Just a few weeks into the New Year and there is some very promising news leaking out of Boulder, home of USA Rugby.
As reported by RugbyMag, we may be getting an announcement very soon about a proposed restructuring of Division I college rugby. A topic that has been discussed for years, the restructure is said to reorganize the top teams into NCAA-like conferences.
This restructure would be a move away from the messy and confusing territorial system currently in place. The news also noted that the conferences would be sprinkled throughout the United States. It doesn't take a psychic to read that this may be the first step towards getting all teams all one season, at least at the Division I level.
The switch to a conference-type structure is a world away from the Premier League talks that have abound in recent years. This is another indication that the pressure to make rugby more in aligned with other American sports may finally be getting through to USA Rugby. USA Rugby CEO Nigel Melville indicated to RugbyMag that they have interest from a broadcaster, sponsorship from the National Guard and are branding the new competition.
On the playing front, this restructure would presumably begin in 2011, and will likely have a trickle-down effect on Division II rugby. The number of teams that will be brought onboard for the restructure has yet to be determined, but I expect that less than 48 teams will be placed into the new conferences.
With around 120 teams currently playing in Division I, that would mean a lot of teams are headed to Division II, which may not go down well for some. Or they will take a page from the NCAA's book and create a Division I-AA level, which just may end up confusing matters even more.
I truly hope that they also leave out any promotion/relegation nonsense as well. A commonwealth practice has its place at times, but not in college rugby. The teams that will be brought into this new alignment need to be in it for the long haul. The ghost of relegation looming over a program's shoulder won't do any good at all.
All of this is still yet to be officially announced, so I hate to speculate too much.
This news is quite promising and hopefully not another smokescreen news leak from USA Rugby where they sprinkle some promising news (à la professionalizing the 7's team) to get the fanbase stirred up and then quietly slip back into the shadows.
With the United States College Rugby Association (USCRA) making some of their own noise of late, a news leak from USA Rugby was not completely unexpected. We all now wait anxiously for the official release in what may be a monumental step forward for college rugby in the United States.