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Team Moves Leave UVM In Cold, Looking For Games

    

College Men

Team Moves Leave UVM In Cold, Looking For Games

The University of Vermont is still looking for games. 

It was a tough off-season for UVM, as the rest of the NECRC moved to other conferences. In the end, what had been perhaps the most competitive conference in the nation, top to bottom, with Norwich, Rhode Island, Middlebury, and New Hampshire, as well as Vermont, battling it out every week.

“UNH didn’t win any games last year but they were still a good team - they had  a lot of one-score losses against very good teams,” said UVM Coach Declan Connolly. “The NECRC was a very tough conference, and it was challenging for everyone.”

It used to be even tougher, with Coast Guard in the fold. But Coast Guard left for the New England Wide last year. That, perhaps, was a harbinger of things to come. Rhode Island joined the new Liberty DI conference; Norwich and Middlebury moved to the Rugby Northeast; UNH went independent by choice.

That left Vermont trying to get into a conference, and finding no luck. They turned to USA Rugby, but really the options were limited. USA Rugby has oversight over college rugby, but can’t tell a conference to accept a team. Connolly said he feels somewhat abandoned.

“When Rhode Island decided to leave, that left us, Middlebury, and Norwich, because UNH already had wanted to go off on their own” said Connolly. “Norwich applied to Rugby Northeast, as did we, as did Middlebury.”

Norwich and Middlebury were accepted, and UVM was not. Connolly said that decision fell at the feet of Rugby Northeast President, Commissioner, and Marketing and Communications Director, Charles Cisco. 

“Reading between the lines, the teams that are mostly in the Boston area, didn’t want to travel to Vermont,” said Connolly. “We’re hanging in the wind right now, but we’ve put together a schedule hoping to get an at-large bid to the national playoffs.”

“The situation on the vote for UVM is a complex one,” said Cisco. “The membership had a number of issues, of which UVM's rugby team has no control over. One of the main issues was, that UVM is a large school. Though the conference has two members currently of similar size, they are original members that have ties to the Northeast-10 NCAA conference.”

Connolly had trouble with this rationale, pointing out that several DII programs around the country have more than UVM’s 11,000 undegraduates.

“A second point that caused issues was, the additional travel to Vermont,” said Cisco. “Adding in two Vermont teams had put a lot of teams near their travel budgets. So, adding in another, third, new member from Vermont, a number of members felt they could not handle the travel and the budget.”

Connolly certainly buys that, and acknowledges that travel to Burlington, Vt. is tough.

“I do not think it is just one item, but a combination of items that caused the conference membership say no to UVM,” said Cisco. “At no time did any member state anything negative about UVM's rugby program. The issue was around logistics, and outside of the rugby program’s control.”

That may be cold comfort to the Catamounts. Connolly said he hasn’t posted an official schedule because he’s still hopeful of finding games, but the lack of a schedule could hurt player numbers.

UVM opens against St. Michael’s and also has Boston University, Salve Regina, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Bishop’s in Canada. Most of those games will have to be on the road, as it’s a bit of a sell job to get the games to start with - it’s much hard to get a team to play a non-league game on the road.

They want more games, and Connolly is saying publicly he wants more games. But in the end, the sad thing is that a strong DII program, through no fault of its own, is kind of left out in the cold. In a college rugby universe where we want to celebrate those who like to play and compete, UVM needs a little help.

 

Contact Declan Connolly at: declan.connolly@uvm.edu to get a game with UVM.