BYU, Cal, and five other high-profile colleges unveiled an invitational championship that's independent of USARFU's postseason.
The planned Varsity Cup highlights the oft-neglected connection between 'high performance' competition and business results. Each of the competitors enjoys varsity or at least advanced club-sport status at the parent school, and so is expected to further the institution's broader interests in a variety of ways.
'In the end, universities will always want to manage and control their own sports playoff structures', BYU coach and Varsity Cup dynamo David Smyth said in a prepared statement, adding the competition's goal is to become a 'flagship' of college rugby.
Comprising Air Force, Dartmouth, Navy, Notre Dame, and Utah plus the duo that has dominated USARFU's top collegiate division over the past decade, the Varsity Cup is to be a knockout competition staged over three weekends in April and early May. The timing revisits USARFU's longstanding window, which avoided academic conflicts, but many vital details remain unannounced -- notably the identity of the eighth team.
The tournament is expected to make use of the competitors' on-campus rugby facilities, generating admissions and concessions revenue, while also looking to earn TV monies through packaging similar to the USA 7s College Rugby Championship. Over the past decade, USARFU's title match has drawn as many as 10,000 and aired on a succession of television outlets, but failed to return significant monies to the teams making it possible.
The Varsity Cup doesn't look to overlap the division 1A or 1AA regular seasons. But there may be some wrangling over playoff scheduling, in as much as BYU, Utah, and Air Force, which ostensibly remain in 1A competitors, finished 1-2-3 in 2012's west division. *But 1A newly requires its regular-season competitors to participate in its postseason, effectively prohibiting participation in both.*
Foreshadowing yesterday's announcement, last month BYU said it was making alternate postseason plans, not long after claiming its second national championship with a win over Arkansas State. Navy withdrew entirely, opting to join the Atlantic Coast Rugby League.
Notre Dame also took part in the 2012 division 1A campaign, while Cal and Dartmouth exited after the 2011 season.
Over the past decade, Cal has claimed 7 USARFU titles, BYU 2, and Air Force the 2003 crown. The Varsity Cup 7 collectively captured 25 of 40 semifinal places, including all 4 berths in 2005 and 3 of 4 places on 4 more occasions. BYU has not missed the final four since 2004; Cal played in 9 of 10; while Navy and Utah each made 3 appearances and Air Force 2.
Wing Nuulaiti Aaiva scored two tries in the high school All Americans' 24-17 win over Chile Under 19 Sunday in Vina del Mar, Chile.