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New North Atlantic Conference Promotes Northeast Competition

  • 22 May 2024
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North Atlantic rugby logo

National Collegiate Rugby has started previewing membership shifts ahead of the 2024-25 school year, and the summer will bring more updates. In the Northeast quadrant of the country, two conferences are merging to form the North Atlantic Collegiate Rugby Conference (NACRC), and the union hopes to bolster the 15s competition for both their men’s and women’s members. Together, they represent 66 college teams.

NACRC is the marriage of the Colonial Coast and New England Wide conferences, and it’s a natural merger. The conferences are rooted mostly in New England, and administrators Keith Cattanach (Colonial Coast) and Chris St. Onge (New England Wide) have been collaborating for a decade.

“Back in October, we were talking about teams knocking on our door [to join], other teams taking some big blowouts, some wanting better competition,” Cattanach said of the impetus for the conferences’ union. “And that’s the whole premise: How can we provide better competition?”

 

Yael Joseph Yale Rugby

Yale joins NACRC / Photo: Jackie Finlan / TRB

By combining their memberships, NACRC can now offer different tiers of competition that group like-strength programs. Currently, NACRC accounts for 33 women’s teams in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine. These are NCR leagues and thus hold 15s national championships in the fall and 7s national championships in the spring.

NACRC will provide four tiers of competition for its members: Division II, Small College “Champion,” Small College “Challenge,” and Developmental. Division II has just three teams, but coaches/administrators Carolyn Roach, Carly Baker and Rosie Downey devised a crossover schedule between NACRC and the Rugby Northeast (RNE) conference. Last year, Roger Williams, UMass Lowell and Providence College were the RNE DII teams.

Full schedules will post shortly, but one competitive friendly to watch: Friday Night Lights between Coast Guard and Norwich University. The Cadets are migrating from NIRA to NCR this fall (stay tuned for interview with Norwich head coach and Baylee Annis).

 

Coast Guard rugby

Coast Guard at 2024 CRC 7s / Photo: Jackie Finlan/TRB

Small College Champion has seven teams, including heavyweight Endicott College and CRC 7s champion Yale University. For those small colleges with national 15s aspirations, this is the league in which they must compete. The Small College Challenge competition has eight members, and this space is for teams that have just enough numbers for 15s – 15-20 players – but need a little more growth to sustain a full season in Small College Champion. NACRC wants that post-season lure for this subset and is considering options.

“The men have a Challenge competition and they get a regional [championship] that NCR sponsors, so we want to see that happen for the women because we’re getting to that point,” Cattanach said. “If it doesn’t go through NCR, we’re talking with Tri-State and Upstate New York [conferences] to make something happen.”

The Developmental group is actually the largest, with 15 current members. There’s more flexibility in this competition, e.g., combined-squad 15s on game day.

 

Endicott Rugby

Endicott at 2024 CRC 7s / Photo: Jackie Finlan/TRB

“Ideally, this group slowly drops in size and those teams move up so we can start keeping consistent competition,” Cattanach said. “But right now they need to rebuild and gain some traction and retain players.”

NACRC’s current goals revolve around establishing the new conference, sorting the executive board (on which Cattanach and St. Onge will serve) and regular board, filing 501c3 paperwork, and setting up communication ahead of season one. But Cattanach and fellow administrators foresee scenarios for conference growth.

“We picked the name ‘North Atlantic’ so we can potentially encompass New York up through New England,” said Cattanach, who is also head coach at DI Northeastern University, a Rugby Northeast member. “We have some aspirations to become bigger, but right now the short-term goals are: What’s equitable? How can we make this work for our teams coming together? … Who knows, maybe after we get established, we might have conversations with Rugby Northeast, and they might want to be part of it as well. But we haven’t broached that topic yet.”

NACRC WOMEN’S TEAMS

DIVISION II

U.S. Coast Guard Academy
Univ. New Hampshire
Univ. Vermont

SMALL COLLEGE ‘CHAMPION’

Endicott College
Plymouth State Univ
Salve Regina Univ
Smith College
Tufts Univ
Worcester Polytechnic Inst.
Yale Univ

SMALL COLLEGE ‘CHALLENGE’

Eastern Connecticut State Univ
Univ. Maine Farmington
Mount Holyoke College
Southern Connecticut State Univ
Springfield College
Wellesley College
Wentworth Inst. of Technology
Univ. Mass Dartmouth (to be confirmed)

DEVELOPMENTAL

Babson College
Brandeis Univ
Central Connecticut State Univ
Champlain College
College of the Holy Cross
Connecticut College
Univ. Hartford
Johnson & Wales Univ
Lasell College
Massachusetts Inst. of Technology
Univ. New Haven
Union College
Wesleyan Univ
Westfield State College
Williams College

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