A leading rugby nonprofit is looking to win corporate funding for its ambition of giving a ball to every registered teenage player.
Next week, the US Rugby Football Foundation intends to submit a proposal to the Pepsi Refresh Project in hopes of a $250,000 grant. The merits will be judged largely on whether the pitch is one of the top two vote getters in Pepsi's online pool, which will launch on August 1.
Present and past US coaches Eddie O'Sullivan, Tom Billups, and Jack Clark as well as at least nine Eagle captains have lined up in support of the 'Ball 4 All' idea.
The campaign underlines the nonprofit sector's role in American rugby. More than is commonly understood, the game relies on a variety organizations to resources and development opportunities.
Such institutions range from USRFF to public and private schools sponsoring teams as well as rugby summer camps, from for-profit entities such as the USA 7s to the US Olympic Committee, now taking a more active role with the inclusion of 7s in the summer games.
USRFF's goal is reminiscent of USARFU's recent program to provide jerseys for college teams. Boulder's initiative, disbanded after two seasons, was tied to the union's imperative to project a sponsor's message into the university environment while diverting some of the proceeds elsewhere.
'If we are fortunate to be one of the two organizations to receive the top award of $250,000, we will use every cent of that money to purchase balls so that every youth and high school player registered with US Rugby will receive their own ball,' USRFF executive director and past US captain Brian Vizard wrote in one letter rounding up support.
'Receiving the first ball I ever owned elevated my play as that ball rarely left my side for the next 10 years. I took that ball to school, to the store, in the car, on dates. I even slept with it. But the constant handling and kicking improved my overall game and helped me get to the top of US rugby,' the standout eightman said.
The Pepsi Refresh Project provides 32 organizations with cash awards each month. USRFF feels August is the optimum month to compete for top prize.
Tuesday's post incorrectly described the commercial basis of the Collegiate Championship Invitational: USA 7s paid for the tournament and NBC paid for television production and air time, and the two bodies collaborated on ad sales, which were used to cover costs. USA 7s broken even on the debut event, according to people familiar with the matter.
Also, I made a hash of the distinction between players registered in the 'competitive season' (i.e., September to August) and the calendar year. To date, the number of players registered in the soon-to-end competitive season is near to 93,000, and will top the 2008-09 cycle by approximately 11 percent, according to national office staff.