Photo: Colleen McCloskey
Several DI college conferences, as well as independents and DI teams in hybrid leagues, are kicking off their respective league seasons this weekend. They’re all funneling to the USA Rugby DI College Fall Championship, the counterpart to the spring championship. Here’s a run-down:
BIG 10 (6 teams)
Perennial champ Penn State has deferred its automatic berth to the DI Fall Championship for the DI Elite playoffs in the spring, and Notre Dame has taken that seed as next-best team the last few years. Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue fill out the competition, while Ohio State and Rutgers have yet to return to 15s play.
This conference is tough to follow, as there’s no public website or social media for the league, and the competition doesn’t use USA Rugby’s CMS. This weekend sees Michigan vs. Indiana, and Purdue vs. Michigan State. Notre Dame, which had 45 players show up for rookie day, is playing DII Grand Valley State in a friendly Friday.
UW Milwaukee could not field a team this year so the league is down to six teams. The competition has, however, named a new commissioner in Iowa head coach Jim Estes, and the schedule is reflected in the CMS (here). The Hawkeyes had more than 100 players come out for the team and kick off the season this Friday against Iowa State (which has Kelsie McDowell as new head coach) – a tradition so both teams can watch the football teams play each other on Saturday.
Minnesota is the traditional leader in this region and will debut the following weekend against UW Madison. Northern Iowa will host Northern Illinois this weekend.
No big changes in the Northeast, which includes perennial leader UCONN, Boston College, Boston University, Northeastern, Rhode Island and UMASS. Boston head coach Nick Hildebilde returns as commissioner and does a great job tracking stats, including league-wide point-scorers. BU plays DII St. Michael’s in a friendly this weekend but the league kicks off Sept. 15.
ROCKY MOUNTAIN (8)
has expanded this year and divided into two divisions, East and West, encompassing eight teams. The East includes leader Air Force, Colorado, Colorado State, New Mexico and Wyoming, which just moved up from DII. The West includes Montana State, Utah State and newly reinstated Utah Valley. BYU, which dropped from DI Elite, has a solid presence on the schedule, playing all three West teams as well as Air Force and Wyoming, but is not vying for the fall title.
Montana State head coach Ed McKenna is the commissioner and his Bobcats are hosting Colorado State in a friendly this weekend. Utah State is playing Utah Valley at home, and the East gets going next weekend. The conference culminates in a final four before fall regionals.
DAVENPORT is the reigning DI fall champion and is playing another independent schedule that ranges from DI Elite champion Lindenwood to teams from Allegheny, Midwest and Big 10. • NAVY is playing a really nice mix of NIRA, DII and DI teams, including UC San Diego, this fall and will have to apply for an at-large berth. • See Ivy League info below.
KENT STATE is the only DI team in the hybrid Allegheny conference and will need to apply for an at-large berth. • The Ivy League isn’t really a hybrid but holding varsity (3 NIRA teams) and club (5 teams) competitions this year. The winner of the club league, which includes Princeton, a regular at the DI fall playoffs, will advance to the DII fall playoffs. • TRB has not yet received clarification on the LONESTAR, but the competition integrates traditionally DI and DII teams into North and South pools. Will update on post-season pathways.
Stay tuned for coverage!