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Big Ten 7s, Saturday and Sunday in Cottage Grove, Wisc., is not only a big
deal because it pits some really great teams like Penn State, Ohio State
and Minnesota (think Youngbloodz in different jerseys) against one
another, but because it’s supposed to be the first-ever qualifying
tournament for the first-ever USA Rugby 7s national championship
We say supposed to be because USA Rugby has still not officially announced the creation of such a tournament, though we know through multiple sources, including members of the college Competitions Committee and the USA Rugby Board and Congress, the competition has been created and was presented to the committee as a must-do priority.
Competitions Committee chair Kevin Battle has been out of reach the last few weeks, because he’s an assistant manager for the Eagles as they prepare for and compete in the World Cup. So we talked to another member of the committee -- Pat Kane -- also the head coach of Wake Forest and co-director of the Atlantic Coast Invitational, one of the tournaments slotted as a qualifier for the clandestine competition.
“I’ll say that it has been a frustrating experience…The Big Ten tournament is this weekend, and it’s a qualifier, and there’s not even been an official press release from USA Rugby that this thing is actually happening, which is just beyond me,” he said.
“I’ve seen the inner workings of USA Rugby go slow before, but our competition is kicking off on Saturday and we haven’t officially announced the competition, which is just mind boggling.”
Per RUGBYMag.com’s last conversation with Battle, who has informed the rest of the committee that he has to step back during the Eagles World Cup run, we knew there was going to be a series of tournaments (he said 12) of which the winners would receive an automatic bid to the national championships, slotted for December in a warm-weather climate.
At the time, Battle would not divulge the tournaments. Kane obliged, and said the following 12 tournaments are planned qualifiers:
East Coast Rugby Conference, Ivy League, Southeastern Collegiate Rugby, Atlantic Coast Invitational, Independence Conference, Big 12, Big Ten, Delaware Invitational (Delaware, Kutztown, Navy, etc.), Pac 12, California Invitational (St. Mary’s, UCSB, SDSU, Cal Poly, etc.) Northwest Collegiate Rugby Conference and a Mountain West-esque tournament (BYU, Air Force, etc.).
Kane said there are still two more tournaments which may end up as qualifiers: a Midwest/MAC tournament (Bowling Green, Miami of Ohio, etc) and a New York State (Syracuse, St. Bonaventure, Stony Brook, etc.) event.
Of the fact that all the qualifiers aren’t set in concrete Kane said, “That’s sort of one of the open-ended things you would have thought would have been closed by now but is not.”
The national championship is supposed to have 24 teams, so subtract that by however many qualifiers produce champions and that’s how many at-large bids there will be.
“The plan is to have Al Caravelli and his stable of regional evaluators he’s accumulated over the course of his time scouring this country for 7s talent assist in the evaluation process,” said Kane. “They will be on site at the tournaments, as well as reviewing film that the tournaments are to submit to USA Rugby for the purpose of evaluating games for at-large bids.”
However, who has the final say on which teams receive the at-large bids may still be another open-ended thing. In our last conversation with Battle, which happened prior to the discovery of Caravelli having a hand in the selections, the final say belonged to the Competitions Committee. But Kane could not confirm that to be true.