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As college preseason’s begin across the country, it is time to take a look at the conference realignments that seam to take place every year. DIA saw an increase in teams once again this season jumping from roughly 50 to 70 teams. DIA Conferences are slated to take part in both the fall and the spring, with some playing some combination of the two. Below is a breakdown of what we know about the status of DIA conferences coming into the 2017-2018 campaign.
DIA will reach close to 70 teams this year thanks to the emergence of the Liberty Conference. The three-division conference based out of the Northeast will feature a mixed bag of teams that used to be the ECRC, the Empire, former Rugby East squads and several teams that played in DII and NSCRO. It will be a big jump for these teams to compete in DIA. Look for Boston College and Iona to lead the pack here.
Rugby East saw a bit of a shakeup with Delaware and Iona opting to move to the Liberty Conference and the status of Wheeling Jesuit still in flux. For now, the team is still competing in Rugby East.
Although Iona and Delaware departed the conference, Rugby East picked up former DIAA, Notre Dame College. With Army, Penn State, Kutztown, St. Bonaventure and Buffalo continuing to get better, this conference will be one of the most competitive in DIA this year.
The Big Ten remains relatively unchanged in terms of teams but the format for conference play will differ drastically this season. Due to big differences in the level of play from top to bottom across the division, the conference elected to change the competition structure. The top half of the division consisting of Ohio State, Indiana and Wisconsin will play a home and home with each of the other two and one of the lower tier teams. In the instance that a lesser team ranked team finishes with a better record than one of the top tier teams, they will have to have beaten that team to finish ahead of them for playoff seeding. The hope is that this will give middle and lower tier teams the chance to play more competitive matches and improve throughout the course of the year.
Formerly known as the West, the Rocky Mountain has a relatively similar dynamic to last season. However, the conference did vote in Utah Valley University. The Wolverines had a strong finish to last season, defeating UCLA in the first round of the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup. After playing in DIAA in the past, UVU is ready to test its meddle in DIA. The other notable thing about the Rocky Mountain is the omission of BYU. The Cougars applied to become a member of the conference but were voted down by the member teams earlier this year. Air Force, Colorado State, Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming and Utah make up the rest of the field.
The Red River sees conference action in both the fall and spring but plays the bulk of its conference action in the spring. There are no changes to the Red River Conference. Baylor and LSU should continue to battle for the top billing but Arkansas could make a run for it as the Razorbacks have been steadily improving over the past couple of seasons.
Like the Red River, the Mid South starts its conference schedule in late fall and runs through the spring. The Mid South always runs through Life, as the Running Eagles have been to five consecutive DIA national title games. Lindenwood and Arkansas State are both strong, but the latter is looking for a new head coach after Shaun Potgeiter elected to pursue further education. Clemson and Davenport will continue to struggle to get wins in what is probably the deepest conference in the country. The five team division will battle it out and likely all will head to either one post season or another.
This conference remains the same except for the addition of DIAA powerhouse UC-Davis. Davis had won two consecutive DIAA titles before being upended by Notre Dame College this past year. The Aggies will face stiffer competition with Santa Clara, Cal Poly and the explosive San Diego State. All of these teams will continue to look up at perennial power St. Mary’s in 2017-2018.
This conference will continue to be led by Cal. The Golden Bears are fresh off a Varsity Cup and Penn Mutual CRC title and with a strong group returning, will once again be formidable. Arizona is eager to build upon a DIA final four appearance and UCLA is looking to bounce back from a less than stellar 15s season by their standards.
Despite an on field incident that saw the Arizona State program suspended last season, the team will be back to compete this season in PAC play. USC and Stanford will join them.
Thanks to the rejection from the Rocky Mountain Conference, BYU will once again play an independent schedule. Navy, who appears to be joinging the Rugby East next year, will also play an independent schedule. Finally, Grand Canyon, who had a solid foray in DIAA last season, will jump to DIA as an independent.
As in years past, there will most likely be two post-season options for DIA teams. The DIA national championship sponsored by USA Rugby and the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup are both on the table for 2018. Twelve of the 14 teams (Notre Dame is technically not DIA and the Dartmouth plays in Ivy which is technically DIAA) that competed in the Varsity Cup last season are slated to participate in the DIA regular season but in all likelihood will once again compete in the Varsity Cup in 2018.
There have, however, been talks of expanding and/or format changes to the Varsity Cup that could make it more enticing to DIA programs to join. On the same note, DIA has indicated that the field will most likely expand from 12 to 16 teams this year for its national championship.
Stay tuned for more updates on the 2017-2018 DIA campaign.
|Arkansas State||Cal Poly||Arizona||BYU|
|Clemson||San Diego State||Arizona State||Grand Canyon|
|Liberty||Rugby East||Big Ten||West||Red River|
|Boston College||Notre Dame College||Michigan||New Mexico||LSU|
|Colgate||Penn State||Michigan State||Utah State||Oklahoma|
|Fairfield||Wheeling Jesuit||Ohio State||Texas A&M|