Sometime in 2007, possibly with the passing of Dennis Storer, I began writing about the 'varsity model' as a comprehensive approach to improving rugby in America. A bit later, I started identifying the 'Commonwealth' mindset as an alternate worldview.
As a means for understanding our quest to grow and strengthen the sport, the dichotomy of varsity and Commonwealth is more effective than any other framework. It is particularly useful in that USARFU neither is democratic nor deliberates in public, and so its compulsory members have few reference points for assessing the governing body's decisions and performance.
But the varsity-Commonwealth construct has shortcomings too. Mistakenly, some will always insist on viewing varsity as a formal status, rather than a state of mind. Meanwhile, the term Commonwealth has the unfortunate effect of seeming to lump bona fide immigrants, such as Storer, in with carpetbaggers and natives beset by a colonial mentality.
Earlier this month, in considering chief executive Nigel Melville's role as director of a for-profit 7s corporation whose objectives conflict with those of non-profit USARFU, a clearer framework came into view. The two predominant views of developing of American rugby use as their touchstones the sports education system (i.e., the varsity model) and the sports entertainment industry (the Commonwealth view), respectively.
Both of these are the world's most advanced systems of their kind, and they overlap. The implications of following one versus the other are dramatically different, however, and are worth elaborating at length. But let us begin with an important thought about development itself, from business sage Peter Drucker's Ecological Condition: Reflections on the American Condition:
Management creates economic and social development. Economic and social development is the result of management. It can be said, without too much oversimplification, that there are no 'underdeveloped countries'. There are only 'undermanaged' ones. Japan a hundred and forty years ago was an underdeveloped country by every material measurement. But it very quickly produced management of great competence, indeed, of excellence.
This means that management is the prime mover and that development is a consequence. All our experience in economic development proves this. Wherever we have only capital, we have not achieved development. In the few cases where we have been able to generate management energies, we have generated rapid development. Development, in other words, is a matter of human energies rather than of economic wealth. And the generation and direction of human energies is the task of management.