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Editor's note: the original version of this article incorrectly stated St. Mary's had received an invite to the CRC. St. Mary's has never received an invite to the CRC. A retraction of this mistake was published Jul 2, 2014. 

The Collegiate Rugby Championship annually comes under fire for the makeup of its tournament, and the latest round of shots have left the gun. The bottom line – there are some really good 7s teams that don’t play in the CRC, and some pretty poor teams that do.

St. Mary’s, BYU, Arkansas State, Central Washington, Utah and American International College aren’t involved. Why?

BYU cannot play on Sundays. That’s an easy one, and it’s well known. 

Utah played in the first two CRCs, declined to play in the third, and they haven’t been invited back since.

Does turning down the tournament once mean you’re forever barred? No. Did you see all those Rhino jerseys on the backs of teams at the CRC this year? The owners of the CRC, United World Sports, are also in the Rhino hustle. Utah was wearing new Rhino kit this spring. Coincidence? Maybe. Are people within UWS in contact with those at Utah, possibly looking at renewing a relationship? Maybe.

Arkansas State and St. Mary's inquired some years ago about how to go about getting into the CRC. They were told to go to the Las Vegas Invitational when it was a qualifier, and not only try to win their way in, but showcase what they have directly to UWS brass in person. Arkansas State and St. Mary's have never played in the LVI.

Kutztown made it known for years that it wanted to play in the CRC, but it wasn’t until 2013 that the Golden Bears actually broke in. Before that, KU regularly played at the LVI. Yes, Kutztown is local to Philadelphia and that helped, but it’s no closer now than it was in 2011 and 2012, when the Golden Bears were on the outside looking in. Delaware another example.

For what it’s worth, Arkansas State has been invited to join the Varsity Cup before, another UWS-related event, and said no thanks.

Is the selection of the CRC perfect? No. It’s not, and I won’t pretend it is. If it were up to me, Arkansas State and St. Mary’s would have standing invitations every year. They’re both DI NCAA schools with enough of a name brand, and a really high standard of play, that they’d make the competition more compelling.

This year’s semifinals of Cal vs. UCLA and Life vs. Kutztown were an awesome spectacle. Great athletes were tackling and dummying great athletes. The CRC desperately needs more of that, and the Gaels and Red Wolves would provide it.

I’d also give American International College, which bounced Kutztown from the ACRC Cup this spring, an invitation, should the event stay in Philadelphia, which isn’t a guarantee. UWS has invited Northeastern the last two years, presumably because they need a New England representative to try and draw in a few more fans. AIC helps fill that need, too, and the Yellow Jackets play some exciting 7s rugby.

I’d call it quits on the local pandering. Penn, Drexel, Temple and even St. Joe’s, don’t deliver enough butts in the seats to justify them being in the tournament. St. Joe’s was the best Philadelphia team in the tourney, though, and doesn’t drag down the standard.

The one piece of the puzzle no one considers with the local colleges is that they invest in the tournament. They may not provide a lot of fans, but they provide venues for the ancillary tournaments, and they buy advertising boards on the touch lines and commercial space. Not sure what value you can assign there, but these teams aren’t lighting up the turnstiles or the scoreboard at PPL Park.

I’d definitely bring the qualification back to the LVI. It made for an amazing sideshow to the IRB 7s in Vegas, it was a meeting ground for the east and the west, it allowed the Central Washingtons, Arkansas States, Davenports, Lindenwoods, etc. a chance to win their way in, and it gave the CRC a couple of credibility points with the rugby community, which it desperately needs.

The CRC also needs to do a better job of finding the Michigans, UCLAs and Virginia Techs – programs that provide big-name marketability, which is valued by NBC and UWS, that are also closing the gap between themselves and the Cals and Lifes of the world. And the CRC needs to cut bait with some of those other big-name programs that come back year after year and show little-to-no signs of closing the gap. Get serious, or get out. That’s not an easy task, identifying the coaches and leadership groups that not only want to close the gap, but are capable of doing it.

The point is, the CRC selection process isn’t perfect, but it’s not a farce. I’ve talked with tournament organizers on several occasions, and the UWS staff takes selection very seriously. They’ll admit they haven’t always made the right choices. However, they’re trying to do right, not only by their bottom line, but by the game of rugby as a whole.   

If it weren’t for the CRC, would Michigan have raised its standard of 7s play the same way? Would Virginia Tech? Would half of the rest of college rugby? There’s a big argument to be made that they wouldn’t.

Tournament organizers are trying to strike the balance between making a buck in the game of rugby (or at least not losing a bunch), developing the game, and putting it in the limelight. They’ve made strides in each of those categories. 

Comments

Well reasoned and well written.
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Excellent points!
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You voted '-1'.
Delete all the negative comments on the other articles? Classic RugbyMag
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The article is point on and fairly asses the situation. The CRC is an invitational tournament and an excellent one. Yes the quality of some of the teams present and not present is brought in view, BUT that is because of the attempt to make this a College Championship as the name implies. If the name was Philly Invitational like the Las Vegas Invitational then there would be no discussion. BUT again, that would not attract NBC. So the reason for the comments is justified, if you are going to bill something as a Championship, then manage it as a Championship and not an invitational. A simple compromise would be to name it the College Invitational Rugby Championships.
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Still a bit of a sham that they changed the brackets on Saturday night to be sure they could not end up with a Kutztown v Life final..........
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Simple fact in the world of rugby in the USA is every team and administrators thinks of themselves, their team, their games - but not of the development game as a whole. Everybody in the USA that has picked up a rugby ball feels like something is owed to them, not that they should go out and earn something for our development (as football, baseball and soccer have also had to do in the past). Instead we get into conversations like the ones above where people feel that getting other teams involved in CRC are going to make things better for the game in the USA - that somehow the general USA Rugby sports fan public are going to be engaged and support rugby if St. Mary's/Ark St/Lindenwood were to play in Philly this past weekend. The fact of the matter is there are more than enough quality brands and programs competing at PPL Park every year that showcase what a great game rugby is. However we as a sport like to come up with reasons why we don't support the event due to team selection. Until American rugby players and administrators step up to the plate and support their own game in terms of attendance, sponsorship and attitude - nobody outside of rugby is going to do it for us. CRC is the only platform to make a case for the progression of domestic rugby in the USA (USAR Sevens National championship in Greensboro had no TV and no sponsors, and was also an invitational!). Until rugby as a sport has enough responsibility to support our great game at all levels, we are never going to progress - it has to be a team effort. The CRC this past weekend achieved more for rugby in the USA, that any game in Chicago this November ever will, so it has to be applauded. However, all of us in rugby to start acting like a real sport if we want to be treated like one in the USA!
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Saint Mary's rugby has NEVER been invited to play in the CRC. Saint Mary's has been invited to play in a qualifier tournament and declined. The statement printed above: (A little known fact is that St. Mary’s has been invited to the CRC before and declined) is 100% inaccurate.
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