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For the first time in its eight-year history, the Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship will have a second open qualifier – the Heart of America Classic. The winner of the 24-team field at the Heart of America, held March 25-26, 2017 in Kansas City, will win an automatic bid to the nationally-televised Penn Mutual CRC June 3-4, 2017 in Philadelphia.
Traditionally, the majority of CRC competitors have either been invited or won their way in via conference-based qualifiers. The only qualifying tournament open to any and all comers has been the Las Vegas Invitational. Central Washington won its way into the big dance via the LVI in 2011, Life in 2012, Arkansas State in 2015 and Utah in 2016.
The CRC division at the LVI has produced some of the best fields ever seen in collegiate 7s, and with the final having been played inside Sam Boyd Stadium between HSBC Sevens World Series matches, it’s provided the largest live crowds to ever watch collegiate 7s. The CRC itself has seen its crowd grow immensely in recent years, too, exploding to over 27,000 this year. The tournament field itself has grown from 20 to 24 teams.
The emergence of the HOA as a CRC qualifier gives teams from across the nation a potential second bite at the cherry, and it’s already attracted some teams from big-name universities like Nebraska, Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, Kansas State and Iowa State.
"We’re excited to have the Heart of America Classic as another Penn Mutual CRC qualifier," said tournament director Jon Hinkin. "We believe that the teams represented in this tournament are of strong quality. Couple that with this being another open qualifier, along with the LVI, gives us the potential inclusion of as many universities as possible within USA Rugby’s collegiate landscape."