New England has 'canceled' its collegiate representative program, a decision that distances players in one of the country's most populous regions from select-side rugby.
Eight months after 2007's poorly executed collegiate Inter-Territorial Tournament prompted USA Rugby to pledge renewed attention for competitions leading to the All-Americans, the Northeast region's stronghold has opted out. Among New England's 129 clubs and 4,000 dues-paying collegians are past national title contenders Dartmouth and Harvard.
'At this time the program is canceled until there is sufficient interest in running it. If players express interest in restarting the program in '09, then we will resurrect the program,' Chip Auscavitch, New England's collegiate director, said in an email.
American Rugby News first reported the development.
The matter appears to confirm observations last year by Pacific Coast coach Jonathan Griffin and others that college players and coaches have felt neglected. Even as USA Rugby officials to include chief executive Nigel Melville have spoken of bringing younger players into the national team picture, there remain hard feelings, for example, that the 2007 All-Americans were asked to pay their own way to nearby Canada.
In an interpretation that appears self-fulfilling, disenchantment has now been interpreted as disinterest.
Also last year, the Combined Services team was entirely absent from the college ITT. Perhaps not coincidentally, the June tournament was located in upstate New York, next door to New England.
Though it recently signed a sponsorship package with the National Guard that features the university game USA Rugby has yet to announce the venue of this year's collegiate ITT, set for June 13-15.
USA Rugby's old board included a territorial directors as well as a collegiate representative. It's unclear whether the new board is responsible for shoring up the so-called pathways to the America's elite squads.
The Northeast will hold tryouts in each of its three regions, ARN reported.