If you see a D1A team looking over its shoulder, it may well be watching for Utah Valley University.
UVU, far from being in trouble, is poised to put a scare into just about every team in the division, and Wolverines coach Adam Griffee doesn’t care who knows it.
Last week, FloRugby reported here that Utah Valley had been dumped by D1A. That was incorrect — due to two forfeits, the Wolverines were removed from the D1A rankings list (dropping the list of teams from 70 to 69), but that was only a temporary measure. UVU remains a D1A team and will compete as one this winter and spring.
The forfeits of games this fall stemmed from Utah Valley's push to get waivers for players who went on religious missions. The Wolverines suited up the players in question expecting a rubber stamp on the waivers (USA Rugby rules allow a player to take seven years post-high school to play five years of rugby, but the players need to apply to be allowed to play in years six and seven). But the paperwork submitted was rejected (at least for the fall), and Utah Valley’s victories over Utah and Air Force were vacated.
All of those players are expected to be OK to play after Jan. 1, and their status doesn’t change the fact that UVU beat Utah and Air Force.
“We’ve got the talent to be top five in the country,” Griffee said. “We feel like we play those games again and ten times out of ten we win.”
UVU has a hugely competitive schedule starting in January. The Wolverines tried to join the Rocky Mountain Conference (PKA West D1A) but were given only associate membership. This means they play close to a conference schedule but won’t be counted in the standings. It was a decision that still rankles at UVU, but the team is moving on regardless.
On Feb. 10, the Wolverines kick off their winter/spring 2018 season with a trip to Berkeley, CA, to play Cal. That’s about as tough a wake-up call as you are going to get, and they follow that up with home games against Colorado and mighty BYU.
After a break to play sevens in Las Vegas, Utah Valley is back with games against Colorado State, Central Washington, Utah State, Arizona State, and then CWU once again.
“We know it’s a challenging schedule, but we want to show what we can do,” Griffee said. “The fall was sort of a preseason for us, but we feel we’re a good team. We just need to develop depth.”
With talent such as exciting inside center Sione Tauatina and incoming youngsters such as freshman loose forward Zak Barker, UVU has the ability to surprise teams. At the same time, Griffee said the Wolverines have the potential to enjoy long-term success.
“We have strong tech and trade programs and one of the best nursing programs in the nation,” Griffee said. “It’s one of the few colleges where you can get a pilot’s license or you could become an auto mechanic. We’ve got a strong Polynesian base in the area and kids really want to come here because we’re really strong in those in-demand areas.”
It makes Utah Valley stand out academically, and in terms of rugby, you might be seeing them stand out a little, too.