Teliczan, standing third from left, after the DII national championship
When Davenport University won the DII fall championship, all emotion was poured into hoisting captain Julia Mayer and the trophy above the team’s head. The Panthers had accomplished a goal that was set immediately after its fall 2014 post-season ended, and joy was all that resounded.
Our College Coach of the Year*, Davenport’s Greg Teliczan, was right there with his players celebrating, and didn’t dare express the anxieties that started to creep into his mind: How are we supposed to play a national championship game five months from now? Michigan winters can prevent outdoor play until April, so we’ll need to travel outside of the Midwest for spring matches. We’re not a DI varsity program; what if the athletic department can’t support the additional trip to nationals? And what of our ACRA DII 7s title – will we be able to travel to West Point and defend it?
“They don’t care, and it’s not for them to think about,” Teliczan had told Goff Rugby Report (read the full article here) in regard to the players’ concerns. “They’re playing rugby and loving it. And they’re successful. When they were told they were heading to California, it was like the greatest thing they’d ever heard.”
As California dreams set in, Teliczan brainstormed with the Davenport athletic department, which turned out to be very supportive of the national championship trip, in creating a spring schedule and budget. The coach had some extra incentive, too. The former 7s Eagle and longtime coach and player had competed in national championships himself, but had never won that season-end trophy. It was a feeling that had eluded Teliczan, and one worth chasing.
The coach led the team through an unfamiliar feel of a season. The Panthers were playing 15s games with the mindset of regaining championship shape. For their opponents, the spring is a friendly season or one focused on 7s. The Grand Rapids side weathered some important injuries and struggled to field a squad of 23 at times. Davenport may have had five months to prepare for one game, which came at the end of an unnatural build, but it wasn’t a luxurious time.
When the team did finally arrive in the East Bay, it was switched on from the first training session. Spring champion Tulane and runner-up Humboldt didn’t show, so third-place University of Southern California stepped up. Regardless, Davenport was wholly focused during its 61-0 victory.
Teliczan will credit that game verve to the players – who deserve it – but the coach deserves recognition for letting the players play, and having rugby be their only concern.
Although Davenport missed out on defending its ACRA 7s title, the Panthers were able to participate in the first USA Rugby DII 7s championship, three weeks after the 15s final. Davenport won that title, too.
“It will take some time for them to come down from the clouds,” Teliczan said of his team’s dual-title-winning spring. “But I’d be challenged to say that anyone was happier than me after that final whistle. I’ve coached and played in many championships and never won one. They’ve won two, and each of them is huge to me.”
* The remainder of the college awards are spring-only, since the college landscape is primarily divided into fall and spring competitions. Davenport was the exception since it won the fall and national titles.