The Collegiate Rugby Association of America (CRAA) has canceled the Women’s Division I Spring 15s Championship, which was supposed to be contested Saturday, May 6 in Houston, Texas. The Division II championship between Howard University and Claremont Colleges is still going ahead as planned, as is the Premier 7s championships on Sunday, May 7.
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Brigham Young Univ. won the DI western regional championship on April 21-22 in Palo Alto, Calif. (see bracket). The two-time reigning spring champion beat Cal handily in the opening round, and then Stanford Univ. played the Cougars to a competitive 37-10 loss in the spring semifinals. Meanwhile, Virginia Women’s Rugby (aka, UVA) won the East, earning a bye in the opening round after Univ. Central Florida forfeited its berth, and then beating Univ. Florida 69-7 on day two. Virginia then forfeited its berth to the DI spring championship for the second year in a row. CRAA attempted to secure a replacement team, but to no avail.
For anyone who’s been paying attention, this cancelation is no surprise (read the Addendum at the end of this Feb. 20 article). BYU’s Pacific Desert opponents were forfeiting matches to the Cougars in season, and when the Univ. Arizona finally snapped the string of cancelations, the Wildcats were served a 152-6 loss.
On April 12, Virginia head coach Nancy Kechner said the team hadn’t talked about post-regionals, which was backed by the fact that the spring championships did not appear on the team’s calendar and there were no signs of fundraising for a potential trip to Texas. Keep in mind that Virginia is very familiar with the post-season (see homepage) and featured in the first edition of the DI spring championship in 2016 against UC Davis.
Virginia forfeited the most prominent post-season match, but there were other CRAA teams that withdrew from impactful playoff games. UCF withdrew from the DI East regionals, which meant that Univ. Florida had to face its toughest opponent of the year (Virginia) the day after beating N.C. state by two points. The Gators made reference to this inequity with class, both publicly and privately.
Sacramento State was in a similar situation. UC Santa Cruz forfeited its berth to the DII western regional championship at Stanford, which gave Claremont the bye in the first round. Meanwhile, Sacramento State beat San Diego State in the opening round, took a handful of injuries and moved players around for Claremont the following day. The Foxes won 39-38 for a repeat berth to the spring final. Sac State, too, viewed the situation with a “nature of sports” lens, but one wonders what that game would have looked like between two fresh teams.
These issues are replicated at the local level, and they all draw concern about spring 15s. None of the Capital conference teams that competed in the fall 15s matrix season accepted a berth to spring regionals. Fortunately, Howard Univ., which played a friendly fall season, took the invitation, and then won the East. Eckerd College was the only active DII team in Florida, but its regular-season schedule, year after year, includes games against DII teams that rarely play 15s. Appalachian State and UNC Charlotte were the only playoff-vying teams in Carolinas. Last year, it was only App State.
The DII Pacific Desert and West Coast are in decent shape, but their schedules could be more efficient between teams that play 15s and 7s. Division I felt like years past, as there wasn’t much movement of teams. Blue Ridge did lose two teams in Virginia Tech (now competes in CRAA fall) and East Carolina (demoted to DII). And of course Pacific Desert teams were forfeiting to BYU.
Spring 15s has not fully recovered from the covid era, but CRAA oversight is also culpable for post-season missteps (remember DII fall!?). The DI spring final is in the exact same situation as 2022, the difference being that no replacement was named. Fool me once. But CRAA has referenced disciplinary action, so it sounds like lessons are being learned. More to come.