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CRAA Advisory Panel Shakes Up

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CRAA Advisory Panel Shakes Up

Life University huddles up before the 2018 D1A final. David Barpal photo.

The development of an Advisory Panel made up of collegiate sports administrators has opened up some significant questions about how top-level college rugby should operate.

The panel, made up of Marti Storti, Rob Dunn, Larry Naifeh, and Charles Anderson, is a diverse group. 

You have Storti, who is at a school that doesn’t have football and where men’s rugby is run by the student rec department, but with heavy support from the school.

Dunn’s Naval Academy has a rugby program with a paid coach and is well-supported.

Anderson and Naifeh represent universities that are very well known in sporting circles (Ohio State and Oklahoma), especially in football, but have non-varsity rugby programs. Naifeh has a strong rugby pedigree, which is an interesting twist.

So with that perspective, these four threw in another twist. That was their job—to look at the collegiate season, specifically that of D1A, and make recommendations. What they addressed wasn’t, perhaps, what some might have expected.

Looking For Legitimacy

Here are some of the things they said in their initial meeting:

D1A has some of the features that college administrations want to see: a commissioner, insurance for the players and coaches, and coaching certification. 

But having coaches being in charge of how the competition is run isn’t how other major college sports do it, and so gets in the way of improving legitimacy on campus. Coaches don’t set the season or debate when the playoffs are, administrators do.

Setting standards for behavior and schoolwork that are higher than the minimum for the student body as a whole is a good thing.

Being clear about what eligibility rules there are for the team and showing the school administration that you hold to those rules.

But the thing that jumped out at GRR was two things: Community, and Playoffs.

Community

The first was about telling rugby’s story. Teams, said the advisory panel, should collect data on rugby student-athlete achievement—everything from graduation rates to GPA to success after graduation to leadership development and community service. 

Pursuing and promoting community service is something programs should consider in order to raise their status on campus.

Those in rugby say playing rugby in college is a positive for the athletes, so we should show that information, and we should prove it.

Playoffs

The second thing was about playoffs. What, asked the panel, is the big deal about having so many teams in the playoffs? D1 college football has four teams in its playoff structure. The rest of the teams are shooting for bowl games—a prestigious game against a rival that means something at the end of the season.

Why should D1A have a 16-team playoff? They should instead focus on winning their conference. Conference play should be the most important thing. Then you worry about a national champion. The panel also pointed to the structure of 7s tournaments, in which there’s a Cup, Plate, and Bowl. Why can’t you have tiers within the D1A competition?

It was perhaps the most striking piece of advice. The regular season, the part of the season that involves the most student-athletes, is the most important.