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23 August 2007


Kurt, rugby doesn't have a varsity presence on our US campuses. But as you point out it has the appearance of varsity, which is what college rugby will lose if these proposals are accepted.

The fact that USAR is considering these proposal is troubling. This is the Commonwealth model of open club rugby at the university level.

What's sad is the rest of the world would love to have our intercollegiate athletic system and the people in charge of USAR are considering throwing it down the drain.

Why not do allow both options?
These eligibility suggestions are not mutually exclusive.
In the HS and Colleges where there are the numbers and support to do so, use the Varsity role model.
In smaller schools or fledgling programs why no use the intramural or club model.
As we mature, the most successful cases could have both in one school.
Varsity model for the best and most competitive and club/inter mural for the social, part time etc. students.

How will the private (4 year) colleges stay competitive ? The military schools are 4 year as well.

What happens when a non-enrolled student gets hurt from an insurance standpoint?

How old will some of these college players be ? BYU !

"allowing students to play for universities they don’t attend"

I can only describe this as stupid. Most universities provide some level of support, be it money, fields, weight rooms, or some combination.

A university is NOT going to provide this to non-students.

In addition to the aforementioned insurance liability, there is the PR concern where athletic teams are ambassadors of the university. Non-students playing for a school represent an unknown risk for conduct.

I am shocked to read what changes are being considered and the impact they could have. The only reason I can see to allow for six years of college and raising the age limit on high school is to accommodate the schools located in Utah.

I say continue on with what's working now and consider the option of having a second set of eligibility rules for those schools that need it with this eligibility option being approved by USAR on an individual basis.

The high school 5-year rule is idiotic. I imagine, if it was adopted, most state based youth would override it with their own 4 year rules.
But I can imagine a few "Superteams" (looking in your direction unnamed Utah area team) love the idea of an extra year to play the kids that didn't get D1 football scholarships.

Interesting topic. Lots of comments, complaints and finger pointing.

Can anyone tell me, which countries other than the USA – have a dedicated national College/University rugby competition?

While you’re doing that research – Can anyone tell me which countries other than the USA, allow 19-25 year old players to play in separate College/University grade, rather than moving into Adult/senior grades?

Let me save you some time – None! The USA is the only country in the world that does this. It doesn’t fit the rest of the world.

We send our AA sides on tours – but they play against individual Schools/Colleges/Universities. A good example is Massey University in NZ, they play in the Manawatu Mens competition. They don’t just play against other Universities. In fact they may only do it as part of friendly inter school rivalry – but not as a national competition. Same can be said for when Hodges took the AA’s to Wellington to play Victoria University – in fact Victoria didn’t have a team – and the AA’s actually played a combination of Wellington College Old Boys and a few Victoria University students who happened to play for WCOB. Basically a rag tag team, that was thrown together to accommodate the AA’s.

It doesn’t fit.

All this back and forth about eligibility and superior programs is, in reality a false sense of achievement. I read someone’s post that said 1% of HS football players go on to be College players, and of that whole college group – only 1-2% go on to the NFL. Reality is, that 99.78% of all football players in the USA, need to find new sports, because Football didn’t want them. After HS or College (if you attend), can American football players go and join an adult football club and play games each weekend that leads to a national championship – No!

Do all the college or varsity programs throw the welcome mat out for rugby players – no. Some do – but 90% do nothing, not even a new set of jerseys but once every 3 years (because they think a rugby jersey is a sweater, and should last for years!).

So why try to make college rugby fit into college sports systems, who in reality – don’t want them, and show little to no support.

I say – do away with College grade. Fold all players into the clubs. Call 19-25 year olds adults (because they are). And stop trying to justify why one school gets support and others don’t – then complain about it.

I say – drop college and start little league. Start the cycle 5 years earlier, and call men, men at 19 – and put them in with other men, in a club environment.

As a high school coach, every year I see very good rugby players drop the game to play other sports in college. I'm sure I'm not the only coach at this level who sees this.
Why would we drop college rugby? Why not focus on building the game at that level to give these high school players another level? It is probably not worth having a discussion on this site about the merits of the college infrastructure with someone who didn't attend college in the states. Here is the main point - high school atheletes would like to continue to play sports, BUT they also want to go to college. Not every college can become Cal, but one would think that they can create a solid playing environment that encourages high school atheletes to play quality rugby. Scrapping college is just silly. Look at every sport in the US - kids play the sports, kids go to college, kids get drafted and go pro. Let's keep building the game from the bottom up and hopefully we can get to the next level.

I like the idea of keeping college clubs available, so that players moving on to college have that outlet available. We want to keep them playing. The local men's club is often too far away from the college campus to make playing for them a reality when you figure in school schedules and travel time. I think there is good reason to keep them.

However, I think that they are still men's clubs and they should have to play in men's competitions, not separate collegiate competitions. The NCAA will never sanction rugby, so why bother trying to fit into their model. Playing in men's competitions won't change anything for the Cal's, Navy's, and BYU's of college rugby, it will just give them some better competition.

Playing better competition can only make everyone across the board better.


How many other countries have College/University soccer? Basketball? Baseball? The answer to all of these is "none." The United States is unique in the way it uses college athletics as an intermediate level between youth and adult. If rugby in this country is to be mainstream, the college game must exist and must be strengthened. If it is not, we will continue to see the exodus by our youth from rugby to sports that they can play in college and all of the progress the youth programs have made in this country will be for naught.

Antipodes has done an excellent job of laying out the choice in front of USA Rugby.

We either follow the Commonwealth model he has outlined which mostly does away with the American education/sports model, or we better connect rugby to the most vibrant athlete and sport development system in the world.

If we chose to better connect rugby to the American mainstream model, we have a lot of work ahead of us. It will be difficult to crack the state HS sports list and to be regarded as a real sport on our college campuses, but if successful it will be game over for the rest of the world. This could/should happen in a time frame of 10 years. Millions of young adults playing rugby with the full resources of high Schools and universities behind their efforts.

If the Commonwealth leadership of USAR decide their way (Antipodes way) is better, there is not much to do. We just wait for our highly functional senior clubs (humor) to expand their scope into youth and young adult rugby.

Meanwhile, a few individuals with brains will use rugby to co-op the some of the worlds best sports brands, making a cazillion dollars in the process and building the next great American HS and university sport, RUGBY.

The more I think about this, I think Antipodes is right. I think all you guys should elect the Commonwealth direction.

I disagree with your assertion that the current eligibility rules “shadow” the NCAA varsity rules. I am familiar with both sets of rules and they are very different. I think you also failed to point out that the proposed change gives a player 6 years from the day he/she starts college to play 5 years of rugby. It seems to me that the current rule (5 years to play 5 starting the day you start college classes) and the proposed rule are a result of the lack of resources on USA rugby’s part. Rather than allow for red shirt or grey shirt years and medical hardships (all of which require a fair to great amount of administrative work) or tracking other issues that may affect eligibility (read this story http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/news/story?id=2986313 this could never happen under Rugby’s current or proposed rules because once the clock starts ticking almost nothing stops it.) USA rugby just allows for 5 years of play. If you miss a year for injury or some other reason you still get 4 years to play if you miss two years too bad. What no one here is complaining about is that those who start playing as freshman and never are injured get to play for 5 years, what NCAA sport allows for that?
You also seem to imply that this initiative to have women’s rugby catch on as a varsity sport is going to have some positive impact on the broader game. I think that is flat out ridiculous. What sport in this country has been built on the back of the women’s game? The US women won the soccer world cup and yet the professional league here flopped. The kind of money and attention rugby needs in the USA to get to the level we all hope it will, will never come from the women’s game. All the efforts in this arena are in vain and should be refocused.
I like the new rule because I think it opens the game up to more people. How many promising athletes find the game too late in college to really grasp it? Under this new rule the person who does not find the game until later in college may have another year to play and that year may make all the difference. Most people take more than 4 years to finish school these days and if USA rugby does not want to put forth the effort to really monitor eligibility like the NCAA does than this rule brings a bit more balance to their strange way of doing things.
As for allowing students to play for universities they don’t attend, you failed to mention that they must be in attendance at a university and that if their school fields a team they must play for that team. First off it is more than likely all for not as most schools will not allow students who don’t go there to use their facilities or play for them for insurance purposes. For those that will allow it I think it is great. It is not as though we have an abundance of people who want the headache of running (tons of administrative work and fund raising) and coaching a team. If someone is at a community college that has no team and there is not a men’s team near by (or more likely the men’s team near by spends more time drinking than playing) let the kid play for the University that does have a team. Rugby is still at a point in this country where we want as many people playing as possible and preferably at competitive levels. Within reason rules that further that aim should be adopted. If we do ever progress towards the collegiate varsity level (which I hope we will) these rules are easily repealed.

Jim and Old Beaver,
My guess is that your comments are directed towards Highland. As an alumnus and someone who stays close to the program I can say with confidence that the rule changes in no way shape or form will benefit them. Perhaps you should become more acquainted with the facts before you make such an accusatory comment. As for the BYU comment even though it pains me to defend them the new 6 year rule won't help them either.

Why, as a parent would I tolerate or support a system that pits my my stringy, but athletic 15 year old sophomore against a 19 year old or kid who was held back in high school?

High school sports, including rugby, are for kids who are enrolled in high school and passing their subjects.

Who are these rugby people advocating these HS rule changes that would compromise a basic truth of most HS sports programs...classwork and student first, sports second?

Interscholastic sports are the backbone of our nation's athletic system. Linking athletic skill with academic excellence and helping youth reach their personal potential through sports has a rich history.

Our job is to expand college and high school rugby, not tear it down. If American rugby clubs, as for-profit or non-profit enterprises can offer opportunities better than a university education or a commission in the armed services as the academies , then go ahead and recruit those kids.

Otherwise, four years to play high school sports, not five makes sense. If it takes fove years for a kid to make it out of an American high school, that fifth year should have a focus on learning, not bloody rugby.

Use some common parental sense people!

A few thoughts on this- kids currently have 5 years to finish, there have been many kids in the past that play u19/highschool while in the fifth year.

Secondly, we should all be asking ourselves, why is there really 7 divisions of men’s rugby in America? On the club side, Super +1,2,3 and Collegiate Side 1,2,3
We could create so much synergies by just going to 3 div’s – in fact we would be able to create a fair amount of parity in the top 30 clubs or so and ultimately better prepare our athletes to the four high performance academy system with regional high performance centers that focus on senior side, u20 ect.

But to have non-university students playing for university makes no sense what so ever, my guess is that all options are on the table at the ICC desk and this one will get thrown out at the discussion point.

As far as our All American’s, I say still have it, but…. Not to play matches, honor them with $1,000 per player contribution back to the university program for scholarships, honor them allowing them to be named AA on a NA side, honor them by buying them a polo’s and a box seat at the USA 7s but lets stop trying to get them matches and support a program that is unique to America.

As an active American rugby player for 18 years and a High School and Youth rugby coach for over 5, I can say that in general we need to break away from the bonds of some of the rugby unions that we are members of. Why is Lacrosse becoming a recognized sport on the high school level here in Pennsylvania and rugby is not and will not any time soon? Money and Sponsorhip. Wev'e been talking about it in our union for the last 20 years.At the same time..... The current number of youth and high school age rugby players has increased and the amount of men's teams have decreased.We need to take the bull by the horns and realize that the rugby system within the USA is not working!
Rugby fans, coaches and players in other countries, especialy NZ are amazed that a country the size of America is so far behind the eight ball. We have such a large amount of potential when it comes to rugby, but no one to that can get it together. We need good sponsorship and money to succeed and again in the finest place to live in the world (THE USA) We have no one that can get it together. Perhaps USA Rugby should take a year off and take all the dues and money that is collected and create a
professional sponsorship proposal to present to top USA companies.
Then with the funding get our act together.

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