As college teams catch sight of new opportunities, America's longstanding preoccupation with 'true national championships' looks to be waning.
Last month, Brigham Young declared it would opt of the division 1A title chase, just weeks after winning the 2012 edition, in order to set its own postseason agenda. Almost simultaneously, Navy said it was bowing out of the league altogether in favor of the up-and-coming Atlantic Coast Rugby League.
For many years, would-be contenders bore any burden to compete in nationwide playoffs, while administrators jousted to secure additional or favorable berths for their constituents. Now, top teams see a future outside USARFU's 'all comers, no compensation' framework.
Priorities have changed due in part to the advent of self-managed conferences, which have made teams more aware of their brand assets and commercial capabilities. The rise of the USA 7s' College Rugby Championship also has changed the environment.
America's national championship program began expanding in the 1980s and reached its peak over the following decade. The 1996 foundation of the Super League, which created a parallel senior title, initiated the counter trend. By the time USARFU took legal action over the 2004 RSL playoffs, it was evident the union's focus was not aligned with the clubs' interests.
More recently, college teams have aggressively looked in new directions. The Midshipmen concluded the ACRL schedule is more attractive to its student body and athletic department, while the league's commercial returns are superior. Cal made clear its belief 'the [division 1A] model has a ways to go to better what teams can do on their own'. For Dartmouth, another team which exited the nationwide league a year ago, choosing the Ivy League over USARFU's unknown College Premier Division was obvious for historical reasons alone.
BYU and others are said to be interested in a postseason invitational that would take advantage of the enormous crowds the Cougars have drawn, so far with little compensation. And virtually every school is clamoring to get into the CRC, which projects rugby 7s on national TV as a mainstream sport, thus improving relations with stakeholders they've long neglected: school administrators and alumni.
The broadening postseason could spell immediate improvements for the athletes, because college teams tend to plow extra cash / new revenue back into improved facilities, training programs, and even paid staff.
United States High School All-Americans to South America
15 July Vina del Mar Chile Under 19
18 July Santiago Chile Under 19
21 July Montevideo Uruguay Under 19
25 July Montevideo Uruguay Under 19
28 July Buenos Aires Argentina Under 18
Forwards: Solomone Anitema (Maui), Zach Bonte (Back Bay), Oliver Drew (Bryanston), Kelepi Fifita (Tempe), Nick Gadbaw (Camas), Stuart Harr (Chapin), Andrew Iscaro (Gonzaga), Codi Jones (Oceanside), Levi Kinney (Cathedral Royal Irish), Titi Lamositele (Chuckanut Bay), Bradley Luvender (Katy Barbarians), Tyler Norris (Katy Barbarians), Tama Paogofie (Kona), Sam Peri (Lamorinda), Inoke Raikadroka (South Bay), Matteo Salvalaggio (Latymer), Andy Sandoval (Los Angeles Cougars), Vili Kihe Toluta'u (Mana O Maui), Joe Whalen (Gonzaga)
Backs: Nuulaiti Aiava (Keauka'a), Isaiah Chinen (Kona), Benjamin Cima (Gonzaga), Fitou Fisiiahi (Titans), Joseph Kelly (Greenwich), Billy Maggs (Mustangs), Jesse Mander (London Wasps), Michael Reid (Warrenton), Anthony Salaber (Dixon), Bradley Shaw (Columbus), Zach Webber (United), Calvin Whiting (United), Greg Wood (Cathedral Royal Irish)