Questions And Concerns About MLR Draft
Questions And Concerns About MLR Draft
College players all over the country have questions about the upcoming Major League Rugby draft, and we’ve got a few answers.
Collegiate Rugby and MLR On The Same Page
The College Rugby Association of America, which runs D1A Rugby, has worked closely with Major League Rugby to get the rules for the draft in place. MLR’s Nishant Nereyeth and CRAA’s Kevin Battle spent plenty of time together trying to set up guidelines for the draft.
For the CRAA, the benefit is that a draft will stop teams from signing players too early and thus affecting the players’ eligibility. This will also stop teams from rushing to sign a high-profile player.
But D1A is not the same as all of college rugby. Other collegiate organizations are in play, and will be in play. Major League Rugby will not be the eligibility police. See below for some insights on that topic.
“The intention was always to work with D1A,” said Nereyeth. “Last year we put our heads together. Kevin’s been great to work with. We’ve been working together on the referee front and this is just the start of how we’ll work together. The key thing we discussed is that keeping kids in school and supporting the scholastic model is the priority.
Just For US-Based College Players
The rule is, to be eligible for the MLR Draft, you need to have been in a US college for at least three years, or be over 21 years old.
“We look at it from the viewpoint that a college junior or someone who is 21 has, by that stage, reached a certain level of maturity,” said Nereyeth.
But if you are a college rugby player attending school overseas, or you’re a young player overseas not in college, you’re not eligible for the draft, and you can work to sign with a MLR team on your own.
Can You Skip The Draft And Act As A Free Agent?
No. If you’re a US-based college player you can only sign after you’ve entered the draft. Then you’re drafted and the team that has drafted you has the rights to sign you for a year. If you enter the draft and are not drafted, then you can sign as an undrafted free agent, but you have to have gone through the draft process first
Can A High-Schooler Sign With An MLR Team?
Yes. If you come out of high school and don’t enter college, you can sign as a free agent. But it is enormously unlikely that this will happen. Players who can handle themselves at 18 in professional rugby are very rare, so if you’re a high-school who thinks you’re going pro at 18, you’re probably not.
Do I Have Control Over Who Drafts Me?
Nope. Let’s say you’re a student-athlete at Life University and you really like that area and want to stay in Atlanta and play for Rugby ATL. You cannot choose them. If you get drafted by RUNY, then you either move to New York or opt not to sign and wait a year.
Moving across the country for a pro contract that only pays a part-time wage (for most players) seems like it would be a big life change for not a lot of money, but teams can help you out with housing, and it’s only half the year, so maybe you live in two places during the year.
It is possible, however, that a team can draft you and trade you to another team.
Can I Declare For The Draft Now As A Junior, Get Drafted, And Then Sign After My Senior Year?
Yes you can! This is the Larry Bird approach and it can work. With the draft slated for June, a player could get drafted this year, and play his entire senior year unsigned, and then sign after the season if over, event as late as the end of May.
Why do that? Well, if you want a specific team to draft you, maybe you hope to get drafted by them when you're a junior, If they draft you, you can still play your senior year and then sign with your dream club. But if a club you don't want to play for drafts you, you still have a year to wait it out and try a second time in the drat.
BUT WATCH OUT: If you enter the draft as a junior, and you're under scholarship, you run the risk of losing your scholarship because your college team now can't be sure you won't ditch them for the MLR team.
Do This And You Are Still Eligible To Play College Rugby
Apply for the draft (be careful, though, because if you're playing for an athletic department-supported team, your school may take away your scholarship)
Get drafted (same warning ... if you have a scholarship your school might not like this)
Train with the team that drafted you during off-season workouts
(This is a thing negotiated by D1A with MLR. You can train with a Major League Rugby team during these periods: December 15 to January 15, and June 1 to August 15. This allows players to learn more about what life is like on a Major League Rugby team, and allows the players and coaches to see if this is a good fit.)
Do This And Lose Your Eligibility
Retain an agent
Negotiate with the team that drafted you, even just verbally. That's right ... have what you think is an informal chat with a coach about how much you'll sign for and you can lose your eligibility to play in college
Sign a contract with an MLR team
Train with an MLR team outside of the periods allowed
And Remember ...
While MLR general managers and coaches are supposed to keep up to date on college eligibility rules, they don’t really care about them, and if they’re from outside the USA, they probably think they’re stupid.
So it’s up to you, the player, to contact your college coach, your school, your conference, and likely the organization that runs your competition to find out what actions affect your eligibility.
Major League Rugby will be finalizing a series of FAQs on the draft very soon.