After years of informal discussions, and months of research and formal conferencing, the American College Rugby Association (ACRA) has come to fruition. At present, more than 100 (and growing) Division 1 and Division 2 women’s college teams have committed to the new league.
ACRA intends to work in conjunction with USA Rugby, providing an alternative competition structure that aligns with the fall and spring college semesters. The inaugural 15s season will commence in fall 2013 and culminate with its 15s championship on Dec. 7-8, 2013. The spring season will mark the beginning of the 7s season, and ACRA’s 7s championship will be contested in May 2014.
ACRA’s goals are:
I. To provide access for all DI and DII women’s collegiate teams to both 15s and 7s pathways to national championships. Member institutions currently face various seasonal and academic limitations, which are best addressed by the seasonal and playoff structure that ACRA will utilize.
II. To put the health, safety and welfare of students first. Playing each code of rugby within a defined season, and having clearly defined off-seasons, increases the academic welfare, health, and overall safety of student-athletes. Additionally, if ACRA member conferences or institutions choose to participate in only one rugby code, then having one clearly defined and contiguous season with a championship will not only unburden student-athletes from year-round competition but will also allow coaches and institutions to concentrate resources in that season. This increases the likelihood of funding and support, reducing the significant and sometimes exclusionary financial burden on student-athletes.
III. To support women’s rugby as an emerging sport in the NCAA and achieve growth in the women’s game. NCAA sports have a clearly defined season ending in a championship. Defining seasons for each rugby code aligns current club and varsity organizations with the NCAA and will facilitate transitions from club to varsity. Members also believe this option will enhance the meaningful development of players, coaches, and referees in both codes of rugby in order to achieve real and measureable growth in the women’s college rugby game.
Conferences, individual teams, and administrators/athletic directors who are interested in joining are encouraged to contact Austin Hall soon due to fall scheduling purposes.
The leadership of the association:
Austin Hall, Head Coach, Norwich University, Member/USAR Women’s Competition Committee
MaryBeth Mathews, Head Coach, Bowdoin College, Member/USAR College Management Council
Steve Murra, Head Coach, University of Northern Iowa
Roger Riley, Head Coach, Winona State University
Gray Zischke, Head Coach, University of Wisconsin, Steven’s Point, Member/USAR College Management Council
Jeff Ward, Advisor, Casco Bay Associates