By and large most college and club rugby matches in America are evenly played. There is a lot of parity out there at the basic level of American rugby that is what makes the sport fun for so many college kid and social club players. But at the top level there are a handful of teams that are so far advanced from the rest that they regularly blow their opponents out of the water. Just this year Cal beat Stanford 176-0, BYU defeated Utah State 91-3, San Francisco Golden Gate topped the Bay Barbarians 83-5 and the East Palo Alto Bulldogs 84-7.
So is that a bad thing these teams are beating their opponents so badly? It’s tempting to say that having top teams play those below them inspires those lower teams to do better. The problem is that it hasn’t shown to be true. Cal, BYU, and SFGG have been beating up on opponents for years and yet no team has improved as a direct result from playing them. What these matches essentially turn into is a try fest for everyone on the winning team and a dispiriting experience for the losing team. There will be players that get upset at being embarrassed and will improve to become good players, but the team overall doesn’t improve.
So if these top teams consistently beat other teams, why don’t they all play each other? Like most aspects of rugby in America, it comes down to money. Even though these top teams are often the most well resourced teams, they don’t have unlimited resources. It’s not as if they have television revenue coming in or ticket revenue. They are reliant on players chipping in and team sponsors. They can’t be traveling across the country for weeks on end to be playing other top teams.
Another factor limiting the ability of these teams is the fact that many of them are tied to their local leagues. SFGG and Old Puget Sound Beach are lucky enough to play each other in NorCal, but they regularly beat other teams in their division by large margin. Cal has Utah in the PAC Rugby conference but beyond that no one else can really challenge them. Because these teams they have a full conference schedules in order to earn a place in the post-season they aren’t able to make room for other matches against potentially better opponents.
There are some mechanisms out there to get top teams matches with the Varsity Cup and Elite Cup the most recent efforts. They are great efforts and hopefully they produce quality matches, but each competition is limited in scope. Each Elite Cup team will only get three guaranteed matches while the Varsity Cup teams will only get one guaranteed match. If we are to improve the quality of our top players, we need to get them more high quality matches than this.
All in all it’s a problem without an obvious solution. However, two teams have seemingly found a solution to the problem. Both BYU and NYAC have successfully pursued independent schedules this Spring that have given them high quality matches. BYU, who was one of the instigators of the Varsity Cup and who has put a lot of weight into that competition, has officially set up in the Utah Conference but play their second team. Their first team has instead scheduled matches against OPSB, Denver Barbarians, and NYAC. The Barbarians match was unfortunately cancelled due to snow, but they did play close matches against the other two. NYAC has similarly created a schedule where they have played Life and BYU, and then will play the Ontario Blues later in the Spring.
By going on their own and scheduling tough matches according to their resources and timing, NYAC and BYU have created a tough Spring schedule that will make their players betters. Their pathway isn’t for every team, but it may make sense for more teams to go on their own while still technically adhering to U.S.A. Rugby’s rules. We need a more robust domestic competition and so far any attempt to make everyone happy and get everyone under one roof hasn’t worked. But maybe he these teams agreed to an informal competition it may raise the overall level of rugby in this country.
The key to the success of top domestic rugby in America is to allow these teams that are at the top the ability to do their own thing. That doesn’t mean they are taking away from the sport, but rather they are adding another complex layer. They are making it simpler for elite players to know where to play. The point is that we need to eliminate these lopsided matches. They are not doing anyone any good. How exactly we go about doing that is unclear, but at least NYAC and BYU have shown how it might work.
Gilbert has released a new line of rugby cleats. The Gilbert Virtuo 8S is part of the exciting new product. Check it out.
The entire All Blacks apparel line has been updated for 2013/14. Check out the New Zealand All Blacks polo.
The Nike Tiempo is a solid rugby cleat and one of few styles still made from full-grain natural leather.
The Gilbert Blitz 8S rugby cleat is a great cleat at a great price of $69.99. Get a new pair of cleats today.
A cool looking all black rugby cleat with the high performance adidas is known for. Get in the Gear!
Wear the crest of the British and Irish Lions on your t-shirt. A great look for the summer.
The All Blacks Performance t-shirt is black with hints of blue from the training jersey. Very Cool.
The New Zealand All Blacks training jersey for 2013/14. Get in the Gear!
The USA Rugby Pro Alternate rugby jersey is perfect for any fan of the Eagles. Get yours to wear during the summer Test matches.
The NEW All Blacks 2013/14 jersey has arrived at World Rugby Shop. Dare to wear the colors of the All Blacks.