Spring brings more daylight, less snow and for 12 of the most successful college rugby programs in the US the chance to win the Varsity Cup.
Here is a quick guide to the competition and teams in the 2014 Varsity Cup. Get ready to rugby!
What is the Varsity Cup?
The Varsity Cup competition aims to find the ‘Champion of Champions’ by bringing together some of the most accomplished rugby programs in the country. Now in its second year, the college Men’s XVs competition pitches 12 teams from across the US against each other in a knock out format to be crowned National Collegiate Champions.
The Varsity Cup aims to grow the game by providing a competition that shows some of the best college rugby players and coaches going head to head. All have a successful record in top competitions and a history of producing Collegiate All American and Senior Eagles players. With the quality of rugby on display there are no easy games, and the contest can rightly claim to be a ‘proving ground for American rugby’.
What is the format?
XVs rugby, 12 teams, straight knock out, winner takes all.
There are four rounds played between April 12th and May 3rd. With 3 teams in each of the 4 Pools, the 2nd and 3rd seeds in each Pool play off in Round 1 with the winner facing their Pool’s top seed in the Super Regionals on April 19th held at either Navy or UCLA.
The semi-finals take place on April 26th and see the winners of Pools 1&2 compete to progress to the final where they will face the winner of the Pool 3&4 playoff. The top seed in each contest will host the semi-final games but the venue for the Final is confirmed as the Rio Tinto Stadium in Salt Lake City, Utah. With a vibrant rugby community in Utah the two teams that reach the Final should have a big crowd for what is sure to be a hard fought top quality match.
Which teams compete in the Varsity Cup?
Described as a ‘Tournament of Champions’, the Varsity Cup is about pitting the finest rugby programs against each other. The criteria for a team’s inclusion is based on success in the game and their contribution to elite player development.
Stats on the Varsity Cup website state that “in the 33 years of the collegiate rugby championship play 31 of the collegiate national champions have come from one of the eight Varsity Cup teams.* In total, a Varsity Cup program has played for the collegiate title in every year of the championship’s existence except for 1984.”
That’s a pretty impressive record that the eight teams invited to contest the first Varsity Cup can claim. 2013 saw the ‘8’ of U.S. Air Force Academy, Brigham Young University, the University of California, Dartmouth College, the U.S. Naval Academy, Notre Dame, the University of California, Los Angeles and Central Washington University, fight for the title.
In 2014, 8 will become 12 when Clemson, Oklahoma, Texas and Utah join the competition. The expansion of the contest is due to the success of the first year and also serves as an acknowledgement of the contribution made by these programs in helping to grow the game.
Who are favourite for the 2014 Varsity Cup title?
Seeding would suggest that one of the 4 teams that enter the competition at Super Regional level will lift the trophy; BYU, Cal, CWU or Navy. They all boast impressive rugby resumés, but in a knock out format none of the teams can be discounted as there is no scope for a bad game, its win or go home.
The inaugural Varsity Cup Championship game featured two of US College rugby’s great teams when BYU hosted Cal and the organisers couldn’t have wished for a more dramatic and exciting game.
The teams have played each other before for titles with many close contests going down to the wire. This was another game that saw both teams fully committed to getting the win and having to dig deep to stay in the game. It took a piece of magic in the last few seconds to decide which would be the first name on the Varsity Cup Trophy.
To find out the result you’ll have to watch and enjoy some great rugby. Highlights are here but I recommend watching the whole game.
Will the Varsity Cup be on TV?
The organisers of the 2013 Varsity Cup approached the team behind the USA Sevens and the Collegiate Rugby Championships (CRCs) to help them develop the competition. Their new partnership also includes NBC Sports who will broadcast the final live on May 3rd. Some of the earlier rounds may be covered by the host colleges on Livestream (Clemson v Dartmouth) or other existing online streaming providers.
With the collective strength of the elite college rugby teams, the organisational skills of key partners, great games played at iconic venues, and national media coverage to help build a fanbase the future looks bright for the Varsity Cup. And for college rugby in the US too.
Gavin Hickie, USA Rugby Collegiate All-Americans Forwards Coach, is a former Ireland A & 7s, Leinster and Leicester rugby player now Head Coach of Dartmouth Rugby. He writes for RugbyToday.com and other publications when not coaching and blogging on lineoutcoach.com