At a news conference at the prestigious New York Athletic Club Thursday, United World Sports confirmed its newly-formed partnership with NBC Sports and the Varsity Cup.
United World Sports and NBC will partner to promote and televise the collegiate competition, started this year, and on May 3, 2014, NBC Sports will live broadcast the 2nd annual Varsity Cup Championship match.
The official announcement came from Executive Vice President of United World Sports, Dan Lyle, Gary Quinn of NBC Sports, and three of the Varsity Cup coaches: Jack Clark of the University of California, Brigham Young University’s David Smyth, and Mike Flanagan of the Naval Academy.
The Varsity Cup teams, United World Sports, and NBC partnership is a huge step for the college game as it represents a formal agreement not only to put games on television with a major network, but to market those games and focus on holding the matches in appropriate venues.
NBC will be broadcasting the Varsity Cup Championship Game on May 3, using the Kentucky Derby as a lead-in.
That shows, said First, how enthusiastic NBC is about the game.
The agreement also shows how UWS is expanding into 15s, and using the successes they have experienced in 7s to help promote and improve the 15s game.
Next spring, 12 elite rugby programs will compete to be crowned the Varsity Cup Champion. Currently, 11 teams have been invited and have agreed to participate, including the eight returning from last season's inaugural competition.
Clemson, Utah and the University of Texas have accepted invitations and will participate in the 2014 Varsity Cup along with 2013 champions BYU, runners up Cal, Navy, Central Washington, UCLA, Notre Dame, Air Force and Dartmouth.
United World Sports already has a track record for promoting rugby in the United States and will be responsible for marketing the Varsity Cup. With the success of the Collegiate Rugby Championships and the USA 7s international tournament in Las Vegas, United World Sports will now try its hand at promoting 15s, and will do so by expanding its partnership with NBC Sports.
NBC Sports will be responsible for the television production components of the Varsity Cup. The Varsity Cup teams, United World Sports and NBC Sports will collectively decide on the teams to be invited to each Varsity Cup.
One more team remains to be invited to the 2014 Varsity Cup 15s championship, but no candidates were revealed at the news conference.
But already this is a high-level competition, as the teams involved have dominated the list of national champions for the past three decades. As First said, it's a competition of champions.
"This is the partnership we were looking for going back to the beginning of the CPD [College Premier Division]," said Flanagan. "These are great partners, and they're all-in."