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How New Playoffs Affect You

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How New Playoffs Affect You

With USA Rugby’s announcement that they are marrying fall rugby and spring rugby playoffs, you might be forgiven if you aren’t quite sure how your team might get to a national championship.
 
What this move by USA Rugby does is at least attempt to take out the confusion that reigned last year. In 2013-14, there was an ACRC playoff in the fall, which was a championship of some form; there were conferences that played in the fall and then refused to move on to the spring playoffs, because they were essentially done; we had a DIA playoff that was, not to put too fine a point on it, unsatisfactory.
 
It was confusion. 
 
So, how does this change things? Well, maybe it won’t work, but it’s an attempt to give any team a pathway (their word, not mine, but it works) to winning a single division championship.
 
Here’s how it works: If your conference plays in the fall, then you play to win your conference. After that, you enter the USA Rugby fall playoffs (they call them regionals, and really it is regional, but temporally regional, not geographically regional). 
 
For DIA teams, this is all meaningless, because the DIA playoffs are in the spring and that’s it. 
 
For DIAA, there’s a semifinal on December 5. So that means there will be four DIAA teams showing up somewhere from some conference or other. Expect the MAC champions, at the very least, to be there. It’s quite possible that some of the other fall-only leagues will contribute. But there’s no room for all of the DIAA leagues … even if you remove the Big Ten and Rugby East because they are DIA, and you remove the Ivy League because their likely champions will play in the Varsity Cup, you still have six conferences that expect to crown champions before the end of November.
 
Perhaps then the ACRC Bowl Games will have some meaning. The winners of those games might then move on to be the three teams that join the MAC champs in the Fall (Regional) semis. Is that what people want? I am not sure.
 
As for DII men, there are so many conferences that there’s a nebulously described “play-in” in mid-November, followed by a Round of 16 and on and on, crowning a champion in December.
 
That’s somewhat more straightforward. The champion is the champion in DII. There’s nothing more to do in the spring.
 
For DIA, most of the games will be played in the spring anyway, so, aside from DIA and Rugby East, the heavy lifting will be done next year.
 
The difficulty is DIAA. If you play in the fall, your team is going to have to make the final of your (temporal) regional. Then, win or lose, you will wait six months for the national semis in May against the top two teams from the spring season. 
 
That plan makes a reasonable attempt to link it all together, but it won’t be easy. Two DIAA teams from the fall will have to wait a long time for the finals to commence. It’s not clear how all the various fall conferences will funnel their way into the regional playoff.
 
But, it’s something, and perhaps a something that’s a little more coherent than last year - anything would be.
 
Path to Playoffs
DIA - If you play in the fall, you wait until spring for playoffs to start. DIA organizers are worried your team will lose interest by then.
 
DIAA - If you play in the fall, you move into a playoff that decides what is essentially a fall champion. Winner and Runner-up then pitch-up in May for the national semis with the Winner and Runner-up from the conference that play in the spring.
 
DII - Playoffs are in the fall, and so is the championship. If you play in the spring … tough.

 

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