Rugby Union is played throughout universities in the United States of America. College rugby is governed by USA Rugby, and not by the NCAA. More than 1,000 colleges have rugby teams. There are 854 college clubs (511 male, 343 female) registered with USA Rugby. College rugby is the largest section of USA Rugby's membership, with over 32,000 college players registered with USA Rugby.
Rugby has been played in universities since as early as the 1800s, but it was the 1960s when rugby really found a foothold in colleges, led by the Catholic colleges such as Notre Dame and particularly the Jesuit universities such as Boston College and St. Joseph's in Philadelphia.
Today, college rugby continues to grow in popularity, and rugby is one of the fastest growing sports across college campuses. The 32,000 registered college players in 2010 marked a 14% increase from 28,000 college players in 2008. The National Small College Rugby Organization grew from 85 teams in the 2007 to 151 teams in 2011 and to over 200 men's teams for 2012. Several schools have increased their investments in men's and women's rugby programs, by creating rugby programs with varsity or quasi-varsity status and funding for scholarships, and Notre Dame and Texas have upgraded their rugby programs from "club" status to "Olympic" status. Women's rugby is now classified by the NCAA as an emerging varsity sport.
There has been increased interest in college rugby (particularly in rugby sevens) from TV and other media since the International Olympic Committee's announcement in 2009 that rugby would return to the Summer Olympics in 2016. The highest profile college rugby sevens competition is the Collegiate Rugby Championship (CRC), which began in 2010. The CRC, which is played every June at PPL Park in Philadelphia, is televised live by NBC and NBC Sports and regularly draws attendances of 18,000. Dartmouth has been the most successful school at the CRC 7s, winning titles in 2011 and 2012. Several top schools started a competition in 2013 called the Varsity Cup, with the 2014 Varsity Cup final to be broadcast live on NBC Sports.
College rugby includes a national championship competition (since 1980). California has won the majority of titles, with Air Force and BYU being the only other schools that have won the championship multiple times. In 2011 a new Division 1-A was created with approximately 30 schools forming the new division.
- 1 Governance
- 2 Play and Participation
- 3 Promotion and Relegation
- 4 Varsity programs
- 5 Division 1 National Championships (15's)
- 6 College Rugby Sevens
- 7 Conference membership
- 8 Organization and Conferences
- 9 Conferences and Conference Tournaments
- 10 Other Competitions: Rivalry Trophies
- 11 Other Competitions: Divisions 2 - 4
- 12 See also
- 13 References
- 14 External links
In the United States, college rugby is governed by (in descending order of authority): USA Rugby, geographical unions (GUs) and local area unions (LAUs) (e.g., NERFU). USA Rugby has established a College Management Committee and a collegiate director, Rich Cortez, to oversee college rugby. The NCAA has no authority over college rugby. Often called a club sport, each college team is administered by either the athletic department or the student club department.
In 2011, USA Rugby continued to urge college rugby programs to adopt new conference structures similar to the conferences used by their other athletic programs. The highest profile example was the formation of the Ivy Rugby Conference in 2009. This move signals a shift away from the LAUs and TUs as the governing bodies for regional college rugby.
Play and Participation
Winter and spring are the primary seasons for conferences in the pacific, northwest and south regions (e.g., PAC, Southeastern); the fall is the primary season for conferences in the northeast, mid-atlantic and upper midwest regions (e.g., Big 10, Atlantic Coast). Conferences establish playing schedules in the primary season, while in the secondary season the teams often set up friendly matches or focus on playing rugby sevens.
USA Rugby maintains player eligibility guidelines, administered by the local area unions. College players generally have 5 years of rugby eligibility from the time they first enter college. On-field disciplinary issues are generally handled by the local area unions, while off-field disciplinary issues are governed by the academic institution and the local area union. USA Rugby's CIPP insurance program provides liability insurance to players, teams, administrators and pitch hosts in exchange for an annual dues payment.
Outstanding college rugby players are recognized as All-Americans. Qualified All-Americans can represent the United States in international tournaments by playing on the United States national under-20 rugby union team.
Promotion and Relegation
|This section needs additional citations for verification. (May 2012)|
Division and conference placement is primarily based on a rugby club's success from the previous year. Each Local Area Union (LAU) has its own rules of governance, but in most cases, the team that wins its division or conference has the right to advance to the next highest division or conference. Conversely, the club with the least success that year might be relegated to competing in the next lowest division or conference. Because a move to a different division or conference would have an impact on travel arrangements, some college clubs might resist promotion or relegation for budgetary reasons.
Some winning clubs choose not to exercise this right to advance, instead preferring to stay in the lower club division, either because they are a very small college with a small rugby budget, or because they wish to remain competitive against lesser opponents. For example, Furman University (an NCAA Division I institution) is a perennial Division III rugby powerhouse, yet they have consistently declined promotion to Division II. Similarly, Plymouth State University declined promotion to D2 despite winning the 2008 D3 NSCRO National championship.
Other clubs are offered promotion, despite not winning their conference, based upon their strength of play. For example, Iowa State Men's Club was allowed to move up to D1 from D2 because they had performed so well in the 2007 Big 12 tournament, losing to fifth ranked Texas A&M in overtime after winning the competition twice previously (while being the only D2 team competing). Southern Connecticut State University was moved from D3 to D2 despite losing to Salve Regina University 21-20 in the 2008 NERFU College Men's Division III Rugby Tournament. See also Promotion and relegation.
Most colleges classify their rugby programs as club sports rather than varsity sports. A small but growing number of universities, however, have begun offering rugby as a varsity sport, realizing that varsity rugby can be a profitable endeavor, as a successful varsity rugby program can quickly result in national championships and increased marketability. Other schools have promoted rugby to quasi-varsity status, committing resources for scholarships and for paid full-time coaches.
|University of California, Berkeley||D1-Pac-12||Berkeley, CA||1882||26 national championships since 1980|
|SUNY Maritime College||D3-Skyline||Bronx, NY||???|
|Paul Smiths College||(USCAA)||Paul Smiths, NY||???|
|Cal Maritime||(NAIA)||Vallejo, CA||2001||NSCRO ranked #1 (2009, 2010); runner up (2012)|
|Franciscan Univ. of Steubenville||D3-3RRC||Steubenville, OH||2001||NSCRO Ranked #1 (2012); finished 3rd at Nationals|
|Norwich||D3-GNAC||Northfield, VT||2008||D2 national playoffs (2013)|
|American International College||D2-Northeast 10||Springfield, MA||2009|
|Davenport||(NAIA)||Grand Rapids, MI||2009||D1-AA champion (2011, 2012)|
|Life University||(NAIA)||Atlanta, GA||2010||D1-A champion (2013); D1-A semifinals (2012)|
|Lindenwood||D2-MIAA||Saint Louis, MO||2011||D1-AA runner-up (2013); D2 champion (2012)|
|Wheeling Jesuit||D2-Mtn. East||Wheeling, WV||2012|
|Notre Dame College||D2-Great Lakes||Cleveland, OH||2012||2012 Great Lakes Conference Champion|
|Penn State||D1-Big 10||University Park, PA||2012||10 national semifinals (1989-2007)|
|Spring Hill College||(NAIA)||Mobile, AL||2013||TBD|
|Brigham Young University||D1-West Coast||Provo, UT||2003||4 National Championships since 2009|
|Central Washington University||D2-Great NW||Ellensburg, WA||2014|
|Army||D1-Patriot||West Point, NY||2014|
Women's Rugby: An Emerging Varsity Sport
The National Collegiate Athletic Association has identified women's rugby as an "Emerging Sport." An "Emerging Sport" must gain championship status (minimum 28 varsity programs for team sports) within 10 years, or show steady progress toward that goal to remain on the list. Until then, it is under the auspices of the NCAA and its respective institutions. With only 5 teams, Emerging Sport status allows for competition to include club teams to satisfy the minimum number of competitions bylaw established by the NCAA.
The NCAA identified women's rugby as an "Emerging Sport" in 2002 in light of the fact that nearly 350 collegiate women's rugby clubs were active. Growth was initially slow, with only 3 women's varsity programs forming within the first few years. The push for varsity rugby status received a boost in 2009 when the International Olympic Committee announced that rugby would return to the Summer Olympics in 2016. Although NCAA Division I programs dropped 72 women's varsity sports during the 2008-2012 timeframe due to the economic recession, women's rugby programs grew in number during that time frame.
- Eastern Illinois University (Division 1) (varsity since 2002)
- West Chester University (varsity since 2004)
- Bowdoin College (varsity since 2004)
- Norwich University (varsity since 2008)
- Quinnipiac University (Division 1) (varsity since 2010)
- Lindenwood University (varsity since 2011)
- Harvard University (varsity since 2013)
- Davenport University (varsity since 2013)
- Central Washington University (will offer varsity women's rugby beginning 2014)
- Life University (will offer varsity women's rugby beginning fall 2014)
- Brown University (will offer varsity women's rugby beginning fall 2014)
- Army (will offer varsity women's rugby beginning 2014)
Other schools, although not granting varsity status to women's rugby, commit significant resources, such as offering scholarships, paid coaches and trainers, and/or the same medical attention as varsity sports. These schools include Notre Dame College, Penn State and others.
Division 1 National Championships (15's)
USA Rugby National Championship
USA Rugby has crowned an official national men's champion each year since 1980. After the 2010 season, USA Rugby split Division 1 into two, with the top flight called Division 1-A Rugby (formerly called the College Premier Division), and the second flight called Division 1-AA.
- National Championship as named by Sports Illustrated:
Main article: Varsity Cup Championship
In 2013, several of the top college rugby teams withdrew from the USA Rugby D1A competition and organized their own championship called the Varsity Cup Championship. Many view the Varsity Cup as equivalent to a national championship, given the strength of the teams participating and the fact that the 2013 Varsity Cup finalists -- BYU and Cal -- finished the spring 2013 season as the consensus #1 and #2 ranked teams in all of college rugby.
College Rugby Sevens
Since the 2009 announcement that rugby sevens will be included in the 2016 Olympics, college rugby sevens has grown in popularity. The addition of Rugby 7s to the 2016 Olympic games has led to increasing interest from TV and other media, and an increased emphasis in the collegiate ranks on the 7s game. For example, the University of Texas founded its competitive rugby sevens program in 2010. Cal rugby announced in December 2011 that beginning in 2013 it would use the fall term for sevens.
Collegiate Rugby Championship
The Collegiate Rugby Championship (CRC) is the highest profile college sevens rugby tournament in the US. The inaugural CRC, held in Columbus, Ohio in June 2010 was televised live by NBC and NBC Universal. The result was high ratings, with the CRC ratings beating the NCAA lacrosse championship. The success of the inaugural 2010 tournament lead to a second tournament in 2011 at PPL Park in Philadelphia, again televised live by NBC. NBC recognized that rugby is growing in popularity, participation and interest. The CRC is run by USA Sevens LLC, the same company that organizes the USA Sevens rugby sevens tournament every February in Las Vegas at Sam Boyd Stadium.
- YEAR; CHAMPION; RUNNER-UP
- 2010 - Utah 31, runner-up California 26 (a.e.t); Bowl Champion - Bowling Green
- 2011 - Dartmouth 32, runner-up Army 10; Bronze Medal - Utah; Challenger Champion - LSU
- 2012 - Dartmouth 24, runner-up Arizona 5; Bronze Medal - California; Challenger Champion - Florida
- 2013 - California 19, runner-up Life 14
- 2014 - California 24, runner-up Kutztown 21
USA Rugby National Championship
USA Rugby announced in September 2011 the creation of a new sevens tournament, the USA Rugby Sevens Collegiate National Championships. The tournament is held annually at the end of the fall season and features 24 teams. Qualification is based on performance at sevens tournaments during the fall, where tournament winners receive automatic bids, with the remaining places in the 24-team field filled by invitation. Some of the more high-profile qualifying tournaments include tournaments based on traditional conference rivalries, such as the Atlantic Coast 7s (composed mostly of ACC schools), the Southeastern 7s (composed mostly of SEC schools) and the Heart of America 7s (composed mostly of Big 12 schools).
The inaugural Championship tournament was held December 16–17, 2011 in College Station, Texas, and was contested by 24 teams that qualified based on performance in qualifying tournaments throughout the fall of 2011. The 2011 tournament was won by Life University, defeating Central Washington 22-17 in overtime. Tim Stanfill of Central Washington was the tournament MVP, Derek Patrick of Miami was the tournament's leading try scorer, and Colton Caraiga of Life University was the tournament's leading points scorer. In the first three years, strong teams that won bids have declined to participate.
- 2011: Life University 22-17 Central Washington
- 2012: Arkansas State 21-7 Life University
- 2013: Arkansas State 32-12 Saint Mary's (CA)
Team rankings are in parenthesis, based on RugbyMag rankings, current as of December 2013.
- The California, West, Mid-South and East conferences each send 1-2 teams to the quarterfinals of the national championship playoffs, and the Big Ten and Allied conferences each send 0-1 teams to the quarterfinals.
- The Mid-Eastern conference disbanded in summer 2012, as most members went to the D1-A Big Ten Universities or to the D1-AA Mid-America conference.
- The Midwest conference disbanded in summer 2012, as most members went to the D1-A Big Ten Universities or to Division 2.
Organization and Conferences
American college rugby is governed by the International Rugby Board and USA Rugby. Within the US, college rugby has historically been governed by the respective Geographical Unions (GUs) and Local Area Unions (LAUs).
Organization of college rugby has been evolving, however. Since 2009 many schools have been organizing into conferences similar to the traditional NCAA conferences. In November 2010, USARFU's college management committee set out a plan for transitioning universities to NCAA style groupings. The purpose of the realignment is for college rugby to be able to capitalize on the marketability of major college conferences. Playing in traditional conferences capitalizes on traditional rivalries, and brings in more sponsorship.
Conferences and Conference Tournaments
Beginning around 2010, college rugby programs began realigning into conference structures that mirror the traditional NCAA conferences used by the member schools' other athletic programs. The first high profile example was the formation of the Ivy League Rugby Conference in 2010. Following the organization of the Ivy League schools, the members of the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Southeastern Conference followed suit in 2010.
Ivy Rugby Conference
The Ivy Rugby Conference was formed in 2009. The IRC was formed to foster better competition among rugby teams from the Ivy League schools and to raise the quality of play. The IRC has had consistent success in attracting commercial interests. The IRC formed committees to manage the league, independently of the LAUs and TUs. Prior to formation of the IRC, clubs from the eight Ivy League schools had competed in the Ivy Rugby Championship Tournament since 1969.
Atlantic Coast Rugby League
Following the lead of the Ivy Rugby Conference, in March 2010 the formation of the Atlantic Coast Rugby League was announced, beginning play in the spring 2011 season. The purpose behind the formation of the ACRL was for the Atlantic Coast schools to play other regional schools, which would both reduce travel and create more competitive matchups with traditional college rivalries. Maryland won the 2011 inaugural ACRL, defeating North Carolina in the title match. Despite its name, teams in the ACRL play the XV-a-side Union code popular in American universities, not Rugby League.
The Atlantic Coast Rugby League schools started moving in the direction of setting up their own conference in 2008, beginning with the Atlantic Coast Invitational (ACI) tournament. The ACI tournament changed to a sevens format in 2010. N.C. State won the 2010 tournament. Beginning in 2011, the winner of the Atlantic Coast Invitational has advanced to the USA Rugby National Championship. N.C. State again won the ACI tournament in 2011 defeating Virginia 24-17 in the final.
In March 2010, nine of the twelve schools that participate in the NCAA's Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) announced that they had formed the Atlantic Coast Rugby League (ACRL) that would begin play in spring 2010. The ACRL quickly gained commercial success, announcing in February 2011, before it had even begun its inaugural season, that it has partnered with Adidas as its corporate sponsor. In addition to its early commercial success, the ACRL expects to improve rugby in the ACRL universities by capitalizing on traditional ACC rivalries, increasing the number of fans, and attracting talented high school rugby players.
Southeastern Collegiate Rugby Conference
In December 2010 a core group of founding schools formed the Southeastern Collegiate Rugby Conference (SCRC). By April 2010 the SCRC had expanded to 11 schools, comprising the entire membership of the NCAA's Southeastern Conference (SEC) at that time except for Arkansas. Tennessee won the 2010 Southeastern Collegiate Rugby Sevens Championship beating LSU 19-17, and repeated in the 2011 SCRC Olympic Sevens Championship, beating Florida 26-14 in the final. Similar to other conferences, the SCRC has also enjoyed commercial success, announcing in fall 2010 that the SCRC had formed commercial partnership agreements with Adidas and the World Rugby Shop.
The Southeastern Collegiate Rugby Conference, formed by the aforementioned 11 SEC schools, was created in late 2010 and began play in the 2011-12 season. Florida won the conference title in the inaugural season, defeating Tennessee in the championship match. Although the SEC has since expanded to 14 schools, the SCRC membership remains at 11.
Pacific Athletic Conference
Several members of the Pac-12 conference agreed in spring 2012 to form a conference beginning play in the 2012-13 season.
Big Ten Universities
The Big Ten schools have formed the Big Ten 7s tournament, which features a round of pool play followed by knockout play. The inaugural Big Ten tournament was held August 2011, and hosted by Wisconsin. Wisconsin and Penn State both won their respective pools. Both teams were also successful in knockout play, reaching the finals, where Wisconsin defeated Penn State 21-14. Wisconsin's Ben Knight was the tournament MVP. Wisconsin's victory at the 2011 Big Ten 7s earned it the right to compete for the national championship at the 2011 USA Rugby Sevens Collegiate National Championships.
Allied Rugby Conference
The Allied Rugby Conference is composed mostly of teams from the Big 12 South.
The Southwest Conference (SWC) was created in 2011 with the charter members of: Texas State University, Baylor University, Rice University, University of Houston, Texas Christian University, University of North Texas & Sam Houston State University. University of Texas was immediately added. Texas won the conference in the inaugural 2011-12 season. Sam Houston State University resigned from the SWC in May 2012.
Other Competitions: Rivalry Trophies
College rugby includes rivalry trophies such as the World Cup between the University of California, Berkeley and the University of British Columbia (Canada), the Wasatch Cup between BYU and Utah, the University Cup between Texas and Texas A&M, and the Common Wealth Shield between Virginia and Virginia Tech.
Other Competitions: Divisions 2 - 4
Division III is governed by the National Small College Rugby Organization (NSCRO). The National Small College Rugby Organization was created to give a competitive outlet to small colleges which would not otherwise have an opportunity to compete on a national stage. Each year, the NSCRO hosts rugby tournaments for Division III Men's and Women's college teams, and for Division IV Women's college teams.
Division IV is governed by the National Small College Rugby Organization
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- Men's and Women's Division 1 Club and Men's Division 2 national collegiate club rankings
- "Women's National Collegiate Club Champions: D I" (retrieved Sept 6, 2009)
- "Women's National Collegiate Club Champions: D II" (retrieved Sept 6, 2009)
- News and Articles on current Collegiate Club Competitions
- "Champions 2000; From Sydney to the Bronx, the Winners". New York Times, 12-31-2000 (retrieved Sept 6, 2009)
- "The Year in Review; Winners of 1991 Individual and Team Championships". New York Times, 12-29-1991 (retrieved Sept 6, 2009)
- "The Year in Review -- 1993; The Year's Champions". New York Times, 12-16-1993 (retrieved Sept 6, 2009)
- EPRU Champions (retrieved Sept 6, 2009)
- "From Atlanta To Wembley, Winners All". New York Times, 12-29-1996 (retrieved Sept 6, 2009)
- The Rugby Rugby Guide (History of Rugby, Beginner's Rugby Guide, Coaching Rugby, Equipment Review, Rugby Fitness, How To Guide, Rugby Quotes, Rugby Songs and Anthems)
- RugbyMag.com. Rugby Magazine. Retrieved 2010-02-06.