US Collegiate Rugby Membership By The Numbers
US Collegiate Rugby Membership By The Numbers
How many college rugby players are there in the United States?
Seems like you should be able to answer that question fairly easily, but of course it's never that easy.
How many of those players are women? A difficult answer to find, too.
What percentage of those players operate under NCR and what percentage play under other umbrellas? That's a tough one, too.
At GRR we have been asking for membership numbers from various organizations, and after receiving them, we can let you know a little about it all.
We still have some research to do regarding growth or decline of participation numbers, and we will do that, but the overall impression is that participation numbers are down from pre-COVID; down ... but coming back.
We could dump the raw numbers on you right here, but they don't tell the accurate story. Basically it comes down to which teams are members in more than one organization. There are teams that play almost exclusively in CRAA or ACR, but have acquired membership in NCR so they could play in the CRC 7s tournament. There are teams that play all their league competition within the NCR umbrella, but are members of USA Rugby as well in order to be able to play non-conference games across borders.
If we just threw USA Rugby, NIRA, and CRAA's numbers, plus NCR's numbers, at you, you would have an inflated impression of how many players there are. How much of an inflation? We figure (and to be honest there's a little estimation) about 1,100. That is, NCR members plus USA Rugby members equals the total number of college rugby players PLUS 1,100.
The main thing is there is NCR membership (which does not confer membership with USA Rugby) and USA Rugby membership. Being a member of ACRA, ACR, or CRAA also means you pay USA Rugby membership dues. NIRA, which is the group of NCAA varsity programs, has an operating agreement with USA Rugby and as such is a little bit separate from both.
Our listing of membership based on umbrella organization is designed to give you an idea of where what kind of collegiate rugby is being players. Where are the bigger, higher-level programs (and does bigger equate to higher-level)? What organizations cater more to women? What organizations have the most players? In what categories are the most players?
OK, Let's Get To It
First off, it's pretty clear, and has been for a while, that NCR dominates the D2 and Small-College categories. The only category where they don't have more players than some other organization is Women's D2.
CRAA/ACR D2 Women reported 2,628 players for the 2022-23 season. NCR reports 1,486. However, expect that balance to change in 2023-24 with the fact that CRAA/ACR conference Mid-Atlantic, and independent conference Carolinas are moving to NCR.
NCR has 2,861 men's D2 players, 4,590 men's small-college players, and 2,050 women's small-college players. So overall, in D2 and Small-College, NCR reports just under 11,000 players. Outside NCR has about 3,500.
As reported by NIRA, there are 695 players registered in NIRA. CRAA's D1A and D1 Elite. For those divisions there was a little double-dipping but not much and it was fairly easy to track.
Overall there are 2,169 registered D1A players, and 219 D1 Elite players. Expect those numbers to increase slightly in 2023-24.
NCR's Men's D1 has 1,581 players and 852 in the Women's D1. But we're not comparing apples to apples here—it makes a bit more send for us to lump all the D1 and D1AA stuff together. NCR has just over 4,000 D1 and D1AA players, 80% of them men, while CRAA has about 5,000, over 40% of them women. ACR has 1,731 players, all men, and there are just under 2,000 players who members of USA Rugby and not of any over-arching organization. Those are split, as far as we can discern, about 56-44 between men and women.
About 150 men's players and about 150 women's players are on NCR roles simply because they played in the CRC—they were not NCR members for the rest of the year and so we'd list them as CRAA or ACR or NIRA or USAR Independent members.
Meanwhile, about 800 men's players were registered with USA Rugby but really played their regular season under NCR—they were USA Rugby members only because they wanted to play non-conference games with USA Rugby members. So we'd list those players under NCR.
We can't count those players (1,100 in all) twice.
What We Came Up With
Here's are two tables, showing who is a member of what, men's and women's rugby, and also how many clubs.
Please remember that while these are based on official membership numbers submitted to GRR, they also include a few estimates. Those estimates don't account for any significant potential errors. We're confident these figures are close enough.
|College Rugby Players in USA 2022-2023|
|Est. Total Players||15462||10465||25927|
Please note that the percentage is the percentage of players in that category, so the 53.1% USA Members under women means 53.1% of women rugby players are playing for USA Rugby member teams.
|College Rugby Players in USA 2022-2023 By Division|
|Men||Women||Men Teams||Women Teams|
|HMD / HWD||24.3%||2.1%||76||4|
|D1AA / WD1||24.8%||29.6%||69||92|
|Small College (All)||31.1%||19.6%||193||113|
Percentages refer to the percentage of Men players or Women players under each category.
The number of teams is a bit of an estimate because in certain categories we had to make a guess. But if we're off we doubt we're off by more than 10. However, if an organization told us a number, that's what we went to (meaning, if you think it's inaccurate, take it up with them).
Not all men's D2 and Small College teams are in NCR ... almost all, but not all.
We categorized D1A and NCR D1 together (yes, we know some people aren't going to like that but overall this list represents the old D1A—called by us "Highest Men's Division" or HMD. HWD is Highest Women's Division and remains just the D1 Elite.