Why the ACRC Bowls are Important
Why the ACRC Bowls are Important
The ongoing lamentation in men’s DI college rugby is the fact that the competitions are all split up.
We’ve got DIA, DIAA, Varsity Cup, and the ACRC Bowls. And we can’t say, definitively, which group is better
At Goff Rugby Report, we’ve ended the fall with a DIAA team, AIC, ranked #1 ahead of DIA Indiana, Varsity Cup Arkansas State, and Penn State, which could compete in both.Now, you could argue that one of those other teams should have been #1 and you’d probably have a very good argument, but the fact remains, that AIC is as good as, or better then, many DIA teams.
So we’ve got confusion of divisions, and no clear idea of where the best teams are.
These days I have been fielding a lot of questions about whether we will ever get it back together again, and my answer is, we probably won’t. The fact that some teams really love playing in the fall, and some teams really love playing 15s in the spring won’t change … ever.
So, you go with what you can. If you are playing an independent schedule and thinking Varsity Cup (as BYU and Cal will) then you do that. If your conference plays in the fall, then you play your conference games in the fall, and then (like Indiana) decide to play in the DIA playoffs, or (like Dartmouth) look to the Varsity Cup.
And because of all these decisions, and splits, and lack of assurance, I really like the ACRC Bowls. The ACRC Bowl Series doesn’t care if your team will play in the DIA playoffs, DIAA, or Varsity Cup, or if your team finished 15s in the fall and plays 7s all spring. All the ACRC Bowl Series cares about is if you want to finish the fall off right.
This year, 20 college rugby teams played each other in ACRC Bowls, with 18 of them in one venue at the RAC in Charlotte, NC. The teams were all DI, but included a mix of Varsity Cup, DIAA, DIA, and teams that will play 7s in the spring.
The matchups themselves were brilliantly assembled. Of the ten games, seven were decided by a try or less. Two were decided on basically the last play of the game. Even one of the supposed blowouts had the teams tied at halftime.
They were fun to watch, as a result, and, so the players said, fun to play.
But the additional plus of ACRC Bowl Series is that it wraps a nice holiday bow on the fall. You don’t just player your league and go home - you know you are playing a bowl game against a team you haven’t seen before, a team well-matched against you. The Bowls provide the chance for some cross-conference bragging rights, but more than that, it shows players where they stand. The players love it, and so do the coaches because it’s tough rugby that is played in the right spirit.
The games are packaged right, webcast live, and at an impressive venue.
At a time when American college rugby is splintered, the ACRC Bowl Series welcomes all. At a time when programs find themselves pressured to pick one of the spring playoffs over another, the ACRC doesn’t care. At a time when some teams think 7s is the way to go through the spring, the ACRC doesn’t hold that against them and gives all teams a chance for a special experience at the end of the fall season.
At a time when USA Rugby High Performance head Alex Magleby is saying that some college teams aren’t playing enough games in a season, the ACRC Bowl Series offers these teams not only an extra game, but a tough, competitive game, exactly the kind Magleby (and pretty much everyone else) agrees would help make players better.
This, I think, will grow. We could see more college programs find it an attractive notion to finish the fall against a competitive but unknown opponent. I think we’ll see a few more Varsity Cup teams realize that thinking Varsity Cup only means you might get only one or two really tough games in the spring. I think we’ll see more players realize that competition in a good venue is fun, and worth the effort.
Full game videos on the ACRC Bowl Series
Full disclosure: Goff Rugby Report receives services in exchange for promotional consideration for ACRC Bowl games.