Brigham Young unveiled a schedule listing four national-caliber senior teams, an aggressive pursuit in a year that also sees the Cougars join a conference of Utah and Idaho schools and spearhead the launch of a high-profile postseason tournament.
Taken together, the initiatives suggest the defending university champ reckons the college landscape inadequate for its objective of being a top sport on the 27,000-student Provo, Utah, campus, home to some 21 NCAA teams.
'This year's schedule really breaks new ground for us in terms of difficulty', head coach David Smyth said in a prepared statement.
Old Puget Sound Beach, the Denver Barbarians, New York Athletic Club, and Las Vegas Blackjacks predominate a seven-week stretch in February and March. The contest against 2012 Super League champ NYAC, at the students' South Field, reprises the 'challenge match' format pitting college and senior titlists.
But the other three games indicate the Cougars can't find enough competitive college opponents. During its two-year stint in USARFU's variously named first division, Brigham Young consistently scored 50 plus during conference matches and lost just 1 contest, the 2011 final.
Having captured its second USARFU championship last May, the next month BYU exited Boulder's nationwide league, which has been shrinking as teams switch to regional, NCAA-style conferences. Subsequently, the Cougars emerged at the head of an eight-team knockout competition called the Varsity Cup, which final will be contested at Salt Lake City's Rio Tinto stadium, according to the team's release.
Historically much stronger than its in-state rivals, BYU simultaneously has entered its second XV in the newly formed Utah Collegiate Rugby Conference, a move matched by archrival Utah, which the Cougars play home and away.
Presently snowbound, BYU opens its season this weekend in Nevada against a Utah 2d XV and Idaho State.