It’s a question we’ve been asking a lot the last couple of years, and we’re still sorting through the various conferences’ alignments and schedules – but we’re close.
One of the biggest questions, especially in the already-busy Northeast and Midwest, is which conferences are signing on with the newly established American College Rugby Association (ACRA). Full details have not been released, but we’ve added what we know below.
NOTE: All of the schedules and scores that we have are being maintained HERE. So bookmark your conference and stay abreast of what's happening each weekend. (If the PDF does not appear, then scroll to the bottom of the page for the direct link.)
We’re only concerning ourselves with those conferences that are contesting at least a portion of their league games in the fall.
Business as usual; same teams as last year. Penn State will go undefeated, making the race for second-best a good one. We caught a glimpse of the competition’s relative strength last weekend, as a couple of teams ventured outside of the conference for some pre-season tests. Indiana walloped Ball State, which moved into the Mid-American DI this season, 138-0; and Ohio State beat Mason-Dixon’s Pittsburgh 67-7. This Saturday will host the first league games.
The Big 10 will not be aligning with ACRA, but some of the Midwest schools are amendable to the switch. If ACRA is successful this year, then it'll be more difficult to keep everyone on the same page.
A lot of news has surrounded the conference of late. The two biggest developments concern coaching changes and schedule.
Brown, Harvard and Princeton have all changed head coaches. Harvard appointed former Navy and USA 7s coach Sue Parker to lead the new varsity program. Parker recently added Sue Whitwell and Kelly Seary as assistant coaches. Brown signed former USA Women 15s coach Kathy Flores to lead the perennial Final Four side. And the ubiquitous Chris Ryan has replaced Emil Signes at Princeton. Only Deb Archambault remains at Dartmouth, the fourth Tier A team.
This four-team round robin (supplemented with one or two crossover games with Tier B) is one of the most exciting in the country, and we’ll get our fill in the fall. After contesting the Ivy League Championship on Nov. 2-3, conference reps will compete in the ACRA Round of 16 on Nov. 16. The final four will be held Dec. 7-8. It’s a long season, but fortunately for the Ivies, their league doesn’t start until Sept. 21. Some early-season friendlies have been contested, however; most notably, Army defeated Harvard 46-5.
This conference should probably be two separate competitions, as the two divisions within are doing their own things. The majority of the North Division is contesting their league games in the fall, and the South is splitting between fall and spring. The first round of playoffs in the spring will be crossover matches.
The divisions themselves aren’t 100% confirmed, but right now the North consists of James Madison, Maryland, Navy, Pittsburgh, newcomer Temple and West Chester. The South may add Clemson (although their fall schedule is already packed), while East Carolina, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Virginia and Virginia Tech return for another year.
A few games have been contested thus far: East Carolina defeated UVA 48-15, Pitt lost to Ohio State 67-7 in a friendly, and Maryland and Navy will play this Saturday.
Mason-Dixon will not compete in ACRA.
MAC is new for the women this year and it’s going to take some time for these former DII teams to match the strength of their DI compatriots. Ball State, Bowling Green, Central Michigan, Kent State and Miami University have a five-week schedule with one bye week. Ohio University will also join MAC but the school has suspended their play this season.
No confirmation of whether the MAC is competing in ACRA, but if it follows its Midwest counterparts, then they’ll be playing 7s in the spring.
We’re going to print before we have the full lowdown on the Midwest, but we do know a few things: There are two leagues within the region, Northern and Southern. Northern Iowa will undoubtedly rule the Northern League, as Steve Murra’s girls have been active this summer. A healthy amount of Panthers went on tour with the Midwest U23s to Wales, and UNI opened its season with an All-Iowa Tournament victory, blanking opponents 153-0. They did so with several freshmen in key positions, so expect UNI to go deep into ACRA playoffs.
Will update as soon as we clear up details on the both leagues.
The Midwest is competing in ACRA.
This region has gone through some important changes this year. As a leader in the ACRA development, the conference was ahead of the game in terms of structuring a schedule and divisions (read more). Important DII teams like Quinnipiac and AIC bumped up to DI, and they’re already tasting their first successes of the season. The Bobcats are 2-0 in friendlies, hitting the road for a 65-7 win over Eastern Illinois and 35-14 victory over Air Force; while the Yellow Jackets topped Vermont 45-24 for the conference’s first league game.
We were also pleasantly surprised to see UConn do well at Beantown’s Collegiate Tournament last weekend. UConn has struggled to be competitive the last couple of years, but they topped UMass, Boston University, Northeastern and Syracuse during the early season competition.
But the teams that are going to make it to the Northeast final are Norwich and Army, and they’ve already flexed their respective muscle. Norwich traveled down to New York City last weekend and destroyed New York Developmental 90-7; Army, as mentioned, was intimidating against Brown and Harvard.
The Northeast will compete in ACRA.
Pacific Mountain East
Same deal for this conference division; all of the teams’ league games will be contested in the fall and nationals’ seeds will be awarded (unless a rescheduled game is pushed into the spring, like last year) by year’s end. Fall 7s is a bigger focus in the North and South divisions, with the spring dedicated to 15s. The PMC East is much like the Big 10 in that, like Penn State, BYU is the undeniable leader. Therefore, the race for second-place is always entertaining. There were so many one-score decisions last year, and we’re really hoping for the same result in 2013.
Although the PMC East isn't changing, the conference will look different in spring 2014. The addition of two Washington state teams has forced the creation of a fourth division. The PMC North will now be composed of Oregon State, Oregon, Washington State and Washington. PMC West has been pared down to four teams: Stanford, Cal, UC Davis, Chico State. As it stands, PMC South is unchanged: UCLA, UC San Diego, UC Santa Barbara, Arizona, Arizona State.
The entire PMC will not compete in ACRA.
MiscellaneousSouthwest – We were a little fuzzy on this conference, but Texas A&M president Diana Lainez came to the rescue. There are three teams: A&M, Texas Tech and Texas. The Aggies (and we assume the same for their opponents) are playing one match against each conference mate this fall. In order to be eligible for an at-large bid to nationals, the Southwest teams must play a certain amount of DI teams outside of their conference. A&M is traveling to Colorado in the spring in order to fill that requirement.
South Independent Rugby Conference (SIRC) – There's no more Greater Southern for the women, so many of those teams have joined the SIRC. Atlanta player and Georgia Tech coach Ros Chou is the women’s commissioner for both DI and DII and indicated the following teams are competing within the SIRC: Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Southern, Georgia Tech, Central Florida, Florida, Georgia and Tennessee. The spring matrix schedule has been proposed (and being voted on by member clubs) but is on hold until USA Rugby indicates whether there will be a Round of 32 for DI (there is a Round of 32 for DII).
The Ultimate Question
How is ACRA going to affect USA Rugby's DI college championship in the spring? Between the Mid-Atlantic region, Pacific Mountain Conference and Big 10, a decent Round of 16 field could be assembled, but that doesn't constitute a national championship.
Stay tuned for DII updates.