BOULDER, Colo. – The ever-changing landscape of college rugby continues to shift and evolve, and D1A Rugby is no different. Last year’s 33-team competition has expanded to 36, and the quest for the 2014-15 National Championship should be as hotly contested as ever.
The biggest change can be seen in the Rugby East Conference. What was a four-team battle of the Atlantic Coast’s best is now a conference of seven with the additions of the University of Buffalo, Iona College, and St. Bonaventure University.
“I’m extremely happy that Iona, St. Bonaventure, and the University of Buffalo have joined Rugby East,” said Penn State Head Coach Chris Amoratis. “We’re always looking to make it a stronger competition and these are three teams that have a big upside and will fit in well with the quality of competition we are looking for. Our goal with Rugby East is to make it one of the – if not the – toughest conferences in the country.”
After a year away from the Big 10 Universities Conference, Nebraska returns to the Midwest competition, rounding out the conference as its 10th member.
In the Mid-South, Arkansas State will no longer play for a Conference Championship and a place in USA Rugby’s National Championship. Still, the strength of 2013 National Champion Life University, Lindenwood, and Davenport will continue to make the Mid-South the most competitive region in the country.
With the Allied Rugby Conference folding, D1A’s Red River Rugby has formed. Sam Houston State has left college rugby’s premier competition, while the University of Texas returns to D1A after winning the Southwest Conference last season, and Texas Christian University joins the ranks making the conference, minus Texas A&M, entirely of teams from the NCAA’s Big 12 Conference.
The University of New Mexico makes its return to the West Conference to compete against familiar foes Air Force, Colorado, Colorado State, and Wyoming. The Lobos have done everything asked of them off the pitch to prepare for the jump to D1A, and are now ready to make an impact on the pitch.
After struggling mightily last spring, UC Davis and Sacramento State have decided to leave the California Conference and compete for Division IAA National Championships. The competition in the Golden State remains strong with reigning National Champion St. Mary’s leading the pack, and with three additional playoff teams from a season ago in Cal Poly, San Diego State, and Santa Clara, as well as Santa Barbara all in California.
An exciting addition to D1A will be the University of Arizona. Head Coach Sean Duffy and the rest of the Wildcats were the runners-up in the DIAA National Championship, and will compete for a D1A playoff spot as an Independent.
“We’re thrilled to be taking the next step as a program and joining the top competition that the country has to offer,” said Duffy. “The university community as a whole is so supportive of rugby on our campus and we hope to make them proud in this next great opportunity for our program.”
USA Rugby is excited about the additional exposure D1A teams will receive this year with the soon-to-be launch of D1A Rugby TV, which will be a multimedia website to house videos of D1A matches.
Making college rugby matches accessible to fans across the country has been a major goal of ours,” said D1A Commissioner Kevin Battle. “D1A Rugby TV is a step in the right direction. Our ultimate goal is to get college rugby on live network television, and we are confident that we will feature these student-athletes on the national platform they deserve in the near future.”