Perhaps no newly-formed college committee has more on its plate than the Men’s Competitions Committee, considering the looming restructure and all the questions surrounding it, as well as the increasing demand for a DIII national competition. Still, the committee’s top priority remains clear: 7s.
“Right now our priority that we’ve been given is to work out a college 7s competition, and to do it as soon as possible,” committee chair Kevin Battle said Wednesday.
Critics of that other college 7s competition, USA Sevens LLC's Collegiate Rugby Championship, say selectors cater too much to big-name college programs, instead of selecting teams with perhaps less-marketable brands but better rugby. Battle says the long-term goal for his committee is to create a national competition that is attractive to potential broadcasters, sponsors and fans, as well as all inclusive.
“We want to make it elite. We want to be able to attract fans and athletes to the game, but then we also want to make it accessible in terms of it’s a true national championship where teams across the country have the opportunity to compete for it,” he said.
“So we have to set up pathways in terms of competitions, where possibly we do local tournaments, which would qualify you to regional tournaments, which would eventually qualify you to the national tournaments. That’s what our goal is. Now we have to identify how we’re going to do it.”
The committee also has to identify when it’s going to do it, and right now the only time parameter is soon.
“That’s the big question: when is the best time? And I don’t know that there’s any best time,” said Battle. “Immediately we have to do something very soon, so we may have to adjust our time table. Whatever we decide right now won’t be set in stone, I would imagine.
“We’d like to do something by late fall this year, just to get it off and get it started, but I think we have to be flexible with the date and not lock ourselves into something permanent at the moment and see what kind of traction we can get from TV and sponsors and see what fits.”
While the creation of a college 7s competition seems at first glance like a reaction to the success of the CRC, Battle says he’d like to explore the possibility of a marriage between USA Sevens LLC and USA Rugby on the issue, ala the actual USA Sevens event.
“I think at the end of the day we’re both after the same thing. We have the same goal in mind, even though we might have started off in different paths,” said Battle of USA Rugby and USA Sevens. “I think it’d be foolish of us not to reach out to them and discuss what our plans are and see how that could potentially fit with them.
“Obviously there’s a lot of moving parts there that have to work out, but we’d be shooting ourselves in the foot to not try to work out some type of arrangement which would be mutually beneficial. We’re USA Rugby, we have the teams, we have the competition. They’re USA Sevens, they have the corporate partners, they have the NBC relationship. We certainly are within our means to try and go out and develop it ourselves, but personally speaking, I think we should try to reach out to them first, versus us working opposite of each other.”