It was announced today that the USA Rugby Women’s DII Spring National Champions, Tulane University, would not be participating in the May 7th national championship game in Moringa, CA. Tulane took the Spring title over Humboldt University, 39-32, in Moringa, CA on April 23rd. Tulane University was to take on the Davenport Women’s Rugby team, who had won the Women’s DII Fall Championships. Unfortunately due to several conflicts, Tulane is unable to make a second trip out to California.
Tulane had to make a very tough decision this week and, with great sadness, has backed out of the National Final scheduled for May 7th due to fiscal and academic constraints. We would like to take the time to thank everyone that has supported us on this incredible journey. Your enthusiasm and boundless support for this young squad is humbling and has given these amazing women memories they will never forget.
This will be the second announcement of a Women’s collegiate team being unable to make the National championship after winning their regional championships. The University of Connecticut women’s rugby team was unable to make the Women’s DI National Championships for May 7th, after they won the Fall Championships in December. Their issues fell into similar problems that Tulane faced. The cost of travel, that lands somewhere between $12,000 – $26,000 for travels and amenities and the conflicts with class schedules were too much to handle for the team.
This is definitely an issue for the development of college rugby. There is a dangerous precedent that is being set for college rugby. In the new transitional development of rugby in the USA, you can’t leave a component of the sport abandoned. As we have started to get professional rugby together, and we continue to grow youth rugby, we can’t forget the middle ground. The issue of the split championship is becoming a financial problem, as well as a perception problem.
There is no doubt in my mind that the problem that has to be solved is not so much the issue of when the fall and spring championships take place, or where the national championship will be located, but in the confidence that rugby can be a revenue generating sport at this level. If these teams can create a system of pay that can help them build money for themselves, while not simply relying on in the moment fundraisers or charitable donations. Get rugby teams to learn to promote their product (their field play and skills) with the confidence that people will care to see them. If teams can begin to work and trust their abilities, there may be a chance that these conflicts don’t become such a problem for rugby teams. College teams can’t control weather, and they can’t control their academic requirements, but they can control how their community should perceive them. Until that moment where teams can do that, we’ll still face these problems. USA Rugby needs to make sure that they can subsequently provide the best experience for the teams, to make the efforts worthwhile. Unless the two sides can work together, there will not be a strong perception of what the national championship is.
*Correction: USA Rugby will have the Women’s DI Elite College National Championship this year. This will be the only Women’s College National Championship game this year.
*Correction (5/2/2016): This article did not acknowledge the Women’s National Champions from the National Small College Rugby Organization and the Varsity Women’s National Championships. The article focused on the championships that were directly associated with USA Rugby.