This morning, RUGBYMag.com received news that Southern Exposure - the lone seed from the South - has dropped out of the Women's Club 7s National Championship. With the competition set to kick off in two days, it appears too late for organizers to invite another squad and round out the 16-team competition.
Southern Exposure, a three-year-old team consisting primarily of athletes under 25, didn't have to qualify through traditional means. The only other South team that would have considered the trip to San Francisco was the Atlanta Harlequins, but the DI club stated very early on that player availability, financial constraints and scheduling conflicts prohibited last year's attendees from committing to the event. Southern Exposure, therefore, accepted the berth without competition.
The latest turn of events is unfortunate, in that the competition recovered nicely after the West and Military teams forfeited their three seeds. MARFU #4 Philadelphia, Pacific Coast #4 Sacramento Amazons and Northeast #4 Morris (NJ) quickly accepted the invitations two weeks before the event to prevent an awkward 13-team championship. However, with this late evolution, USA Rugby must now reconfigure the brackets.
There seems to be two options: three pools of five teams, or three four-team pools and one three-team pool that receives a bye through one pool play round. The former scenario adds too many games to the schedule, which might be difficult to accommodate since the competition is currently set to run from 9 a.m. - 5:35 p.m. In the latter scenario, one pool would have an unfair advantage only playing two games on day one, and regardless of the outcome on Sunday, is destined to receive heaps of criticism.
But the criticism should be reserved for Southern Exposure. It's unacceptable to pull out of a national competition days before its commencement, especially when organizers have done a good job ensuring that a proper 16-team competition take place. It also reflects poorly on women's rugby as a whole. Territories like the Midwest committed to revamping their previously social summer 7s scene, while other regions - like the South and West - didn't answer the call. Although 2012 is the second year that the women have an official USA Rugby club 7s championship, it will not be a complete reflection of the nation.
Stay tuned for more details and new brackets as they arise.