Rugby America

Rugby News & Views From an American Perspective

Editorial: CPL A Short-Term Fix?

While we’re all excited about the new Division I Premier competition (aka CPL)… it would be naive to get too comfortable with the idea or plan out how it will look in another ten years. The whole competition is going to go through plenty of growing pains even it the first year of play. However, the long-term prognosis for the competition remains cloudy at best.

While I wish massive amounts of success on the CPL and all the teams involved, I think that the competition is merely serving as a placeholder while the new conference alignments in Division I work out the kinks.

The fact of the matter is that the CPL is a means to an end for the here and now, but not the ultimate end goal. For the immediate future, the CPL fits a valuable role in collegiate rugby by giving teams that want to take the next step a vehicle in order to make it happen in an environment filled with other like-minded teams.

The long-term goal for everyone is to establish autonomous NCAA-like rugby conferences across America and that process has already begun.

Even esteemed Cal Bears Head Coach, Jack Clark, has openly stated that the CPL competition may not be the ideal medium for college rugby down the road and aligning conferences along more traditional NCAA boundaries is the best way forward.

Just look what has been accomplished in the past year. The Ivy League, Atlantic Coast Rugby League (ACC), and Southeastern Rugby Conference (SEC) formed right along NCAA conference alignments. Once these conferences get their legs under them, no one will be able to deny their potential.

From another perspective, the Northwest Collegiate Rugby Conference didn’t align along traditional boundaries, but did so along more realistic geographical points and may serve as a reminder to everyone out there that these new conferences don’t have to be “exactly” like conventional NCAA conference structures. The important part is that they work in a beneficial way for the teams involved. The NCRC did this while at the same time fostering some traditional NCAA rivalries.

College hockey did well in forming conferences along the same lines as the NCRC when opportunities to align parallel to traditional conferences did not exist. Rugby is fortunate in that they can have it both ways. Conferences that are similar to NCAA counterparts and conferences that are similar in function, but make better sense geographically for the teams involved.

While the CPL is great for the immediate future, I don’t think anyone will argue that from a marketing standpoint, selling the SEC or ACC is infinitely easier than selling any of the four CPL conferences.

What conferences may spring up in the future?

It’s hard to tell, but we might not be far from seeing the PAC-10 align. Most of the member teams from the conference are getting together this coming weekend for The Storer Classic (aka PAC-10 tournament). Could a super-secret meeting be in the cards?

Who knows what the future holds? What is known now is that the seal has been broken and these are not the last of the realignments headed in college rugby’s direction.

The Big 10 is another realignment just waiting to happen. Most of the teams (along with some extras) are already playing in the Midwest-East & Midwest-West Conferences. Just a little tinkering, direction, rebranding and you’ll have a pseudo Big 10 Conference.

The Big 12 is another one that could realistically happen, although I think something closer to the long-gone Southwest Conference is a better fit. The University of Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Baylor, Arkansas, and Rice made up the powerhouse conference that evolved into the Big 12. Throw in a couple other teams such as Sam Houston State and TCU and you have a pretty strong conference that makes geographical sense.

It is just going to take some time for the above mentioned conferences to get their legs under them and begin to build strong infrastructures and brands. At that point, I just can’t see the CPL staying in operation in its current form.

So, take pleasure in the CPL for what it is right now. Enjoy the big games that fill the schedule on a weekly basis and the revamped playoff schedule. The competition is going to deliver the goods in terms of the product on the field.

However, don’t overlook the work being done by conferences like the Ivy League, Atlantic Coast Rugby League, Southeastern Rugby Conference, and Northwest Collegiate Rugby Conference. At a time when some are already discussing promotion/relegation systems for the CPL, such thoughts might only be a waste of time.

When the time is right, the teams from the CPL will meld into the upstart Division I Conferences and not the other way around. The NCAA screwed up with the whole DI and DI-AA garbage and now the BCS and FBS insanity. Rugby can learn from those mistakes and come out better for it.


8 comments on “Editorial: CPL A Short-Term Fix?

  1. Rob
    January 11, 2011

    This makes a lot of sense, the more the American public can relate to college rugby the better. I play on a Big East team, and while there has been some discussion of a conference it hasn’t been anything significant, as right now the travel would be way too much. We go from Connecticut to Florida, and out to Michigan in the West (and soon to have Texas included), the budget just isn’t there right now.

  2. rj
    January 11, 2011

    The issue comes with the insanity of college conference realignment currently being done. And this realignment is being done in complete disregard for basketball for example which is far far more important to a university than the rugby program. Does anyone really think Texas Christian rugby should play all northeastern schools? Boston College being in the ACC has been and continues to be incredibly stupid. Why should Colorado and Utah play in a Pac-12 rugby conference? It’s not like they have any ties to those schools other than the Pac-10 conference commissioner needed to add two schools to have a conference title game in football. Should the traditionally 2nd-strongest rugby team in the country BYU be outside of a rugby conference simply because their football team made a financial decision it’d be more profitable?

    If rugby follows their schools’ conference structure in the big sports to a tee, I think in the end the financial requirements from a travelling perspective would be too large to bear and you’d see a lot of rugby programs disappear. You’re starting to see that in the minor sports at big colleges now.

  3. Rugby America
    January 12, 2011


    You are absolutely correct. All of the money grubbing in the NCAA is making a mockery of the traditional sports conference. Sadly, it is not going to end anytime soon.

    Aligning along with traditional NCAA conferences is ideal for rugby, but its not an absolute. All the teams involved need to benefit for it to work.

    For that reason, I don’t ever expect to see Boston College in the Atlantic Coast Rugby League. They’re a far better fit for a Big East type conference. Same goes for Miami and Florida State. For the nine teams that are in the ACRL, it works great because they have ties to the ACC and a regional competition at the same time.

    The Northwest Collegiate Rugby Conference is a perfect example of building something of benefit to teams that doesn’t lean on a formula from the NCAA. It has some PAC-10 teams that realistically can’t play in a PAC-10 competition. But, it is still a sound regional competition that makes sense for all involved.

    The folks out there organizing these new conferences are on the right track. Financial restraints alone will keep them from making the illogical choices made by NCAA football.

  4. What's Premier About It?
    January 21, 2011

    A top CPL team destroyed a bottom CPL team 86-0 this past week (BYU v Claremont). Another top CPL team (Cal) ripped apart UCLA (bottom CPL) 53-5 in a 40 minute game. The reality is that there are only 4 to 6 real premier collegiate teams anywhere close to being able to bring in broadcast or sponsorship revenue. So why not an eight or 10 team league that has a chance to generate revenue? My guess says that the egos (coaches and alumni) at some of the 31 teams in the CPL are driving the plan and not someone with sports business acumen. HELLO TODD BELL!!! ARE YOU THERE?

    • AndyR
      January 28, 2011

      An 8-10 team CPL league I agree with in principal but don’t get quality of play mixed up with an ability to bring in sponsorship or broadcast revenue outside of the game.

      Lets look at the top teams – of Cal, BYU, St. Marys, Ark State and Life (which I think are the top 5 programs in the country) there is only one brand that would be of interest to any sponsors or broadcast companies. The others are great programs but are of little interest to a national sporting audience.

  5. Hmm
    January 30, 2011

    I think someone needs to take another look at who was actually in the SW Conference.

    This idea that NCAA-like conferences are the magic pills is absurd.

    I guess we’ll just let the Appalachian States and Mary Washington’s of the world play second fiddle even though both would finish in the upper half of the ACRL.

  6. Sour grapes
    January 31, 2011

    Hmmm… sounds like sour grapes to me.

    The description of the SW conference from the writer was accurate. All of the team named were charter members of the conference. There were other teams to come and go over the years (Texas Tech, SMU, Houston, etc.), but the ones named were there at some point.

    The writer noted that throwing in the non-SW conference teams Sam Houston and TCU makes sense. Not sure what your issue on that front is. The term grabbing at straws comes to mind.

    As for the ACC League… it’s up to them who they want to let in. It is their conference to run as they see fit. Who is to say that they wouldn’t consider Appalachia State or Mary Washington?

    I don’t think the NCAA-like conferences are the “magic pill” per se. The leagues/conferences don’t need to be exact, they just have to make sense.

    Again, the writer of the article even states that in referring to the Northwest Conference setup.

    The big thing is that colleges take control of the operation of their own leagues. No more TU’s, or LAU’s to confuse things. That is the magic pill.

  7. Craig
    February 2, 2011

    With traditional rugby union the CPL or NCRC or any other non-traditional conference will always be subject to change. The non-traditional conference will be driven by teams who want to participate, budgets, standard of play ect. Each school team/club has it’s own goals on what it wants to get back from the game it gives too and should have the flexibility to participate.

    Olympic Rugby is a different story, the logistics of 7s with 12 guys in a tournament vs other schools that fans can identify with, sponsors can get behind as they see 12-24 schools in one location for one or 3 days with lots of action, music and festival environment adds massive appeal.

    Just my take.

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This entry was posted on January 10, 2011 by in College Rugby, Editorials.

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