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The Elite Cup got a little jolt of life Wednesday night when USA Men's 15s Head Coach Mike Tolkin approached the four clubs supposedly involved and asked them to consider keeping the competition going.
Tolkin told the clubs that he wants the best players in America playing top competition, and that means, for teams in the East, the Elite Cup.
The reasons behind the Elite Cup folding (or coming close to it) are myriad, but boil down in part to personality conflicts between some of the clubs - notably Boston and Old Blue on one side, and NYAC (or elements of NYAC) on the other. NYAC was accused by more than one other club of "taking their ball and going home" because they didn't like it when votes went against them. NYAC, for their part, countered that they had agreed on a USA Rugby-supported schedule that was then not even put to a vote by the four clubs involved - Boston, Old Blue, NYAC, and Life University.
The schedule is a huge sticking point for these clubs. All want to fulfill their DI obligations - something USA Rugby insisted they do. And yet, the clubs found themselves in the ironic position of being told by some at USA Rugby (so the reports go) that they should double up on some weekends to accommodate the Elite Cup and DI.
Seattle-OPSB was not voted into the East Coast Elite Cup in large part because squeezing them in at the last minute threw a monkey wrench into the schedule (although, it was evident in early October that Seattle-OPSB was not going to join the Pacific Rugby Premiership ... plenty of time, it seemed for the East Coast teams to figure it out). In addition, NYAC bristled at having their biggest games being held in March, when the USA National Team will be in assembly.
This was depicted by Boston as a case of NYAC being difficult, but it's
difficult to fault a team wanting their best players for their toughest
competition - and club could lose players to the national team.
NYAC's desire to change the schedule was another late change the other clubs didn't like, although the World Cup Qualifier dates were confirmed on October 18, once again giving clubs plenty of time to plan and adjust. Still an Elite Cup schedule wasn't up for consideration until December.
But now it seems a late compromise has been reached. Currently, the Elite Cup might be back on. As league committee member Gary Heavner of Old Blue said, "it's on crutches at the moment."
If the Elite Cup returns, there will be no championship match; it will be a four-team round robin, with each team playing home and away against the other three. Some of those games will double up as DI club matches, as well. The plan will require a few fixtures to be moved around.