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Varsity Teams Band Together

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Varsity Teams Band Together

Quinnipiac and Army are just two teams playing lots of varsity games this upcoming season. (Photo courtesy Quinnipiac Athletics)

An effort’s being made – that’s for sure. As fall schedules are released, it’s evident that college varsity programs have banded together and will be playing each other this upcoming season. What does that mean in terms of conferences, playoff berths, championships, etc.? There are a lot of questions to be answered, and they’ll come as USA Rugby’s elite competition structure continues to evolve. In the meantime, the women’s college sphere will be treated to some exciting match-ups, and in the longer term, the varsity product will develop into a more marketable entity.

Three varsity teams have released their schedules – Quinnipiac, Life, and DI newcomer Notre Dame College – and their lineups include American International College, Army, Brown, Central Washington, Dartmouth, Davenport, Harvard, Lindenwood, Norwich, Sacred Heart, and West Chester. Again, it’s unknown whether teams will be forming leagues, declaring themselves independent, staying with the fall 15s/spring 7s format – but some assumptions can be made.

For instance, there's no need for Brown, Dartmouth, and Harvard to leave the Ivy League, as that conference is a strong one that already has three varsity teams within it. West Chester could also stay in the Mason Dixon, as that conference has allowed league play in both the fall and spring. Life could stay in the spring-based SIRC, and with Central Washington's split season, there's room for plenty of higher-level friendlies, but the Running Eagles and Wildcats have indicated there are further changes afoot.

“We are very excited about our fall season and looking forward to the challenge. We are not certain what we’ll do in the spring,” said Life coach Ros Chou, whose team would normally contest its SIRC matrix season in the spring. “The plan right now is to have an at-large bid to regionals and play a combination of 7s and 15s in the spring. We want to dedicate a little more time to 7s to better prepare for things like CRCs. USA Rugby is working on an elite competition structure, but at this point it is not finalized, so we're waiting to see how that pans out.”

The competitive situation is an issue for Central Washington. The Wildcats are isolated from fellow varsity teams, and the team needs to play above the PMC North to further its growth. Central Washington will be playing a varsity double-header in October and is discussing a home-and-away series with BYU.

“Until more west coast teams elevate women's rugby to varsity status, building these relationships with the varsity programs on the east coast is a great start for us,” Central Washington coach Mel Denham indicated. “The PMC North division coaches and administrators are currently discussing the schedule for the 15-16 year.  … The goal is a schedule that allows time and flexibility for each team to schedule and prepare properly for their projected year, and create a well-rounded schedule that is best suited and appropriate for the individual capacity, growth, and development of each team. Nothing has been set in stone yet.”

Varsity teams playing varsity teams is a good thing, but it's never that simple when considering the rest of the country. Hopefully USA Rugby gets out in front of this developing sector of the game, knows who's competing toward what championship and whether they'll also play in the spring, for example. There are a lot of variables that affect whether a valid, fruitful competition is occurring, and the previous two years of post-season and championships have been marred by ambiguity and fallen short. There's still time to sort the look of the next competitive season, and all ears are piqued are eager to hear how the landscape will shift once again.

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