Niki Claussen has been ruled ineligible to play on the women's soccer team at The Evergreen State College because she has a degree from Washington State.

Because Evergreen played with an ineligible player the school may have to forfeit eight victories.

Evergreen learned last week that Claussen has a degree in zoology from Washington State. NAIA rules prohibit athletes with undergraduate degrees from playing at schools other than where the degree was earned.

Evergreen athletic director Dave Weber reported the violation to the NAIA.

"There was no intent to deceive on anyone's part," Weber said.

Evergreen learned of Claussen's academic background during an interview by the school's sports information director, Jim Portune. Claussen had been named Cascade Conference's player of the week and Portune was working on a story.

Claussen, a forward from Shelton, never played college soccer before coming to Evergreen.

"Niki was eligible in every other way," Weber said.

Claussen participated in a Running Start program while at Shelton High School and took classes at South Puget Sound Community College. She graduated from WSU in just four semesters. She submitted a transcript from WSU to Evergreen, but the spot where her degree was mentioned was in an unusual position, Weber said.

"Once we realized the error, we moved quickly to correct it," he said.

Claussen scored five goals and had an assist in victories against Southern Oregon and Oregon Tech, earning her the conference player of the week award. For the season, she had 10 goals and two assists in 15 games.

Evergreen is still waiting for a decision on whether the school will have to forfeit any games.

Evergreen's record would change from 9-8 overall and 9-5 in conference to 1-16 and 1-13. The Geoducks are in third place and assure of a playoff berth if no forfeits are required.

If Evergreen has to forfeit the games, it will need victories in its remaining games against Eastern Oregon and Albertson to make the playoffs.

"It's painful," Weber said. "This may well be the best women's team Evergreen has ever had. None of that should be ignored. But as an institution, we need to follow the rules of the organizations we belong to, leaving us no choice but to report the violations."