'All aspects of the college game (all divisions, select sides, tournaments and tours, the A[ll] A[merican] brand, 15s and 7s) must be independently managed and administered by a national college rugby association in partnership with USA Rugby,' according to an August 27 letter written by 2009's collegiate territorial coaches to chief executive Nigel Melville.
The far-reaching conclusion, timed to precede the coming weekend's board meeting, can been seen as a sign of confidence among university leaders who believe rugby is finding a home on campus as well as further evidence that the segment feels ignored by USARFU. The latter view is the more surprising since the territorial coaches are almost definitionally 'insiders'.
Indeed, within a week the group secured a September 3 conference call with chief executive Nigel Melville, who agreed some of the tenets, according to circulated minutes. But Melville deflected committing to a modest, guaranteed budget allocation for the All-American program or staffing a college director at the national office.
The coaching letter begins by making an establishmentarian case that territorial coaching hopefuls must have advanced USARFU credentials, in order to establish a transparent route to representative appointments. But the missive quickly turns to sponsorship and program funding, a sore spot because of the disparity between monies generated for Boulder and plowed back into the growing college segment.
In a section labeled 'In General,' the group calls for a collegiate coaching association and asserts that 'By establishing a[n] empowering, working partnership with college rugby programs and support networks, USA Rugby stands to gain an immensely powerful ally in every conceivable aspect of the [sic] rugby's growth.'
Just last year USA Rugby informed the A[ll] A[merican] players that they had reached the point in their rugby careers where they no longer had to 'pay to play' yet on late notice this year's AAs were obligated to raise $1,000 per player. This reflects poorly on our union and the AA program and should not happen again.
The corollary: 'Unless USA Rugby recognizes the inherent value of college rugby and acts to support and develop it to its potential, we feel the colleges will ultimately move to organize themselves with or without USA Rugby.'
The majority of USARFU's $2.7 million in (projected) 2009 dues come from collegians, and its leading commercial sponsor, the National Guard, is premised on reaching the university audience.
The call minutes note 'anticipate' the 2010 collegiate Inter-Territorial Tournament will be immediately followed by a weeklong 'academy' in Boulder, Colorado, for 60 players perforce named All-Americans, and observe that a collegiate manager in the national office 'would be a significant help promoting the game to athletic directors and the college community.'
There is no mention of the $200,000 thumbnail budget which the coaches estimated would suitably cover the territorial championship, the academy camp, and the annual All-American tour as well as operating cost for a coaches association. By way of comparison with a comparable national team feeder, the International Rugby Board has allotted approximately $150,000 to the USA's 40-man, 2-match program in the Americas Rugby Championship.
The signatories are Rich Cortez (Wyoming and West), Jonathon Griffin (Stanford and Pacific Coast), Greg Jones (Kutztown and Mid-Atlantic), Mike Hodgins (Northeast), Rich Pohlidal (Army and Military Services), Vince Atkinson (South), Ron Bowers (Ohio State and Midwest), and Jeremy Ognall (Southern California).