A season after posting an undefeated, untied record in the USA Rugby College Premier Division on their way to the team's 26th national collegiate championship, the California Golden Bears have announced their withdrawal from the premier competition for 2012.
"These types of decisions are complex and not necessarily attributable to any single issue," said Solly Fulp, Chief Operating Officer for Intercollegiate Athletics at Cal. "We are moving in a very positive direction."
The premier division was created in 2011 as a 31-team competition that ended with Cal's victory over BYU in the final last May 21. The competition had been reduced to 26 teams for 2012 before the announcement by the Bears, who have joined Ivy League champion Dartmouth and SEC powers Tennessee and LSU in their exit.
The decision to exit the premier division, whose competition begins in March, appears to be motivated by many contributing factors, including the priority to protect student-athletes in their effort to fulfill academic obligations, and comes as the result of internal planning sessions aimed at the team's immediate and long-term objectives.
The move will not significantly alter the Bears schedule - with many peer teams from the Pac-12 Conference and other traditional Pacific opponents still scheduled along with the long-running "World Cup" rivalry with British Columbia - and is expected to preserve the team's academic and financial well being as it continues into its second century of existence.
"Since the conclusion of the CPD's inaugural season, we have had several conversations with USA Rugby," said head coach Jack Clark. "A few weeks ago, I notified them of the likelihood of our withdrawal. Even with the change, our regular-season schedule remains largely unchanged."
Bud Lyons, the newly appointed Chairman of the California Rugby Advisory Board, said, "These are exciting times for rugby, with many new opportunities that Cal is uniquely positioned to take advantage of."
The 130th season of Cal rugby kicks off in January.
CLICK HERE TO READ JACK CLARK'S Q&A ON THE DECISION TO WITHDRAW FROM DI-A