LAFAYETTE, Colo. – Grand Canyon University has joined D1A Rugby ahead of the program’s fourth season. The team out of Phoenix will join Brigham Young University as D1A’s second team independent of a conference.
“We are very excited to be joining D1A as an Independent,” said Grand Canyon Director of Rugby and Head Coach Cam Wyper. “Our aim is to improve rugby at Grand Canyon University, and what better way than by playing in the premier collegiate rugby competition in the USA.”
The Lopes appear ready for the uptick in competition after a very successful 2016-17 season. The team carried a 7-2-1 mark heading into the D1AA Spring Playoffs, with its lone tie coming against California Conference’s Santa Clara. In the postseason, Grand Canyon took down Western Washington, 17-14, before succumbing to UC Davis in the Spring Semifinals, 26-17.
Success was found in the Olympic form of the game, as well, for the Lopes. After compiling a combined sevens record of 12-4 over three of the country’s most competitive college sevens tournaments – West Coast 7s, Treasure Island 7s and the Las Vegas Invitational CRC Qualifier – Grand Canyon was awarded an at-large bid to the 2017 USA Rugby College 7s National Championships. At Infinity Park in Glendale, Colo., the Lopes posted a 2-3-1 record, and two of their three losses came against the eventual Cup Finalists – Lindenwood and Saint Mary’s.
Grand Canyon’s rapid rise to college rugby’s premier competition has been aided by the support the program receives from the University. Prospective college rugby players with good academic records and test scores can qualify for a scholarship program that doesn’t cover the entire cost of tuition and room and board, but eases much the students’ financial burden.
“Our goal is to provide players with a platform to push for national team selection, and with so much talent in D1A it will be a great test for each player,” Wyper added.
Another benefit of being one of Grand Canyon’s University-supported club sports is a paid coaching staff. Assisted by Ryan Kelly and Adam Muszynksi, Cameron Wyper took over as head coach prior to the 2016-17 season. Previously, Wyper was an assistant for Lindenwood’s 15s team and led the school’s sevens program, which won the College 7s National Championship in 2015.
As an Independent, Grand Canyon will be responsible for scheduling at least six matches against D1A teams. The Lopes’ 2017-18 schedule has not yet been completed, but the team already has confirmed contests against PAC Rugby’s University of Arizona, California’s Santa Clara and Rocky Mountain’s University of New Mexico.