The DII college playoff structure was recently unveiled, and it’s inclusion of the GU is interesting enough to rouse up a few opinions.
With DI, the territorial unions were cut out of the picture a little more drastically and immediately than in DII, as no TU, save arguably the Midwest, managed a pathway to nationals last year. (The Midwest and Mideast conferences are commissioned by one man, Tom Rooney, who ran the leagues for the Midwest TU prior to the conference restructure.)
USA Rugby’s restructuring plan doesn’t call for DII to fully commit to the conference system until next season, so the fact that TUs are still in the fold doesn’t in any way mean the plan’s not moving forward as drawn up. However, I believe the emergence of the geographical union could eventually change that.
When the original restructuring plan was announced, many (including me) were skeptical about whether college programs, especially DII, would have the administrative wherewithal to align themselves into new leagues, let alone administer them.
Seeing as how only three conferences have formed, that concern is still very real. What happens if only three or four more leagues crystallize by the 2012/2013 season? Do we have a national championship with representatives from just seven leagues? No.
Maybe the restructure is amended to allow teams to advance to nationals via a conference or a geographical union.
What’s good about this? The TU is rendered useless in the largest sectors of college rugby. This is good if it means movement toward the conference structure, like a conference with training wheels, the wheels being GU administrators and time get used to the conference idea.
If a GU administers a league or two out of, say, a dozen or two teams, maybe the teams realize they can run a conference on their own and the inevitable geographical distances that once seemed unsavory prove to be doable?
For instance, if the Great Plains, Heart of America and Missouri unions combined to form a GU, and teams like Creighton (Nebraska), Central Missouri (eastern Missouri) and Benedictine (eastern Kansas) play in a league with the likes of Saint Louis University (eastern Missouri) and Principia (western Illinois), then why couldn’t they do the same as a conference?
Plus, it’d allow some teams that may be more skeptical about the conference model to observe how other conferences work out things that are the root of their skepticism, like the referee situation.
The problem with training wheels? They’re comfortable, and it could take some nudging and prodding to get teams to take the leap and join a conference.
A large part of the philosophy of the restructure was getting the college game in the hands of its stakeholders -- don’t have a DIII club person trying to decide what’s best for a DI college team. If teams or USA Rugby get too comfortable with the GU-as-a-substitute-for-a-conference scenario, then perhaps the end goal won’t be accomplished.
USA Rugby and its collegiate legislators, committee members and decision makers shoved DI head-first into the deep end in regards to the restructure. Should it allow DII programs to dip their toes?