Rugby News & Views From an American Perspective
by Ted Hardy, Editor, Rugby America
Photo Credit: Chrisey Buoy
A late change to the U19 Girls Regional Tournament in the Pacific Coast Rugby Football Union threatens to derail any notion of a proper seeding process and in the process could alienate an entire state.
In August of 2010 the PCRFU Executive Committee decided to host the 2011 PCRFU Girls Regional Tournament in Washington. The tournament, set to be a four team event bringing together the top girls teams from Northern California, Utah, and Washington was to be contested in order to determine the two teams that will advance to the 2011 Girls National Championship.
Last week, team officials were notified, by PCRFU President Frank Merrill via email, that the tournament was going to be cancelled and that the #1 seed from the PCRFU (also the #1 seed at Nationals) was going to be a one-off game between the top Northern California team and the top team from Utah. The NorCal #2 team would then face off against Washington #1 to determine the second seed out of the PCRFU (National #5).
Without consulting all of the teams involved, Merrill cited that the tournament would be downsized in order to accommodate the teams.
The short notice and revamped scenario eliminates any opportunity for NorCal #2 or Washington #1 to win the Pacific Coast and claim the #1 seed in the National Championship.
The impetus behind the late change appears to be the Sacramento Amazon’s reluctance to travel to Washington to play in the tournament. In a similar situation to the Amazons’ stand this season, two years ago a boys teams from Washington refused to travel to play in the PCRFU Regional. In that situation, no compromises were made which raises questions as to why a compromise is being made in this situation.
While the Amazons are the reigning Girls National Champion, the tournament had been awarded well in advance to Rugby Washington and plenty of time was given to all participating teams to prepare for the tournament in Seattle.
The real concern is that teams in the PCRFU were not consulted prior to the change, thus marking the whole situation with questions of favoritism.
The PCRFU Girls Regional tournament was started three years ago with the first tournament being played in Washington and then in Redding, CA in 2009 and then Medford, OR in 2010. With Washington based teams logging the most mileage in the past two years, the tournament was awarded to Rugby Washington for 2011.
That is, until last week when the rug was pulled out from underneath them without warning and little reasoning. Certainly not enough reasoning to merit pulling the plug on a tournament less than a month from when it was supposed to take place and awarding a peculiar decision that blocks two of the teams from playing for the top seed.
As a result of the change, a formal complaint has been filed with USA by Kent (WA) Crusaders Head Coach Rex Norris against the PCRFU. The complaints with the PCRFU include the recent tournament decision as well as grievances dating back to the 2010 PCRFU Regional that was held in Oregon.
“If our program has to go and play someone we usually just ask where and when, I think the history of the Kent Rugby Program shows that,” said Norris in an email.
“However this situation goes way beyond that. As a result I am standing up on this issue and making an appeal to the National level of USA Rugby. I am hoping that I can present it to someone that will see it for what it is and have an opinion on it instead of status quo.”
In hopes of finding a way to properly decide the championship, Rugby Washington has come forward with solutions to the ordeal including opting to move the tournament to Portland from Seattle to lessen some of the travel burden on the teams involved.
“This situation is not right for the sport of rugby and even less for girls athletics in general. This would not be happening at the boys level because coaches and decision makers would not have allowed that to happen. If these events were happening at a boys level there would be tremendous opposition and media coverage,” added Norris.
“This is about validating girls rugby as an event that means something for them as athletes. Last year was embarrassing after telling the team how special this was going to be.”
Other states have already begun to pull out of the high school/U19 National Championship picture and opting for state-based championships. If a resolution to this impass cannot be found, could Rugby Washington be next?