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I’m going to try and solve a problem. At least for half of the country. The American Collegiate Rugby Championship started something in the fall of 2013, and I’ve got some suggestions on how to enhance it later this year.
Get the Big Ten fully bought in. Having teams opt out of your postseason isn’t a good look.
Get the Ivy League bought in. I don’t really understand why they weren’t already bought in. They really have just two 7s weekends in the fall, so it’s not like they invest big in that.
The SEC is sitting on the fence about fall rugby, but it’s starting to sound like they’re swaying towards a seasonal shift.
Football culture in the South is the biggest barrier to fall league play, but I think avoiding a polar vortex might be the ultimate motivator. Help the SEC get creative with Friday night games that coordinate with the SEC football schedule and push them over the fence and into the ACRC.
The South Independent also seems to be interested in a switch to the fall. The football thing still pertains to some of the SIRC’s teams, but get over it.
Ask the Heart of America if they want in. I’m from this part of the country and know many of the coaches and players in this conference personally. Good rugby people, but for some reason they’re resistant to change and sometimes all too adherent to USA Rugby’s edicts. Not a make-or-break for the ACRC if the HOA doesn’t want in. No Dartmouths or Davenports to miss out on.
Here’s maybe the toughest one, though it shouldn’t be. Get the Mid-South. It’s pound-for-pound the best league in America. It’s tough because Arkansas State and Life have committed to 7s and won the only three USA Rugby 7s National Championships. Well, Life, you now have a more prestigious 7s championship to go after in the CRC, and Arkansas State, if everyone in my hypothetical ACRC commits to playing toward a spring 7s tournament, you don’t lose much.
Davenport needs fall 15s. Lindenwood could surely use it. Arkansas State and Life can go either way, and what they lose in 7s they don’t in 15s, and they get to play 15s when it’s lovely everywhere in the conference. The only match from Life’s entire run to the DI-A title last season that couldn’t be had in my ACRC is the final against St. Mary’s, as every other postseason game was against an eastern team. You really going to let one game stand in the way of progress?
Army rugby is back on campus, so draft them back into the Rugby East. People are working to get Delaware’s death penalty mitigated. Put them in the Rugby East when/if they get back on campus. Navy, you don’t play that much fall 7s. Get back in the ACRL or the Rugby East. Same with you Notre Dame.
Now, in order for this to really work in a knockout postseason tournament, we will need to extend the postseason a week. I know that’s tough. Some may say impossible. I don’t buy it.
If Harvard can proctor exams while on cross-country flights for USA Rugby’s Nationals, if teams can play their biggest 7s tournament well after the conclusion of their academic years, if teams who claim they can only play one game a week because of player welfare routinely bend that rule when traveling far for friendlies, tours or regular season games, and if Dartmouth can sustain the loss of juniors every winter term, we can find an extra week at the beginning or end of the season for one more round of postseason play in the fall. Or, gasp, we can have one double-weekend in the postseason.
Some conferences will have to adjust their seasons. The SEC might need to knock out its semifinals and just run a championship game. The Ivy might need to go to a round-robin schedule, or pare down its playoffs. The Empire might have to start the last week of August or be open to mid-week games if it wants to leave an open weekend for possible postponements.
But. It’s. Doable.
The benefit would be a full regular season followed by a highly competitive postseason and a spring for each team to do what it wants – play in a 7s circuit, towards an ACRC 7s title, prep for the CRC, play in the Varsity Cup, stay in the DI-A or DI-AA postseason mix should they continue to exist, plan a tour, go tournament-heavy, or focus on strength and conditioning and recovery.
With this mock bracket I pulled from the hypothetical ACRC makeup, you could have semifinals of Life vs. Army and Arkansas State vs. Kutztown or Lindenwood. That’s a pretty great competition.
No, it’s not really a true National Championship. But neither is DI-A,
DI-AA or the Varsity Cup. But it’s a defined 15s season. And it’s outside
USA Rugby’s clinch. If you’re feeling really froggy, don’t CIPP your
players (as some teams have already begun doing) and instead invest that
money toward postseason travel and whatever shiny bells and whistles strike