Rugby News & Views From an American Perspective
by Ted Hardy, Editor, Rugby America
Fan of college basketball’s March Madness?
Mad that your team didn’t get invited to the 16-team Collegiate Rugby Championship out on by NBC and USA Sevens LLC?
Wondering when in the heck college rugby is going to have a formalized 7’s championship?
In our everlasting efforts to open up the floor to new ideas… how about a 64-team March Madness style rugby 7’s tournament?
Here’s the deal.
Organizing college 7’s into some form of competitive structure is going to be pure madness. I honestly don’t envy the group branded with the task. There are just so many teams and so many ideas being floated around that it could take years to sort out and even longer to get right.
In the meantime, I say let’s cast the nets far and wide and have some serious fun in the process. If you think 16 teams on NBC is great, can you really resist the idea of 64? Basketball’s March Madness takes nearly a month to complete… rugby can do the same in one weekend.
That’s right… 64 teams playing a single elimination tournament over the course of three days. And yes… I did say single elimination.
Would it suck to travel to play in the tournament only to get bounced in the first round? You bet your butt it would, but this is all about the experience and giving as many teams as possible a shot at the title. That’s the awesome part of the NCAA tournament. While incredibly unlikely, there is always a Cinderella team that advances well past the expectations of pundits.
Now, onto the really hard part… how do you seed or fill a field with 64 teams? USA Rugby would have to tap into the many collegiate 7’s tournaments that are popping up around the land. In fact, it might be a simple step to require every one of the new conferences to also play a conference 7’s tournament.
The Atlantic Coast, SEC, Ivy, and Northwest Collegiate are already doing this. Sounds like a pretty simple solution. USA Rugby is looking for 16 Division I conferences for the 2011-2012 competitive cycle. Take those sixteen conference and the four Collegiate Premier conferences and that could be 20 conference tournaments.
If you took the top three teams from each of those 20 conference tournaments, that would give you 60 teams. For the sake of making it easy, you could give four bids to each of the four Collegiate Premier conferences and that gives you 64 teams.
If you want it to be a little more intriguing, then there could also be a last-ditch qualifying tournament, open to everyone, to hand out the final four spots.
So, 64 teams… one weekend… one champion. Every deserving team gets a shot at the title. NBC and USA 7’s can still have the CRC and use that as a promotional tool, but you’d have to imagine that it wouldn’t be too hard to sell something like this.
Playing the tournament wouldn’t be as tough as you think. With a total of 63 games needing played, a stadium with a suitable second field would be absolutely necessary for the first two rounds, but there are plenty that fit the bill. The tournament can also be played Friday-Sunday to avoid burning out the fans in attendance.
Or play it Friday-Saturday and get BYU to show up. We’ll let USA Rugby work that out.
Worried about teams playing too much? Not a problem… the championship team will have won six games en route to hoisting the championship trophy. The schedule is actually quite easy on the teams playing. Far more so than the IRB World Series events which are grueling events on players.
So, what do you think?
Sounds like a boatload of fun to me. The tournament has a ton of resale value. Marketable brands… underdogs… the whole lot. Then again, I am the one that wrote the article. I’m supposed to trumpet my ideas. I’m more concerned with hearing from fans of the game and those involved with college rugby.