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Breckenridge and Cortez begin their new jobs in earnest the first week of June. Cortez is relocating from Wyoming to Boulder and will work from the USA Rugby national office full-time, while Breckenridge will work from her home, but join Cortez from dusk ‘til dawn the first week of June.
Their to-do list is indefinitely exhaustive, but Breckenridge and Cortez have picked out a few things to cross off first. One of them is to revamp, edit, freshen up the college operating document. Also circled as a priority is getting a handle on the conference restructure.
“We need to gather data that’s important in analyzing where our schools are now, where they want to be, and to assist them in any changes,” Cortez said.
“We need to get a status report from subcommittees on where the colleges stand right now, helping the people that need to get into a conference get into a conference and developing a pathway for the postseason,” added Breckenridge.
“Some schools may not meet a conference standing that receives an automatic qualifying berth, so we have to define what happens to those conferences that are less than seven members and developing pathways for that.”
The college department was non-existent until the hiring of Todd Bell. Then it was a department of one. Now it’s a department of two.
When Bell was still in office, he, along with the several in the USA Rugby hierarchy, called for a second paid administrator to overlook the women’s game. At first glance, it appears USA Rugby has hired one. However, Breckenridge and Cortez say they will not split their duties based on gender.
“Not even close,” Cortez said.
“I’ll be working just as intensely with the men’s division as Rich, and he’ll be just as involved with the women’s division,” added Breckenridge.
“We’ve been going back and forth on some issues that pertain to that very topic this morning and over the weekend. We will share so that we can both be comfortable and capable in both areas and share our strengths with each other to build this up to be the strongest tandem that we can be.”
Another issue immediately at hand is DI-A. The USA Rugby-run competition is in its second year, and depending on who you ask, its last leg.
Bell was essentially the commissioner for DI-A, as well as the administrator for the rest of college rugby. Cortez, coach of DI-A Wyoming, says the league still has some life in it, and that he and Breckenridge aren’t interested in being its commissioners.
“We expect it to continue. We expect to make major improvements on how it’s administered. We do not look to be the commissioners of DI-A,” said Cortez.
“I can tell you, and this is no secret, that we are looking to get a DI-A commissioner who can be an advocate for the programs and the division and look at all these things that are necessary: data gathering, examination of the stability of the individual programs, conference structures within DI-A, travel issues, media issues, how do we move it forward with appropriate media exposure and sponsorship, trying to pull some teams that have left back in and possibly try to keep some teams that are thinking about leaving.”
Cortez also emphasized communication as an area where the college department needs improvement.
“Certainly communication with all these schools needs drastic improvement, but we also want to approach all these issues with the idea that voices should be heard no matter whether they come from, a large school or a small school or a beginning school or a stable school in these competitions,” he said.
“Admittedly, we haven’t done the greatest job in getting input before decisions have been made. And I’m not talking about the national office versus us, I’m talking a lot of times that’s just what happens in an organization, so the earlier that we can get to these issues the more time we have to fully examine them.”
Last time USA Rugby added to the college department, it went outside of the sport and hired a public relations professional with experience in college football. This time, they’ve hired rugby people.
“Rugby is the best sport in the world because we have opinionated people. What we have to do is stop being our own worst enemies, include all points of view, build a consensus and go forward.”
I have worked as a volunteer administrator pretty much non-stop for the last eight, nine, 10 years, and this attracted me largely because the college game is such an important component of rugby right now,“ said Breckenridge, who is coming our of retirement to join USA Rugby.
“And I was eager, I have the time, and I have a strong interest. Bottom line, I wasn’t ready to be put out to pasture, yet. I still have the energy. I’m actually very refreshed and ready to take on all these challenges.”