Thursday, February 21, 2013

College Rugby Initiative

A few girls high school leagues have joined Wisconsin with a conference season played in the fall.  The arguments are numerous, but for us, simply, it comes down to great weather, more consistency in playing weekends, and greater coach, referee, and field availability, since we aren't competing with boys rugby.  Kansas made the move last year and Colorado set the girls in the fall several years ago.

Our rugby friends in the collegiate world have been trying to figure out some similar issues.  The re-printed article below is a rather provocative letter on the collegiate rugby world as it works to adjust to a complex schedule that now include more 7's and 15's rugby:

AMERICAN COLLEGIATE RUGBY INITIATIVE
from http://collegiaterugbyinitiative.wordpress.com/:

This initiative has been set up to make sure that the coaches of college teams, and others vested in the college game, decide what is best for their players and programs.

The goal is that all decisions ensure that we improve, strengthen, and grow men’s and women’s college rugby at all levels and in all parts of the USA.

The major issue with which we are concerned is the creation of a structure for both 15-a-side rugby and 7-a-side rugby that is compatible with our stated goal and is in the best interests of student-athletes.

We need to address when we can play both 15s and 7s in single continuous seasons

We want to better support the development of 7s so that our men and women have the best chance of qualifying for the Olympics.

We want to be fully supportive of Women’s Rugby becoming a varsity sport.

Currently, USA Rugby stages the Collegiate National Championships for 15s for Division I & II Men & Women in the Spring (April & May) and has a National 7s Championship in the Fall (November/December). However, the majority of college teams play their conference 15s season games in the Fall.

It is of major significance that 56% of the college teams in the country have to stop playing through the winter, due to weather and in most instances snow and frozen ground, and resume in late March or early April, just 3 weeks or less before the playoffs. Five (5) of eight (8) Division I Conferences play the bulk of their 15s season in the Fall and have a maximum of one (1) Fall weekend to play 7s. A further 21% of college teams play a split season with some Fall and some Spring games. This means that a total of 77% of college teams play 15s in the Fall.

Because of what Mother Nature gives them they concentrate on 15s in the fall and are left with minimal if any preparation for the National 7s.

The problem is that the majority of teams can’t play a full 15s spring season given the number of weekends available once the weather has improved. They would love to do so, as using a fall season to recruit and develop a team would be a blessing. To then be able to go straight from conference games to national playoffs, as a small percentage of teams do now, without losing players to study abroad or varsity spring sports, would be a joy. It’s simply not even an option in the Northeast or Midwest parts of the country.

In order to strengthen, improve, and grow college rugby the American Collegiate Rugby Initiative proposes that the teams that play a Fall 15s schedule playoff amongst themselves to establish their regional champions.

The American Collegiate Rugby Initiative has heard from countless coaches, players, and college administrators and believes this will be in the best interests of the student-athletes and the game.
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