Are Challenge Matches A Better Format For College Postseason?

By John Broker

I am going to throw out an opinion about the college rugby postseason that I am not sure I agree with, and we can discuss from there, as rugby people are wont to do.

The Liberty Conference Challenge takes place at Fairfield University in Fairfield, CT, this Saturday, with a great slate of games for teams across the Northeast. It is a one-day event and includes Delaware, Tufts, UMASS, Stony Brook, Albany, Fairfield, Syracuse, URI, Binghamton, UCONN, AIC, Fordham, Northeastern, and Cortland.

Watch the 2017 Liberty Conference Challenge LIVE on FloRugby

In other parts of the country, teams will be traveling greater distances to play two games in two days to move on in national championship rounds. 

The question is the role of national championships in the evolving college rugby landscape. Could the resources be better used elsewhere if the burden on the players, teams, and schools were lessened for travel to nationals? Could concepts similar to the Challenge games provide equal competition at a better price and possibly still lead to a national champion? 

Pride And Resources

Nationals is a pride thing, and I have been involved in runs for nationals at a number of levels and in a number of roles, so I get it. But boy does it take some cash. A typical men’s college team in the Northeast usually has 3-4 away games each fall season, averaging 3-5 hours of travel, followed by a two-day weekend playoff and a play-in game that can be anywhere up to eight hours travel. The teams then travels to Pennsylvania for a two-game weekend and, depending on outcome, heads to South Carolina for a two-game championship weekend. While it’s fun, it’s not easy and school support varies wildly throughout the country. 

There are of course a lot of variables in the conference setup nationwide, and I don’t envy the folks who have to make sense of it. But could a simpler setup leave for resources for player, coach, and program development? Would a reduced travel burden on teams and the fostering of conference rivalries benefit programs? Could the Liberty Conference Challenge serve as a starting point?

"Could a simpler setup leave for resources for player, coach and program development?"

Like I said at the start, I am not sure if I agree, but it is food for thought and definitely fodder for conversation. I loved all my involvement with nationals (and would love more), but change can sometimes be good.

We would love to hear what you all think, so go to the FloRugby Facebook and Twitter pages to join the conversation. 

Oh, and tune into on Saturday for the Liberty Challenge matches.

- John Broker is a longtime rugby coach and announcer who has covered some of the highest profile games in the USA. He most recently was the play-by-play announcer for the Saracens v USA Islanders game, and will be on-air this weekend for the Liberty Challenge matches.

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