The 2006 Army-Europe community level basketball tournament tipped off Thursday morning in Hanau, Germany, with Mannheim, the regular-season Northern Region champions, relegated to spectator status.

The Mustangs were informed Wednesday that they were being disqualified for having too many civilians on their rosters, player Alki Henry said in a telephone interview.

In an effort to maximize soldier participation in Army-Europe sports, an Army-Europe regulation specifies that 75 percent of a team’s roster must consist of active-duty players. With the 12-player limit for the Army-Europe tournament, no more than three members can be civilians.

“I worked on the [tournament] roster with the coach (Theotis Green),” Henry said. “There were only three civilians on it.”

Army-Europe sports director James Mattingly said Mannheim’s tournament roster wasn’t in dispute. He said two regular-season violations doomed Mannheim’s chance to play in the tournament.

“I saw a roster with five civilians on it for the Darmstadt game and another game during the regular season,” he said by telephone Thursday morning. “Each of them was a forfeit for using ineligible civilian players. Two forfeits and you’re dropped from the league.”

Henry freely admitted that the Mustangs suited up four and even five civilians during the season, and that only one team, Darmstadt, protested the situation. He presumed that the lack of impact by the civilians on the outcome might have been the reason for the other opponents’ apparent indifference to the illegal roster.

“Those guys never scored any points,” he said. “They mainly sat on the bench.”

Henry said the 75 percent rule has not been enforced in the past.

“We didn’t even know we had too many civilians,” he said. “Heidelberg won the title last year and they had lots of civilians on their roster.”

Mattingly said the rule has been in effect for quite some time.

Henry, who returned from Iraq in December in time to play his fifth season with the Mustangs, said his team is frustrated by the action.

“We’re just trying to represent the community,” he said. “This is the last season for me and two other military guys. We just wanted a chance to win for our community.”

Eight men’s and women’s teams are scheduled to conclude round-robin play Friday at Cardwell and Pioneer gyms in Hanau. Double-elimination play begins Saturday, with the championship games scheduled for 1 and 3 p.m. Sunday at Pioneer casern.

All four finalists advance to the Army-Air Force Final Four, March 30-April 2 at Vogelweh gym in Kaiserslautern.

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