PPL Park just outside Philadelphia will host the USA 7s Collegiate Rugby Championships (CRC) June 4-5. With Central Washington winning the CRC Qualifier in Las Vegas, we know know 12 of the teams set to attend: CWU, Utah, Cal, Arizona, LSU, Penn State, Army, Navy, Notre Dame, North Carolina, Temple, and Boston College.
But there are four places left. Who gets them? Alex Goff and Pat Clifton weight in on who we think those four teams should be:
With the CRC being an invitational, the reasons you invite a team aren’t just about results.
If you’re running the event, you want teams people follow, you want teams people recognize.
Well I think the CRC has those teams, and more. If I’m filling in the final four, I am looking at teams who are good, first of all.
If I have a group that’s fairly equal in ability, then we look at things such as, bringing geographic diversity and fan base.
1. Kutztown University. KU has produced a USA 7s player in Marco Barnard. Yet despite losing Barnard to graduation they have continued to win, and play great rugby. They came second in the CRC Qualifier in Las Vegas, played an exciting, elegant brand of 7s, and are relatively local to Philadelphia.
I doubt they will have trouble attracting fans to the event, and they are currently, in my opinion, better than Penn State when it comes to 7s.
2. UCLA. The CRC lacks a team from Southern California. Yes, yes, we know that Arizona is in the Southern California RFU, but ask anyone in the country and they will confirm that the University of Arizona is, in fact, in Arizona. SoCal needs a presence there. UC Santa Barbara, San Diego State, and Cal Poly could all fit the bill. But if you combine quality on the field, recognition within the American sports community, and athletic potential, well, I pick UCLA.
3. Yale. I love this team. I think they played good 7s in Las Vegas and have some very smart coaching behind them. I think the Ivy League connection is important in the CRC. Oddly, I haven’t picked Dartmouth, although I might have. I actually think Dartmouth will get a nod for the CRC, so I think it might also make sense to get Yale in there too.
4. Texas A&M. With the Northwest represented by Central Washington (sorry Eastern Wash.), and the West represented by Utah (meaning Air Force or Colorado don’t get the nod) I want to go to a team that has a lot of alumni, a big following, and some outstanding ability in a region not served yet by the event. For me, that’s Texas A&M. They have some tremendous rugby players, and the coaching to get them ready.
Sevens sells itself. Brilliant team play is something anyone who watches basketball or hockey can understand. All of these teams can perform on that level, and when they do, fans are going to respond.
This is actually a very tough pick to make. How could I not choose Dartmouth, Eastern Washington, Delaware, UC Davis, Colorado, Air Force, or Florida State? What about Arizona State? Who played well in the event last June? But two teams from Arizona? Seems like we might wish to spread it around. Pat Clifton
1. In addition to filling the seats at the CRC, we want eyes glued to NBC from afar as well. And with the rugby groundswell in Colorado, the Buffs would be a good pick. They're also pretty good at rugby, and as evidenced by a strong showing at Denver 7s last summer, they can play 7s as well. Colorado is one of the most rugby dense and rugby aware states in the country, and I think they would provide some good viewership, as well as a quality team, with BCS recognition, into the mix.
2. Kutztown proved Saturday that they can play some serious 7s. They weren't just good, they were very good. A 6'7" guy playing 7s? Yes, they have one, and don't you think that could make for decent announcer fodder on NBC? In addition to being a very good 7s squad, Kutztown is just 90 minutes from Philadelphia. What does that add up to? I think this year's Bowling Green. Both schools lack BCS power, both have great rugby tradition and both have/had great local drawing power.
3. Oklahoma. Taylor Mokate played in both the CCS finals and USA Sevens last weekend, and had Oklahoma been in the CRC bracket, he'd have been the best player in that competition. While Mokate is OU's best player, he's not the only guy they've got. Arryn Wilkinson and Kelton Miller are among other playmakers. No, the Sooners haven't had great recent history in 15s, but 7s is not 15s. Oklahoma also delivers some serious BCS credibility and would probably be the biggest "name" outside of Notre Dame. Not to mention, this event seriosuly lacks some Midwest flare.
4. Syracuse is local enough to make an impact in the seats and would certainly add some credibility in terms of brand power. Can Syracuse play 7s? I have no idea, but they can play a little 15s and as everyone was last year, they'll be glad to make 7s adjustments if given the opportunity. Also think a little about Syracuse's reach in the media world. ESPN's campus is flooded with Syracuse alums, as are newsrooms around the country. If the gatekeepers get interested in rugby because of a connection to their alma mater, rugby's reach is extended. A lot of reasons to like Syracuse.
With all that said. there are other picks who'd be great as well. Bowling Green would be fun to watch again. They proved that a player can be just as captivating as a logo. Rocco Mauer became the darling fo the tournament last year, and if given the chance to play in it again, he'll be captivating once more. They also have a little bit of a Philadelphia connection with Max Narewski, their freshman sensation fromt he Philly area.
Arkansas State would undoubtedly be a good pick. They are a very good team and they have Dylan Carrion, who could be the most exciting 7s player in the college ranks you've never seen. Barely tall enough to ride roller coasters, Carrion could do for college 7s what Spud Webb did for the dunk contest.
Florida State, North Carolina State, Virginia Tech, Delaware, Kansas State, San Diego State, Tennessee, Stanford and UC Santa Barbara are teams I could make an argument for as well.