A Call for Action …

Did you see this article in the most recent USA Rugby newsletter? They are talking to you!

NCAA News: U.S. Rugby Athletes Called Upon to Tackle Opportunity

Although rugby has been on the Emerging Sports List since 2002, it remained relatively unknown to athletic officials and administrators until last year when USA Rugby was granted a full-time staff member and budget for the initiative. As a result, USA Rugby has rapidly gained exposure and visibility to athletic administrations at a number of institutions, but needs the support of rugby athletes to spur faster progress and embrace this opportunity.

Currently, there are approximately 300 women’s collegiate club teams participating within USA Rugby with nearly 7,500 women playing rugby in the United States at the collegiate club level. Although these numbers are much greater than other emerging sports, there has been surprisingly little movement by women’s collegiate rugby clubs to petition their universities for varsity status.

In order to gain more opportunity for female athletes in rugby within the NCAA, these numbers represent a critical factor known as “interest”. There are thousands of comments circulating today on blogs, websites, articles and e-mails on the topic of rugby’s increasing popularity at the college level and how much the community strives to help it grow. Yet, one of the most prevalent questions posed to USA Rugby staff remains, “Why do we only have 4 NCAA women’s teams with all the interest at the club level in college AND why aren’t more programs petitioning for varsity status?”

While the USA Rugby staff is the critical driver of the campaign to NCAA officials and athletic departments, the power truly lies with the students currently playing rugby.

Big 12 Universities Onboard
Some institutions housing successful club teams, including Texas A &M, the University of Colorado at Boulder and Texas Tech have all been part of the process since day one with several other Big 12 schools taking part in the process. Head Coach Will Riddle of the Texas A & M Women’s Club program is among those convinced that NCAA varsity status would be a positive move for the institution in adding women’s rugby.

“The involvement of the NCAA is vital to the continued growth of rugby in the United States. If Texas A&M and the other Big 12 institutions don’t take advantage of this opportunity now, it will pass us by,” Riddle stated. “There’s far too much potential here to let that happen.”

Teams like Texas A & M and the University of Colorado both tout nearly 40 player squads consistently, which speaks volumes in terms of gender equity and demand for women’s rugby not only in conferences like the Big 12, but in the U.S.

“Our players and coaches are passionate about the game of rugby and try to do everything we can to promote our sport. Along those lines, the possibility of being the first Div I-A school to go varsity was very appealing,” Riddle said. “We feel like Texas A&M students and alumni are the best fans in the country. We know they’ll be the same when introduced to rugby on the varsity stage.”

So what about the rest of the rugby community, who have had difficulty answering the call to complete interest petitions, which will help increase opportunity for rugby athletes?

If a school is considering adding a varsity sport and receives a petition of interest from club synchronized swimming and none from the club rugby program, the school may overlook rugby and provide varsity status – with funding, possible scholarships and opportunity – to the synchronized swimmers and rugby may not even be considered.

Sports such as equestrian rose to the challenge of successfully adding 23 new varsity squads within the NCAA within the first two years of their delegation to the emerging sports list. Synchronized swimming has added four additional varsity teams to total eight within the NCAA since their inception to the list.

USA Rugby’s Allies
USA Rugby consistently works with key officials and administrators on methods to advance the Emerging Sport Campaign for more exposure to women’s rugby. Karen Morrison, NCAA director of gender initiatives and student-athlete well-being, is charged with overseeing and providing support for the current members of the emerging sports.

Following Morrison’s attendance at the first women’s NCAA game in September of this year, her message was clear on the timeline that rugby faces. “We’re getting close to the end of the legislative window opened by NCAA rules for Rugby as an emerging sport,” Morrison stated. “That process is intended to move women’s sports more quickly to full participation in an NCAA championship, but we need to see some progress in the addition of varsity rugby teams at NCAA schools to keep moving toward that goal of an NCAA national championship.”

Demanding More for Future Generations
Depending upon how urgently this message is perceived, the notion is clear that current rugby players should certainly demand more for the future generations of female rugby. This includes our high school and grade school athletes who may or may not be playing rugby right now at the club level.

In the end, without action and interest, rugby will remain within the same status as handball and archery, both sports that have been subject to recall on the emerging sports list. Based on the strong participation numbers, and variety of media coverage that is written, posted and televised on rugby’s behalf, it remains baffling to many why such a fantastic, entertaining and amazing sport is being overlooked. For the moment, the answer is simple – the power that has been granted to our female rugby athletes is not being utilized.

The funding, equipment and facilities remain secondary to the opportunities provided to a sport when taken in by the NCAA and rendered a full championship sport. Karen Morrison’s final comment exhibited a powerful message in terms of what opportunities lie ahead in the event rugby opts to raise up in light of their own opportunity and take advantage of what is available: “There really is nothing that compares to an NCAA championship experience for student-athletes and fans. The media attention that accompanies our championships also exposes more women and fans to a wonderful game.”

The Bottom Line
The pathway to this opportunity includes contact with USA Rugby and connection with the Emerging Sports staff. This commitment takes only a few minutes, and includes placing your signature on a petition. This signature is a testimony of the vast participation and interest in the sport or rugby in the US. Without this, we simply continue to deny opportunity to our future generations of rugby.

To get your club team involved in the process and to learn more information about the initiative, please contact Becky Carlson immediately at bcarlson@usarugby.org or by phone at 303.539.0300 ext 102 or visit http://www.usarugby.org/goto/getting_started.

And if you’re out of college now, but was a collegiate rugby club player, perhaps you need to see if your college team is interested and support them. God knows most teams are just trying to keep their current teams going and alumni support is always crucial.

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40 Comments

Filed under college, NCAA, Use Your Voice

40 responses to “A Call for Action …

  1. em

    I pushed for it when I was in undergrad. I was told that new sports aren’t started without a 1 million dollar endowment that is invested and used to pay all team expenses henceforth. That soured me on the whole ‘student involvement’ thing, personally. The AD wasn’t the least bit interested unless we could come up with the money upfront.

  2. em

    Also, I’d love to know why the emerging sports window is half over and USA Rugby only cares about this now. Excuse me for sounding bitter, but I am.

  3. richard

    Completely off topic:

    I’d like to watch the England-SA final on Saturday, somewhere in Madison. Endless googling has uncovered only this blog. Do you (or do any commenters) have suggestions as to Madison sports bars/pubs that might show it?

    Thanks, and nice blog.

  4. Anonymous

    Richard-

    Wilson’s on Atwood is our team bar and added Setanta for the world cup. Also, there’s an irish pub on capitol square, Brocach, calling itself Madison’s HQ for the rugby world cup.

    -J

  5. Anonymous

    Why so much club interest and not so much varsity? Perhaps all of us aren’t so excited about what could become of the world’s greatest game when placed in the hands of the NCAA….

  6. Em

    I really think that’s just scare-mongering, anon. If you’re in it solely to get muddy and wasted every Saturday, then yeah, you’re going to be against going varsity. If you’re actually an athlete, with all the attendant athletic drives, such as wanting to develop yourself into the best possible player, then varsity is what you want, b/c top tier club sides are few and far between. I’ve heard this ‘ruin the game’ boogeyman before, and I don’t buy it. The only reason to not be excited about varsity is if an immediate post-game social is more important to you than the actual match (b/c newsflash: varsity sports athletes party plenty).

  7. Jessa

    A question for anyone out there playing varsity rugby…are there tryouts and therefore cuts at the beginning of the season? To me that is potentially one of the biggest sticking points about wide-spread NCAA status for rugby. It’s a game where anyone who shows up to practices can play – even that girl who has hands like feet and can’t hit (and sometimes, that girl surprises you mid-season when she suddenly figures out how to tackle, run, and pass a ball). I know I never would have started playing back in college if it was a varsity sport with fitness testing and tryouts at the beginning. Any thoughts or firsthand knowledge here?

  8. a concerned player

    Actually, I’m not so much concerned with the opportunities to “get wasted” or social after the game, I’m much more concerned with collegiate athletes’ opportunities to compete in select-sides and for their country’s national teams. At the NCAA’s sole DI varsity women’s rugby program, players are not even allowed to try out for the U19 National Team without jeopardizing their varsity eligibility.

    I am also concerned with some of the rule changes put in place to supposedly make the game “safer for women” – including only lifting by the shorts, mandatory scrumcaps/shoulder pads, no metal studs, etc. What’s next – uncontested scrums? helmets?? knee pads???

    It’s also kind of important to me that certain traditions such as the numbering system are held up. The great thing about rugby is that putting on a starting 15 jersey for that day’s match is a privilege. Wearing a #2, for instance, means you are the leader in the scrum, being the #11 means you are your team’s dependable speedster, wearing a #7 means you are going to go out there are wreak havoc. If you happen to be numbered 16-22, then you know that if you go in you are going to play the best rugby possible in order to have the honor of wearing the 1-15 the next game. You don’t need or want your name on the back of your jersey because that isn’t YOUR jersey…it is the jersey you have earned for that particular game, and it must be earned again the very next week.

    So if you think I’m “scare-mongering” maybe you’re right. But I love this sport. I love the competition, I love the amazing athletes, and I love all the fabulous opportunities it offers to young people, particularly women. I just don’t want to see all that disappear in favor of all the egos and commercialism present in the major NCAA programs of today.

    As for varsity programs modeled after the laws and traditions held up by the IRB and represented very well in this year’s Rugby World Cup – I’m all for that…I want more opportunities and more money and support and professionalism for the athletes just like anybody else, but not at any price. Americans have a way of forgetting about what’s important in sports (see major league baseball), and I guess I want some reassurance that NCAA rugby won’t go in that direction.

    As for partying….well, that’s the least of my concerns.

  9. Hoop

    Em, I have to disagree with your comment about “top tier club sides [being] few and far between.” Look at defending national champions Penn State, look at Stanford, Navy, UVA, Princeton, Army, New Mexico, Chico State…the list goes on. These are club sides, yet they consistently yield All-American players and often finish their seasons ranked in the top 16 teams in the nation. Their players are absolutely “actual athletes,” regardless of their club status, and many go on to play for territorial and national sides—development that did not require varsity status.

    From what I’ve seen, it’s not “partying” that’s prohibited for varsity teams, it’s socializing at all with opponents. At my college, we hosted every team we played for a post-game BBQ on the field and the varsity team in our league could never stay. While the match was extremely important to me, I loved the chance to get to know other players afterwards. Banning this flies in the face of rugby’s tradition of fostering friendship and respect between players.

    And as for the rule changes, I’m with the concerned player. What are teams getting in return for the loss of traditions?

  10. Em

    Jessa–I don’t foresee cuts being made on a varsity rugby program anytime soon. Women’s water polo was an emerging sport not long ago and the coach at my university was carrying a huge number of athletes b/c of Title 9. Probably a third of the roster was walk-on as well. Rugby roster numbers are going to be very attractive to ADs looking for ways to comply.

    Hoops–Penn State, look at Stanford, Navy, UVA, Princeton, Army, New Mexico, Chico State…the list goes on. These are club sides, yet they consistently yield All-American players and often finish their seasons ranked in the top 16 teams in the nation.

    Exactly. 16 top tier teams, 20ish if you count the bottom of that tier who cycle in and out of sweet 16s. This is out of 300+ women’s collegiate club sides. I’m sorry, but that’s few and far between to me. Chances are much higher, if a woman is playing collegiate rugby, that she’s got a peer for a coach, a 15 year old scrum sled, a budget of maybe $1000 per semester, and a constant numbers problem, as opposed to having a certified, committed volunteer coach, 22 out to every match, and home and away jerseys. The far majority of teams have very little. That’s a fact that needs to be pointed out, not to discount the successes of top club sides, but to draw attention to the thousands of women who don’t have those same opportunities.

    Concerned Player–if you have evidence of all these proposed rule changes for the women’s game, I would like to see it. If USA Rugby has any brains at all (and I’m not saying they do), they would realize that dumbing down the women’s game will cripple players for future high level play where the IRB rules are utilized.

    I also think you’ve made the mistake of taking the NCAA as seriously as it takes itself. At a school with an NCAA football or basketball team (i.e. pretty much all of them, excepting some Ivies where lacrosse is paramount), no other sports matter, especially women’s sports. Women’s water polo and equestrian are/have recently been emerging sports, and have you seen them on TV anywhere? Any commercialism? Of course not. Rugby matters to me, but I’m cynical enough to understand that ADs are going to see it as 30 men’s players they don’t have to cut, and that, more than probably anything else, is going to make it attractive.

    The select-side/varsity conflict is, to my mind, the biggest problem, but one that I think can be resolved. Select-side rugby is amateur play, so draft eligibility rules should not apply.

    Varsity can be done, and it can be done right, but only if USA Rugby keeps its head out of its arse.* My prediction is that, having squandered five years of their window already, it’s not going to be done. Maybe the second time around (I’m not sure what the waiting period is to re-apply as an emerging sport). By that time, the girls’ HS level should be well-established and provide a recruiting pool.

    *How many collegiate ruggers regularly read USA Rugby press releases? I didn’t start paying attention to them until I graduated and took an officer position on my senior club side. Lots of clubs probably don’t even know about this initiative. And why isn’t USA Rugby conducting interest surveys amongst the collegiate clubs themselves? Why should it be up to students to wade through all the advocacy stuff? Without outside boosters and outside money (see my very first comment above), these kids are going to be ignored! So no, I don’t see it happening this time around. Which all things considered, may be a good thing.

  11. still concerned

    Em,

    Try http://www.collegerugbyamerica.com for some of the rule changes, particularly the “Talking Rules” section with Coach Graziano.

    The proposed rule changes would not be the fault of USA Rugby and that is precisely the problem. The only NCAA DI Varsity program in this country does not even acknowledge USA Rugby’s existence, uses their own “special” referees, and the coach is in the process of creating his own U18 programs because apparently he has no respect for USA Rugby’s existing U19 and other age-grade programs.

    The problem with all this is that this program, Eastern Illinois, is at the forefront of the NCAA movement, and Becky Carlson, who is in charge of the NCAA initiative for USA Rugby is the product of Eastern Illinois rugby. I don’t like the connection. Thus my fears.

    As for Jess’s concerns about cuts…I don’t think she’s so concerned about the current decent rugby players being thrown off the team, but that girls who are, let’s face it, not athletic in any way, would no longer be allowed to have a place on the team’s B or C side team.

    Please check out the collegerugbyamerica.com website and read some of the coach’s comments so that you can decide for yourself. In addition, note that there is no mention of USA Rugby or the irb anywhere on that page (that I have found). They are trying to separate themselves completely, and encouraging all other NCAA programs to go along with them.

    I appreciate your passion for the betterment of women’s rugby and agree that things can be better. Just be aware that not everyone who outwardly appears to be working towards the advancement of rugby is really doing so. I can tell that you love this sport as much as I do, and as someone with a bit of personal experience, I just wanted to share some things that I’ve learned.

  12. Em

    Hey still concerned,

    I was first made aware of Eastern Illinois’ deception through the blog Put Me In Coach! Was that where you found them too? I am inbetween classes so I don’t have a lot of time to peruse the site again, but I do remember thinking what a load of bullhonkey it was. What I wasn’t aware of (or at least did not remember) was the NCAA/USA Rugby connection through Carlson. I wonder if that is why ‘collegerugbyamerica.com’ has not been challenged by the powers that be. I am not inclined to give EIU much credit, myself, but if they have the ear of the national organization, I wonder if a sell-out is imminent. Ugh. More thoughts later if I have time. Nice discussion by the way, thanks!

  13. mutantin

    who is that coach graziano guy anyway?
    and what exactly is it that he tries to do to our sport?
    do we (non us-americans) have to speak of “american rugby” as in “american football”?
    hope not.

  14. concerned

    Em,

    I’ve had some personal connections to the EIU situation…and although I, too, feel it’s almost annoying to take Graziano seriously, I remain acutely attentive to his agenda because I understand that while all of these weird rule changes and such seem absurd and laughable to the current rugby playing public, they may not seem so to those who are being introduced to the sport through his program. When Graziano presents his “safety rules” and “timeouts” and marketing strategies to parents of recruits and university department heads he likely presents them as IMPROVEMENTS over the current rugby situation.

    For instance, by saying that in DI college rugby lineout lifting is only allowed when lifting by the shorts because that is the only safe way to do it, he insinuates that club rugby and the rest of the world do not care about player safety; By saying that timeouts may be used in DI college rugby to increase the drama, he insinuates that there isn’t enough drama through the current IRB governed rugby; and by saying that his referees who are dressed as football or basketball refs (and who he claims, by the way, have been transferred from those sports specifically for his team) are more professional than current club referees, he is indirectly insulting all those hardworking sirs out there who have worked hard to become safe, certified, regulators of our game.

    The problem isn’t that those of us already involved will buy into the EIU model, the danger is that they are leading the pack. Personally, I’d rather inform the public that rugby is not the savage, mindless sport that many Americans see it as and show them that it is truly a beautiful game with all the safety precautions in place of other contact sports…Graziano seems to be bent on telling naive newcomers that only this new brand of “American Rugby” (gives me the shivers) is safe for their daughters (or sons for that matter) to play.

  15. kc

    Per the discussion I went and checked out the webs site http://www.collegerugbyamerica.com. I was pretty concerned and frustrated by reading the section on rules. My first question would be why is this coach trying to change the rules of rugby. I think the whole safety for women thing is a bunch of crap. I know the NCAA has done it in Hockey and other sports but I just don’t get it. There is no reason to change the rules of sports for women. One of my personal favorite things about rugby is the fact that we are playing the same game as men & for the most part I would say we’re doing it better. (Sorry boys my opinion). And who is making these decisions? Is it this coach or a board. And if so where did the NCAA come up with this board? Are they people that are actually educated on rugby?

    Sorry if I sound like I’m venting but we live in 2007, when are people going to start realizing equal means equal.

  16. Em

    Concerned,

    Those are all really well-stated and salient points. I am wondering now how to get them heard.

  17. Alan

    WOW! I just read Graziano’s discussion of the rules, and I find it VERY disturbing.

    One thing I found interesting, however, is that they mark the 25-yard line, as the NCAA requires everything to be in feet and yards.* While some people might dislike that, I am excerpting an interesting article by the late English sports journalist Ian Wooldridge:

    “THOSE NICE RUGGER-BUGGERS

    “Ian Wooldridge admits to a fondness for the simple philosophy and slightly hazardous social habits of Rugby Man.

    “I vividly remember the late Sir Douglas Bader** bringing the house down at a St. George’s Day Club luncheon with a near apoplectic attack on those insidiously eroding the British culture he had fought with such wartime valour to defend.

    “‘As long as I live’ he cried – and it wasn’t, I fear, to be much longer – ‘I’m buggered if I’m going to refer to the 25 as the 22-metre line.’ There followed other dire warnings about what would happen if burgeoning Euromania were to permit the Frogs, Wops and Nazis to tamper with British sovereignty, but it was the rugby allusion that brought home to us the perils of it all with stark simplicity. What next? Would Brussels insist that henceforth we referred to a wing three-quarter as a 0.75?”

    So at least there is some precedent for that.

    *Is that 100% true? Does NCAA track have the 100m, the 100 yard, or the 100.361 yard? Does anyone know?

    **Bader was a top class rugby and cricket player who nearly managed to represent England in the late 20s. He was also a pilot in the RAF who lost both legs in a flying accident in 1931. Despite this, he continued to fly and fought against the Germans in the Battle of Britain (it was thought that his shorter legs made him more durable than some pilots, as his brain lost less blood when subjected to significant G forces). He was shot down and spent nearly four years in German prison camps. He died in 1982, shortly after the speech in the article occurred.

  18. Em

    Blondie, what are your thoughts on all this? It seems that everyone wants varsity but no one wants it the way it’s being proposed right now, and Graziano is a big part of that. You probably have more grassroots college contacts than USA Rugby does (or at least, while they might have the info, they don’t care to actually make personal contact with clubs). Would it be worth it to start a campaign regarding this? What would be the message and who would we direct it to? I have a letter composed to Ms. Carlson, but I am curious to hear your thoughts.

    Or maybe I’ll just move somewhere where the national union isn’t a confused glob of mush.

  19. mutantin

    somebody has to keep this guy from doing what he’s doing. but i guess, some of his ideas on women’s rugby may find open ears in the governing bodies. once graziano gets through with his watered down version of rugby, it’s going to be a hard fight to get back the right for every girl and woman in the usa to play real rugby.
    btw: u19 rules exist. who’s he trying to fool with his s**t?

  20. Em

    Maybe what it will take is a more highly respected club side to go varsity (no disrespect intended to EIU players. I’m sure they can distinguish between themselves and the reputation their coach is giving their program). West Chester is also a varsity program and they play IRB rugby. With teams on board whose coaches won’t stand for Graziano’s “Rugby Rules For Girlses,” presumably an NCAA rulebook would preserve the integrity of the game. Graziano can do what he wants to right now because “Heeeeeee’s the only one!” as he feels the need to constantly remind us.

  21. mutantin

    he’s the only one, but if he’s successful with his programme (what ever that means) there’ll be enough old white men to step up behind him and tell the public that womens rugby as a whole needs to be rebuilt after grazianos ideas.
    limiting the women’s game (like by letting women play with size 4 balls) is not something graziano invented.
    i remember very well our trip to france where we had to play 8’s rugby on a half pitch, with uncontested scrums. worse than playing touch.
    teh backlashers are out there!

  22. Anonymous

    I wouldn’t worry about EIU, I don’t think the program will make it beyond 2008-09 season

  23. Anonymous

    Glad to see so many postings and discussions on this. Just wish y’all would have spoken up before. Blondie has posted on this before and it’s eventaully taken off but not this fast. As for my opinion, I’d like to address em’s second post. I too find it concerning that the window is half over. Here’s my take on how to fix (?) it: Why aren’t we encouraging D-III teams to go varsity? From my reading, it’s not limited to D-I, is it? D-III teams don’t have scholarships to worry about and are usually composed of local and state kids who play for the love of a sport. In the Univ. of WI system, there are only 3 D-I schools and 1 D-II but tons of D-III schools, all of which have women’s rugby programs. As for the EIU, I think I share the sentiments of many when I say don’t even get me started.

    -J

  24. Anonymous

    From USA Ruby Website http://www.usarugby.org/goto/ncaa_womens_rugby:

    Top 5 Myths about NCAA Women’s Rugby

    Myth #1 “The culture of rugby will no longer be fun and the NCAA makes too many rules.”

    While NCAA’s structure is most certainly accompanied by an array of by-laws and policies, the idea that the “fun” will be removed from the sport due to newfound adherence to these policies is unfounded. You will find within the current student-athlete population, the structure and basis of the rules has provided quite the opposite with many examples.

    If you are a fan of the Men’s and Women’s Basketball NCAA Final Four, these student-athletes can certainly testify that the NCAA has added to the experience of the sport, rather than minimized. Structure and policy is a positive concept to the intercollegiate athlete that provides a sound foundation for a high level of athletic and academic achievement. If club rugby is insistent that “rugby culture” will be diluted from membership in the NCAA, the solution is to look at a sport such as ice hockey. This sport has its own reputation and culture but is still a key sport in intercollegiate athletics while maintaining this culture at the varsity, club and professional levels.

    Myth #2 “Rugby is a traditional, social sport in the US that cannot be changed without affecting the nature of the sport”

    While much of the tradition in the sport as a whole in the United States has included the social image and rough-nature, intercollegiate status projects a more positive image that many club programs already adhere to because it significantly increases support from sponsors, alumni and the University. Competitive play at NCAA level can assist in presenting a positive image in the eyes of the public and can focus attention on the athleticism and physical fitness needed for rugby, rather than categorizing rugby as a purely social endeavor.

    Myth #3 “Varsity rugby takes away club opportunities and if implemented will erase club rugby entirely”

    This myth is popular but far from correct. The concept of club sports was around long before the structure of varsity was in existence. As you may know, the powerhouse intercollegiate athletics including football dates back to club participation up until 1906 when the NCAA was founded. Club sports such as tennis, soccer, softball, basketball, cannot be erased from the system and rugby is no different. The creation of women’s varsity rugby is not taking away, yet adding another option or additional opportunity in the sport.

    Myth #4 “Varsity student-athletes cannot participate on the Women’s National Team”

    The USA Rugby Women’s National Team coaches, players and administration recognize that varsity athletics can be a positive addition to any National Team. NCAA Eligibility Rules do not prevent participation on most sporting bodies’ National Teams, but USA Rugby may need to provide alternative pathways for varsity student-athletes to be considered for the National Team that will not violate NCAA student-athlete eligibility.

    You will find that the USA’s most well-known women’s national teams – USA Women’s Soccer and USA Women’s Softball National Teams — consist entirely of former or current NCAA athletes, so it is clear that other sports follow the model of varsity athletics to achieve dominance and recognition on the world stage!

    Myth #5 “If we become varsity we won’t be able to participate in the national championship”

    This decision is strictly decided by the individual institution and its internal athletic departmental policy. Regular season mixed schedules of club and varsity is a must during the early stages of development as new teams are added. In order to expand women’s varsity rugby at the NCAA level, the initiative works toward achieving an all-varsity championship. The existence of an NCAA Women’s Rugby Championship in turn, has no effect on the existence of the USA Rugby Collegiate Club National Championship and USA Rugby will continue to host the Club National Championship.

  25. Em

    Why thank you, anonymous! I had no idea how to use the internet to do research. How about instead of copy-and-pasting, you provide answers to the questions that have actually been asked?

  26. concerned

    Thanks Frank…err..I mean, “anonymous”…we all appreciate your assistance with copy and pasting the USA Rugby website, because none of us had ever read it before. Seriously..

  27. Katy

    why is all of this talk centered around EIU? look at westchester university, another school with an NCAA division 1 team. they still participate in nationals (went to sweet 16s last year!) and have all americans as well as territorial representation. i would like to look to westchester as a club doing NCAA well. (and i went to penn state!) i would also point out that southern vermont is NCAA and seems to be thriving as a program without causing an uproar.

  28. bmb

    In order for clubs to be successful in petitioning for varsity status, USA Rugby needs to offer more than token support. The club I coach recently went to their administration with the request and the only direction they got from USA Rugby was template letters for use. Their request was denied without explanation or even, it would seem, consideration. I can’t help but think that the situation would have been different if USA Rugby had been more actively involved.

  29. Emily

    Katy has a good point. The other NCAA programs don’t operate under EIU’s (interesting, non-IRB) rules.

  30. Em

    I agree with Katy, but I have no connections to West Chester, Southern VT, or Bowdoin. Someone who does needs to start getting those teams PR. EIU will hog the stage as long as they can, so it’s imperative to start getting the real message out there.

    Also, if West Chester is NCAA DI, that’s another EIU misrepresentation. But I think that they are USA Rugby DI but NCAA DII.

    To whomever said that we need more than token support from the national org….really this is no different from any other USA Rugby venture. Half-funded, poor PR, lack of focus, internal politicking, and a plea for blind trust instead of engagement with we the members. How many world cups now? How many second round appearances?

    Le sigh!

  31. Em

    Letter to Ms. Carlson (unsent b/c it is more emotional and less professional than I would like. Since Blondie trackbacked here in another post I expect there might be a few more commenters. Might as well get all my thoughts out there for the world…)

    This is what you expect me to advocate?

    Any of this strike you as oh…I don’t know…sexist? We must protect the little girlses, I suppose. Heaven forbid we play the same old rugby that the rest of the female world is playing safely. But hey, we’re American, right? We do everything better!

    Why is USA Rugby advocating a development program that deliberately cripples players in their prime by making them play a game that is not in compliance with IRB laws? Surely they are aware that even the relatively minor differences between rugby union and rugby league have fizzled the attempted crossover careers of many league stars. Moreover, with this move, has USA Rugby even considered that it is shooting itself in the foot with regards to the NASC? Is the NCAA even aware of the select side format and its purpose as a funnel for developmental through senior national sides? Does USA Rugby intend to restructure the entire All Star format yet again?

    I’d also love to know why half the window on the emerging sports ticker is past and USA Rugby just bothered to post a press release now, and what they’re doing to make sure this actually gets on the radar of college teams. I certainly didn’t pay attention to the USA Rugby site in undergrad. I barely pay attention to it now except when I have to renew my CIPP (mostly because of the continued poor site design).

    I also wish to bring another matter to your attention–the gross misrepresentation of the club collegiate sport on Mr. Graziano’s website (as cited above). USA Rugby’s NCAA FAQ states that varsity status will not ruin collegiate club sides. However, Mr. Graziano, in his grandiose delusions, claims repeatedly that there are only four collegiate sides in America and that the first game–not the first game between varsity teams, but the FIRST game in women’s collegiate rugby–was played only this year. He also claims that there are no girls high school sides in the US, when–fancy this!–USA rugby has a entire section of its site devoted to youth and high school play. I find this very curious. Is Mr. Graziano an official spokesperson for USA Rugby? Have the statements he has made about the state of rugby in the US been vetted for accuracy? What exactly is Mr. Graziano’s relationship with USA Rugby? He certainly does not appear to be very well informed about anything other than his own brand of rugby–or perhaps he is just deliberately obtuse. At any rate, he is a poor face for USA Rugby to place on the flag of varsity rugby, and whether by your design or not, his is the face people are seeing. His website is a misrepresentation at best and at worst foully insulting to USA Rugby and collegiate club sides. If USA Rugby has done so much research on this initiative (as your website says), then why is Mr. Graziano’s site allowed to stand unchecked? I can only conclude that his views–and his attitude–are something that USA Rugby supports.

    I am all for continued development of rugby as an athletic endeavor for women. However, I simply do not see where the current proposed model has any real long term advantages to the state of the sport for women. I laugh bitterly at the prospect of a generation of women athletes being flawlessly trained…to play the wrong game. I question whether USA Rugby has fully considered this course of action and their intended outcomes for it. Is USA Rugby running this attempt, or is the NCAA? Or is the entire thing the brainchild of Mr. Graziano because someone at USA Rugby thought it would be a good idea and then just never followed up?

    In five more years women’s rugby will lose its emerging sports status. Between now and the time USA Rugby re-applies for consideration, perhaps the powers that be can have a sit down and actually make a plan for how to implement varsity rugby in a way that will not compromise the integrity of either the women’s collegiate game or the development of the US women’s program as a whole. Ideally, such a plan would involve close collaboration between the NCAA and USA Rugby in a transparent process, unlike the current effort, whose misty origins, rampant misinformation and unchecked rumors have bred a deserved mistrust in yet another of USA Rugby’s developmental boondoggles.

  32. Anonymous

    I’ve read all these comments and I think some are missing the point. No one speaks for you. Your IRB is run by men who really dont care about you just your dues. If your sport is going to grow and be taken seriously you all need to stand up for yourselves. Forget about EIU at least they are trying to do something about women’s sport. You are playing into men putting women’s rugby down. And you bicker amongst yourselves instead of demanding varsity status. Its not about this Graziano guy, its about you , and those that come after you. Women play this sport very well, its about respect but nobody is going to to hand it to you. Title 9 wave it in their faces or would you rather be shoved off campus while they pump more money to cheerleaders and pon pom squads

  33. Blondie

    This comment from Anonymous above raises an excellent point … and seconds what I said in my post this week …

    Don’t tear down, build up.

    It’s good to discuss this and good to express opinions and vent. But let’s stop ranting about EIU or the national office now … and figure out ways to move forward.

  34. Anonymous

    Sorry Blondie, but I’m going to have to disagree about anon’s comment. Anon is probably a guy given the “you” statments. How about since anon is part of the men who hold most of the power in the world, he steps up to help us out? Those not in power only make gains with the support of those in power. So maybe the iRB or USA Rugby doesn’t speak for us most of the time but it’s the system we have to work with and work within. The NCAA isn’t exactly a bastion of female power either. I don’t think people are bickering either. Em and others have been going back and forth in the comments but it’s been very respectful and has been noted as such. I think the comments to this post have been a great forum for people across the country to raise concerns and hear what others have to say on the subject. Why is it bad that we have differing opinions? I think it will only make us stronger when we have all been forced to really think about why we think what we and come to a concensus. And unfortunately, it IS about EIU. They have become the face of varsity rugby because they have the PR. I think a lot of us would agree that if the iRB teams were the face of the movement, we would be behind this much more. That’s where USA Rugby comes in. Carlson needs to swallow her alma mater pride and get behind the programs that are following the same rules as all the club teams around the nation who are looking to go varsity. As for Title IX, most schools are compliant. Adding women’s teams would help them add men’s teams back that may have been cut to comply. And it’s real athletes that were added to comply, not more poms or cheerleaders. At my university, the big cut was men’s baseball and women’s lightweight crew was easily added at a university with a strong tradition in crew. There are also a few teams already in line to go varsity here before rugby and, for the most part, are sports with established championships like lacrosse and water polo. So unless anon has suggestions, as in concrete steps we should be taking, I suggest he not rip on those of us who are having a thought-provoking discussion in these comments.

    -J

  35. OBG

    First off, thanks Blondie for yet again putting a valuable conversation out there.

    I’ve been lurking the last few days but willing to weigh in …

    Ms. Carlson comes at regular collegiate club players and administrators pretty hard with lines like “.. the power that has been granted to our female rugby athletes is not being utilized.”

    Maybe these people were busy, with things like, say, recruiting, building Web sites, practicing, playing games, fund-raising, CIPPing their players, rounding up insurance cards and all the little things it takes to have a program. Maybe the big hurdle of seeking NCAA status was just a bit too much. Maybe that’s why we hope that the dues we pay go toward building the sport.

    Ms. Carlson has the answer staring her right in the face in her very first sentence: “Although rugby has been on the Emerging Sports List since 2002, it remained relatively unknown to athletic officials and administrators until last year when USA Rugby was granted a full-time staff member and budget for the initiative.” Well, what took you four years?

    I love the debate (it is very respectful) that centers a lot, unfortunately, on EIU. I think EIU is a red herring. It diverts attention. But, as others have said, it’s hard to ignore when it does purport to be the face of NCAA rugby. The sad thing is that it diverts focus.

  36. Blondie

    J –
    I think you and I just read that anonymous comment in different lights. I guess I’m hoping we can take this discussion and come up with some action items. I want to know what we can tell people to do to move forward.

    I also think you and Em, among others, make strong valid points and raise crucial concerns that we – as paying members of the national union – have a right to voice.

    OBG – I gotta say, what you just wrote, I sat there going Yeah, Yeah, Yeah. Especially your first point … in our sport, too often the good leaders are the ones just struggling to keep their teams going each day.

    I keep wondering if some of our friends at the national office aren’t lurking on here … I know a few read.

    I sometimes wonder if the club population’s concerns aren’t just being brushed aside since it doesn’t fall in-line with the ideals some individuals have.

    If you want people to voice their opinions, you have got to provide them with better tools of communication to do so. And everyone’s got to be willing to listen …

    I’m not sure that’s happening right now. Although, it’s gotten better than it used to be.

  37. Lax Lady

    Please go to the link below and listen to the head coach’s interview. More importantly, listen to the press conference for the introduction of Gator lacrosse.
    Listed as “Jeremy Foley, Introduction of Gator Lacrosse” The introduction of the lacrosse program is a seventeen minute video. Please take the opportunity to review all of it, discussing the process as well as “why lacrosse”.

    http://www.gatorzone.com/lacrosse/

  38. Em

    I’ve been continuing to think on this, and it seems to me that in order to stop being distracted by EIU, we need to find out the details of the EIU/NCAA/USA Rugby connection. I will work for varsity rugby, but I think its reasonable and only fair to want to know from USA Rugby what we are signing on to support and what level of collaboration we can expect from the national org. A 6-or-so question FAQ does not provide the level of reassurance or information that I am comfortable with. Some might say that USA Rugby doesn’t owe me anything and that I ought to realize I should help for the good of the sport, but…I am the sport. So are all those college girls, and so is everyone reading this blog. We are the stakeholders here. For such a huge step, and such a huge commitment asked, I would argue that USA Rugby does owe all of us a better explanation and a more open project structure. Once we are actually invested in the process, and not just begged for help, then I think we can begin to move forward.

  39. OBG

    Good point, em. Since USA Rugby has hired a full-time person for this effort, maybe that person can start the grassroots efforts not by sending out a challenging e-mail/release, but by building a case for adoption.

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