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History: Women’s College 15s Champions

  • 01 Jan 2016

PHOTO: Notre Dame College won its first DII title in May 2015 and became a DI varsity program in fall 2015. /// Photo courtesy of Travis Prior (KLC fotos) for USA Rugby

To sum up women’s collegiate championships these days: It’s complicated. At first, there were only USA Rugby championships, but now there are multiple organizations that hold culminating tournaments that can be considered national or seasonal championships.

First, the most transparent championships: National Intercollegiate Rugby Association (NIRA) and DI Elite. NIRA is for the NCAA varsity women’s college programs, and today it holds DI, DII and DIII championships in the fall (in previous years, the competition was divided into tiers, and unofficial DII & DIII title matches were held). DI Elite is for a special tier of college programs that have athletics support but aren’t NCAA varsity. There have been three core teams – Lindenwood, Life, Penn State – that have participated in all seasons, while BYU and Central Washington have rotated in. DI Elite is a spring-based competition that names a national champ.


Year 1st 2nd
2021 (DI)  Dartmouth  U.S. Military Academy
2021 (DII)  AIC  West Chester
2021 (DIII)  Bowdoin  Univ. New England
2019 (Tier 1)  Harvard  U.S. Military Academy
2019 (Tier 2)  West Chester  Brown
2019 (DIII)  Bowdoin  Univ. New England
2018  Dartmouth  Harvard
2017  Quinnipiac  Dartmouth
2016  Quinnipiac  Central Washington
2015  Quinnipiac  U.S. Military Academy


DI Elite
Year 1st 2nd
2021  Lindenwood  Life
2019  Lindenwood  Life
2018  Lindenwood  Life
2017  Penn State  Lindenwood
2016  Penn State  BYU


Below those two levels, there are, generally three categories of college teams – Division I, Division II, Small College – however, there are multiple member organizations with their own criteria, formats and partnerships.

USA Rugby’s DI 15s National Championship has the longest history of any of the collegiate competitions, starting back in 1991. In the early 2010s, there was a schism along seasonality issues, and ACRA formed to advocate for fall-based teams. ACRA ran its own championships in the fall until USA Rugby ultimately adopted them, and there were a few years where the DI fall and DI spring champions met in a national final. That format was abandoned after a few years, and post-seasons ended with seasonal championships. Now all of those DI teams are either CRAA or


When ACRA formed to advocate for fall-, which had more of an impact on the DII because of sheer numbers,


Outside of those two competitions, there are two main categories beginning in 2021-22: USA Rugby affiliated, and National Collegiate Rugby (NCR). The latter used to be called National Small College Rugby Organization (NSCRO) and has held national 15s championships for its women’s small colleges (SC) since 2007. In 2020, NSCRO became NCR and added large schools, deemed “DI,” to its membership. NCR DI held its first 15s national championship in fall 2021.


Year 1st 2nd
2021 (SC)  Wayne State College  SUNY Cortland
2021 (DI)  Life Univ. JV  Univ. Northern Iowa
2020 ^  South Dakota  Univ Chicago
2019  Wayne State  MSU Moorhead
2018  Wayne State  Catholic
2017  Wayne State  Bentley
2016  Wayne State  Colgate
2015  MSU Moorhead  Colgate
2014  Roger Williams  Sacred Heart
2013  Wayne State  Smith College
2012  Wayne State  Roger Williams
2011  Carleton  Lock Haven
2010  Bentley  Drexel
2009  MIT  East Stroudsburg
2008  Bryant  Gettysburg
2007  Stonehill  Marist

^ NCR held a virtual season in fall 2020.

The teams that didn’t join NCR after USA Rugby’s reorganization in 2020 joined Collegiate Rugby Association of America (CRAA) or American Collegiate Rugby Association (ACRA), both USA Rugby partners (or are still TBD the DII West Coast conference). In 2021-22, CRAA held a fall DI championship, and spring DI and DII 15s championships are on the books. CRAA has one DII fall conference, so it coordinated with ACRA for a DII fall 15s championship in 2021.

ACRA didn’t just form because of USA Rugby’s reorganization. There was a schism in the early 2010s, with colleges dividing along seasonal lines. ACRA formed to advocate for fall-based programs and held its own competitions for a couple of years until USA Rugby adopted ACRA’s championship. For a few years, USA Rugby named fall and spring 15s champions, and then had those two teams face off in a national championship match in the spring, but that final match was abandoned after May 2017. Going forward, USA Rugby named separate fall and spring champions, with no national champion, until relinquishing the college game to CRAA, ACRA and NCR. In 2021, ACRA revived and held a DII fall 15s championship, which included the one CRAA DII fall conference (Rocky Mountain).



After the 20

2021 (f)
2021 (s)
2020 (f)
2020 (s)
2019 (f)  Air Force  Navy
2019 (s)  BYU  Virginia Tech
2018 (f)  Air Force  Davenport
2018 (s)  Chico State  Central Florida
* 2017 (f)  Davenport  Notre Dame
2017 (s)  UC Davis  Notre Dame College
2016 (f)  Air Force  UCONN
2016 (s)  UC Davis  UVA
2015 (f)  UCONN  Air Force
2015  Penn State  Central Washington
2014  Penn State  Stanford
2013  Penn State  Norwich
2012  Penn State  Stanford
2011  Army  Penn State
2010  Penn State  Stanford
2009  Penn State  Stanford
2008  Stanford  Penn State
2007  Penn State  Stanford
2006  Stanford  Penn State
2005  Stanford  Penn State
2004  Penn State  Princeton
2003  Air Force  Illinois
2002  Air Force  Penn State
2001  Chico State  Penn State
2000  Penn State  Princeton
1999  Stanford  Princeton
1998  Radcliffe  Penn State
1997  Penn State  Princeton
1996  Princeton  Penn State
1995  Princeton  Penn State
1994  Air Force  Boston College
1993  Connecticut  Air Force
1992  Boston College  Connecticut
1991  Air Force  Boston College


(f) fall; (s) spring
Year 1st 2nd
2021 (f)  See NCR & ACRA
2021 (s)  CLD BY COVID-19
2020 (f)  CLD BY COVID-19
2020 (s)  CLD BY COVID-19
2019 (f)  Winona State  CO School of Mines
2019 (s)  Fresno State  Salisbury
2018 (f)  Vassar  Winona State
2018 (s)  Tulane  Claremont
2017 (f) ^  Winona State  Vassar
2017 #  Davenport  Kennesaw State
2016 #  Davenport  USC
2015 #  Notre Dame College  UC Riverside
2014 $  Mary Washington  CSU Northridge
2013  Washington State  Winona
2012  Norwich  Winona
2011  Radcliffe  Notre Dame
2010  Washington State  Temple
2009  Shippensburg  Stonehill
2008  Shippensburg  UM Duluth
2007  Iowa State  UC Santa Cruz
2006  UC Santa Cruz  Plymouth State
2005  Providence College  Temple
2004  Temple  Providence College
2003  Dayton  Northern Iowa
2002  Northern Iowa  Minnesota
2001  Northern Iowa  Nevada
2000  Plymouth State  East Stroudsburg

^ From fall 2017 – spring 2020, USA Rugby abandons the fall champion vs. spring champion format for naming a national champion, and instead names two seasonal champions each year. Of course, Covid-19 halted the spring 2020 season.

# From fall 2015-spring 2017, ACRA’s fall champion played USA Rugby’s spring champion in a national final in May.

$ In fall 2013, ACRA held its first DII 15s championship in the fall, and none of those teams participated in USA Rugby’s national playoffs in spring 2014.


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