The collegiate division 2 championship is moving to autumn, following the Eastern seaboard and Midwestern conferences which were prepared to organize their own tournament.
This year's competition, encompassing 12 established (men's) leagues comprising 144 teams as well as new entrants from the Deep South, Eastern Rockies, and Southern California, is expected to be held on November 23-24 and December 7-8 at venues to be determined. Boulder's college director and management committee recently acceded to the switch from springtime, according to a union official and other people familiar with the matter.
The decision looks to safeguard a vital revenue stream, university dues, at the cost of condoing a fractured American rugby calendar.
Most US rugby players most want a fair shot at a national title. 15s (and 7s) seasons that are in tune with local weather are seen as a core part of equal opportunity. Organizing championships is vital to the value proposition of the union's Club and Individual Participation Program.
Collegiate teams east of the Mississippi typically would rather compete from September to November, even if in direct competition with football, than February through April, contending with the hardships of late winter and early spring. Universities to the west as well as high schools and the commercially minded tend to believe the better window for school field sports is springtime.
Though it would prefer a unified season, USARFU re-opened the door for the split calendar by pushing its territorial unions to disgorge college teams, which were encouraged to form self-governing, NCAA-style conferences -- ironically through the incentive of automatic championship berths. The renewed emphasis on 'fall ball', the primary Eastern and Midwestern season prior to the 1990s enlargement of the national playoffs, is a consequence of that policy.
Boulder is considering whether it ought to run or merely recognize the D2 tournament, according to a union official. Allowing participants to determine scheduling blurs the line between events that USARFU controls and that it sanctions.
The union has been wary of further alienating the collegiate segment, its largest in terms of registrations, risking some $500,000 in dues. CIPP is USARFU's leading source of revenue, accounting for nearly 45 percent of 2011's gross of $7.5 million.
It has already endured 11 of the best, most marketable teams bolting for the Varsity Cup, thereby hollowing out its division 1A championship, and reluctantly acknowledged the National Small College Rugby Organization as the governing body and championship administrator for some 300 men's and women's school XVs. (Division 1A and 1AA schools are more competitive than division 2; NSCRO, sometimes seen as division 3, is bounded by student enrollments.)
Northern California's D2 teams are expected to join NSCRO, according to people involved in planning.
Mexico's national team will appear at next weekend's Denver 7s, according to tournament organizers.