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28 July 2008



I know that you vehemently dislike the term "sleeping giant", however I'm starting to wonder if you don't see the term in the way that some people intend it.

In my opinion the term does not mean that everyone is sitting around doing nothing, what it means is that the US has the potential to be a rugby powerhouse, I don't feel that it is intended to imply that everyone is waiting for someone else to do the job for them.

Obviously "your mileage may vary" so I appreciate that everyone interprets things in different ways, I also appreciate that you are not the only one who finds the term to be insulting and demeaning.

um the sleeping giant is exactly what it means. We have the talent and ability to dominate the rugby world but have yet to do so for all the reasons we discuss every day.

Why didn't the college competition get any better? Easy answer. They were engaged in mostly social rugby and not competitive rugby. If we, as a country, had been playing competitive rugby in all the colleges since it became big in college instead of the keg on the sideline stereotype that is only now being done away with then we as a country would be in a lot better shape as far as our rugby. Oh well. Thanks old boys!


Not sure if you were disagreeing with me, because what you wrote is exactly what I believe.


You must not have noticed how the college competition is getting better every year. Clubs like St. Mary's, SDSU, Cal Poly are continuing to improve and they are helping to raise the national standard.

The level of fitness and committment required by the top collegiate sides, by necessity, minimizes the 'keg on the sidelines' mentality.

As we continue to graduate more experienced and quality HS players into the mix, the collegiate competition will continue to improve. Eventually there will be numerous sides with the talent, depth, and organization to challenge Cal.

sorry nick. just trying to add clarification or emphasis.

Leksan: " the sideline stereotype that is only now being done away with" - me. so yea i realize that is is getting much better through the hard work of a bunch of teams (i would add psu, kutztown, navy, colorado,etc to ur cali teams)I was just pointing out that if teams in the 60s, 70s, 80s would have started this earlier then we would be in a lot better shape as a rugby nation

There are some college clubs improving, but for every club that is improving there are 2-3 more clubs starting that are beer on the sideline clubs. The LAU, TU and USA Rugby tolerate it because their main revenue is from club dues and/or individual fees. There is very little vetting of these new college clubs and only if they do something horrible would they get kicked out. They can forfeit matches, play non-students and get into trouble with the university and the LAU will not pull the plug on the club.

My TU has 30 college clubs, 5-6 check the minimum boxes to be a quality club - coaching, financing, depth of players, facilities and competitive quality. The rest don't meet these 5 basic requirements.

There is a long way to go, but without the LAU, TU and USA Rugby counting on these poor college clubs for funds, it is going to be slow. If possible, you should wipe out 50 percent of the colleg eclubs in the country and focus resources on the top 50 percent.

i understand your frustration but that is a little harsh. You shut down those programs now and will we ever get them back at thoe institutions? and where will that get us in a decade when rugby should be huge on every campus? not far. besides those programs pay most of their way. what resources are you referring to. what we need to do is promote the serious rugby as the true american rugby experience. the more serious high school rugby programs/players we can produce the more they will demand serious rugby from the school's they go to.

Who cares if only 5 or 6 of the 30 college teams in your union meet your standards, the rest are having a good time! 95% of the registered USA Rugby members pay dues that allow us to support the 5% that are in the NA4 and Eagles pool. These dues paying members are introduced to the game in college where they can pound beers, sing dirty songs, wear offensive t-shirts, verbally abuse some weak people and throw around a rugby ball. That is the BASE and the FACE of USA Rugby, and will be for many more years to come. Let's not lose them to bowling or softball. Don't mess with the base.

"All about the money",

You're off base on this. Having the low grade, keg focused, teams join the mix may not put the US into the RWC semi finals, but it does give more rugby opportunities to people who would otherwise miss out. These programs will (if they continue) rise up in your set of standards.

I personally know of some specific players in this region who played good quality HS rugby, then attended lower grade colleges, but are now back playing for D1 club teams. Had these lower grade teams not existed then these guys would likely be playing 18 holes of pointless golf each Saturday, or digging holes in their back yards.

yea hopefully guys start demanding more of themselves in college as the old stereotypes wash away. prove their worth to the university and slowly build support. that has always been the way and always will be. Be clean on campus, marshal alumni support, give back to the university in some way, and train hard and win some matches. look at any college program from Kutztown to Cal and that is how they have built the program.

I tend to differ slightly with Good Times in that these "dregs" are not the BASE and the FACE of USA Rugby. They are the FACE of the Worldwide Rugby Community. We should not punish folks for enjoying rugby the same way a large part of the rugby world does.

When touring sides come visit the US, beat most everyone they play both on the field and off. Do you really think it is because they are better athletes and train harder? I personally don't. I think it is because they started the game younger, had better exposure to the finer details of the game through better TV coverage and slightly more experienced coaching. Many are just as social as the social teams that some would like to ostracize here in the US. It is part of the sport!

I think an important part of the growth of the US game (besides the level of commitment and professionalism occurring from the upper echelons) includes better access to watching good examples of rugby. With Sentanta and Mediazone etc. the access to good rugby in the US had changed dramatically over the last few years. This is one area that people pay little attention to as far as importance. But just like many Americans can tell you great details while watching an American football game or Baseball (both of which I just cannot grasp the details of) and know exactly what the smart things to do in certain scenarios.... the developed rugby world knows the same about rugby.

If I might use myself as an example. American born, grew up overseas, started playing rugby at age 7 (although it was not my main sport throughout my school days) moved back to the US for college, started playing again, had a great time on and off the field and played in a few ITTs. Moved overseas and played in a few other countries and managed to hold my own. Not because of my athleticism but in large part because I knew what to do on the field from watching good rugby. That is an important part of how good habits get engrained into someone.

So, I think that perhaps All About The Money might try playing overseas a few years and hopefully learn that this IS a social game. Take a day off the weights, have a beer and watch some great rugby with some mates and enjoy their friendship off the field a little… that is what the rest of the rugby world is doing… and you know what... they are having fun… all to often at our expense.

um. maybe some clarification? are you saying competitive university sides are treating the sport as a social sport or are you talking about the clubs over there. Cause in America we like our college teams to be competitive. Yes they celebrate on the weekends. But that is because they won. When the image of the sport has more to do with a keg and less to do with the virtues of the sport itself then you are wayyyy too social as a team. Perhaps that is the litmus test?

The collective of college rugby in the USA is recreational, unprofessional and intoxicated. The top 5% represent the same 20-30 teams we see at the nationals each year. Talk of super leagues and such is a pipe dream. It is what it is, and it is only one of the reasons why USA is a tier 3 rugby nation.

There should have been boat races and beer funnel contests at Albequerque to decide best of the rest. It would provide another meaningful competition and aspiration for lesser clubs to make it to playoffs each year. This would eventually yield the best "social" college rugby team in the country.

On a side note (and more serious one), I always wondered why more of the colleges with the best div1 football programs (i.e. Penn State) didn't produce better rugby programs. I would venture to guess there are dozens of football outcasts, who couldnt make the team for one reason or another (grades, legal issues, walk-ons who got cut, etc.), that wallow away in intramural football. There were many of these at the 1AA college I went to. You never see Florida, USC, Georgia, UMiami, or Texas on the college rugby map. Is there some cultural gap or is the infrastructure just not there to attract these athletes?

At big football schools a huge amount of great athletes don't play simply because rugby games are during football games.

They want to watch the game and tailgate.

When I coached a college side the worse our football team was doing the less numbers we had.

I meant to say the worse the football team was the greater our numbers were...

I played rugby at Florida for one semester and there were three areas that turned athletes away - coaching, facilities and structure.

Very much an "intramural" sport mentality - nothing that would attract wannabe Gator football players.

I doubt the majority of the players would have made it beyond the college club side. For them it was a status and a drinking club - perhaps that has changed since then but I doubt it.

I'm fine with social rugby. I like social rugby. Hell, I pretty much play social rugby.

They just shouldn't be representing a school. To pick an example out of a hat, if the third team at Michigan State just want to run off some steam and pound a few brews, then fine with me. But the 1st team should be a serious rugby team.

and lets be honest. EVERY varsity sports team drinks too. But A) it is during their offseason. and B) it is never directly associated with their sport. as in you wont see beer being drunk immediately after a lacrosse match. Is it that hard to wait to have a party that night?

Most college rugby sides are going to be a drinking club with a rugby problem until a Collegiate Coaching Association (or some such organization) is formed to dispatch coaches to college clubs and organize them and give direction. At this point it is completely random what college gets a good coach unless a club had a founder or early coach with a vision it is most likely a sub-standard program if the ambition is to be a quasi-varsity program.

Some interesting points made, but I think that TJ raises a great point - where does one go for support if you are trying to organize a college rugby squad. Just walking on to a campus with 15 jerseys does not make a rugby team. I appreciate that people want first team rugby to be "serious", but it requires a real structure. Structure means organized practices, tackling bags, field space, a trainer, etc. It also means that you have more than one coach to help coach new and returning players. If I played high school football in Texas and then walked out to play rugby in college it would be a MAJOR step down. That is the reality. Turning this around is no easy task - esp. without resources. If there is a group of folks who want to start a College Coaches support group sign me up!

Back in the day... I remember when my college side at UCSB kicked our coach to the curb and played the second half of the season with our team leaders stepping up and running the program. We made the Pacific Coast playoffs that year and lost in the semi's to Cal. It was a simpler time.

We were, in those days, the definition of a serious yet social side. Kegs on the sideline: Almost always. But we were serious about the game, we were almost 3 sides deep, and we won a lot of games. Although we fit some of the more negative 'social side' stereotypes, it is interesting to note that we always made the playoffs and, most importantly, a high percentage of our guys went on to play high level club and rep side. Many of those guys have continued to contribute to the game, 25+ years after they were first introduced to it at the yearly recruiting meeting held in a lecture hall with, you know it, a keg as the initial draw.

Conversely, since the demise of the Old Blues, I think the percentage of Cal players that continue on with the game is relatively low.

So it's a fine line we must navigate. If we continue to foster the negative stereotypes we risk the continued marginalization of the game. On the other hand, if the college game gets too serious, we risk burning out the kids and seeing them drop the sport in their primes.

At our our TU AGM and follow-up coaches meeting 50% of the coaches are students, or recent grads, 40% are old guys that don't even know what the ELVs are, and the remaining 10% are proper coaches. This is the problem with college rugby. There are no coaches willing to coach at the college level. It is a grind. You have to coach, raise money from the alumni base, work the politics of the school for access to resources, manage the team (travel, kits, administration requirements, etc) and there is little support from the union. The only time they contact you is when they want you to pay your union dues. That is all they want are the dues. Period. They could care less if the team is good or bad or if they are breaking rules on campus of if their coach is a criminal. It is pathetic.


Would it behoove us to upgrage the minimal requirements before college sides can play a recognized LAU match? 2 complete sides, a trainer, campus-managed field, head coach, asst coach, and faculty advisor --- probably a stretch since most Sr. Men's Clubs have trouble meeting this criteria.

It just pains me to think that all because of "dues" that USAR can't force feed a higher standard amongst "dreg" rugby sides...

Another Lacrosse comparison - you will find many non-varsity lax clubs that play at the same school which has an elite NCAA recognized program. They play other such clubs at nearby colleges. Sorta parallels the UCSB earlier post....Gotta get college rugby officially sanctioned somehow!!!


Interesting point and something that should be given thought. I do believe that there should be some sort of minimum standard for collegiate clubs (hell, I think there should be standards for clubs at all levels). Not wanting to leave any clubs out, the clubs not meeting standards could play men's D3 (or even create a D4) until their club is up to the collegiate standard. The clubs that are happy to play socially can still play and those looking for something more will have comfort knowing that all of the collegiate sides they play will have similar goals.

who cares if these guys play after college? if they arent serious players in college they are going on to play any meaningful rugby (top super league clubs and representative sides). So who cares if they get burnt out. It would be good for the sport since those guys could enter the high school and college coaching ranks with the knowledge of high level ranking. (we desperately need that) and when we have all serious rugby in college then we will be closer to the top as a rugby nation and then the guys that are good enough to go on to high level rugby will actually do so since it will be worth it. This isnt meant to be cutting or anything. I just think it is true. Im not saying who cares about those guys. Hell they wont be burn out. If they feel tired or whatever then they will welcome the reprieve of less serious club rugby ya know?

What college needs is a National College Rugby Coaching Association run by coaches and funded by either USA Rugby or TUs. Just like the refs have there own organization to manage their affairs, the college coaches should have one too. The mission of the association should be to recruit, train and place rugby coaches at college rugby programs and to set and maintain standards. If the day ever comes that the NCAA will consider rugby as a sport, they will be looking for some form of standards and governance beyond the extremely little that a LAU, TU or USA Rugby does.

Leksan: You're wrong in Cal hasn't and doesn't have a big percentage of players going on to make a contribution to the game. More than your UCSB peeps? I don't know for sure, but I believe so. AA's, Eagles, Pro's? Yes without question. More ref's? Yes. More club players, RSL, D1? Yes I think so. More game administrators and coaches, yes again.

What is true of many good schools is grads don't keep playing because they get into their careers. I would think UCSB would experience this.

FWIW, all teams party. The test isn't if there is a keg on the sideline. This even seemed lame 15 years ago.

Cal Supporter:

My reference comparing the serious program, Cal, to the scrappy program, UCSB early 80's, was primarily to remind everyone that the social aspect of the game is what originally attracted - or eased the entry for - many of us to the game.

I am well aware of the number and quality of the Cal Alum who continue to contribute to the game: I coach for a youth club and the majority of our 20+ coaches are former Cal players, and a great number of the many club volunteers are also Cal grads.

These days there are more opportunities for young players to advance on and play at higher levels, at home and/or abroad. All of the top Cal graduates are recruited and offered these opportunities, and the percentage of Cal Alum playing AA, pro, RSL, Eagles, etc. is obvioulsy much higher than that coming from UCSB (or any other college side for that matter).

But there are so many quality players in the Cal program that many of them never get the playing time they would at another 'less serious' program. I think those are the kids who are less likely to continue on with the game. That's the point I was trying to make.


An equally important point is many many players from our best universities won't keep playing, because their career opportunities will be so good. We won't lose these individuals as fans, but we will lose them as participants. This won't have much to do with playing time and everything to do with adult opportunity. The percentage of Stanford and Harvard guys that keep playing is low, for this reason. Its not because they sat on the bench, its because they received a great career opportunity.

Still other college players don't keep playing because the club experience can be poor. Many clubs have good coaches and good organizations, but most don't.

To your Cal players not getting playing time comment, this seldom happens. Over the course of a players career, they almost all play. Few play right away, because the upper-classmen talent is good, but those guys graduate and make room for the next player down. What you never see at Cal is a senior playing on the second or third team. My Cal team had 8 senior starters and the rest juniors. Done of us played right away, but we all played before we graduated.


That's obviously a valid point about career/adult opportunities.

I am not criticizing the program at Cal; it is the elite program in this country.

You mention how some players drop the game because they have a poor club experience. Do you think that the kids that come from the more elite programs (like Cal) have more difficulty sticking with the game in the real-world of D1 club rugby? Even now, with RSL and the various professional leagues abroad, there would seem to be only a very few club opportunities that could match the experience offered by the elite college program.

Is there any real reason why Old Blues can't reform?

The money from the foundation that supported Old Blues is now in the hands of St Mary's - O'Brian masterminded that transfer of funds - so they would be starting from scratch. I understand the foundation amount was substantial and St Mary's was able to resurface their field and fund the team without touching the principle.

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