The Northern California RFU has settled on a new men’s DI club format which will produce a ten-game regular season for eight clubs, including three promoted from DII.
San Francisco Golden Gate, the dominant club in the region, will still be in the new competition, but will not field its strongest side – that roster will be reserved for the Elite Cup and the new West Coast league being formed.
Northern California DI Coordinator Aaron Frederick said the success of the new format was contingent on SFGG fielding a 2nd side.
“SFGG wants to keep DI rugby in Northern California, and we all realized that they are above the balance of competition in this region, and in most of the country,” said Frederick.”Some clubs felt that if SFGG’s elite squad was in DI, they would be reluctant to be a part of it.”
At the same time, though, the alternative would have been to move all remaining DI clubs down to DII, and all that would have served to do would have been to create blowouts between strong DI clubs such as the EPA Bulldogs or Sacramento Lions, and the lower-level DII clubs.
So this is what happened: SFGG and Olympic Club will concentrate on Elite Cup and/or the West Coast League. Olympic Club will not field a team in DI, while SFGG will, and has promised to keep their roster of top players out.
Teams that were tops in DII last year – Santa Rosa, Fresno, San Jose, and Diablo Olde Gaels – are now in DI. BA Baracus was asked to move up, but declined.
They will join the East Palo Alto Bulldogs, East Palo Alto Razorbacks, Sacramento Lions from last year’s DI league, plus the SFGG team.
Not included are the Bay Barbarians, who have been suspended for a year due to repeated on-field foul play.
The formation of this new league took a lot of work from Frederick and NCRFU President John Compaglia.
“I approached four DII clubs individually, proposing a pool system to bring them up which took approximately two months of negotiations,” said Compaglia. “After hearing of the possible buy-in of three [DII] clubs moving up to DI, San Francisco Golden Gate requested to remain in Division 1.”
The League will be made up of two pools of four teams. Teams within the pool play each other twice (six games per teams), and play teams in the other pool once (four more games).
The pool winners receive a bye to the NorCal semifinals, while the teams that finish 2nd and 3rd play off to see who else makes it to the semis.
“This format allows the all the clubs to play a full season of Division 1 matches plus a playoff round thus meeting the expanded match mandate by USA Rugby,” said Compaglia.
EPA Bulldogs, RFC
Sacramento Lions, RFC
San Francisco Golden Gate, RFC
Santa Rosa, RFC
Diablo (Olde Gaels), RFC
San Jose, RFC
The split of the pools is intriguing, in that the DII clubs moving up are concentrated in Pool B. This, said Frederick, was designed to further ease the DII teams in to this higher level. Should they be overmatched, it will become evident in the crossovers and in playoffs, but will allow all of the teams involved to ensure competitive pool matches.
Another key aspect of this league is the topic of B-side matches. In Northern California, B-side matches are supposedly required in DI and DII, but rarely in DII do they happen as a full 15-on-15, 80-minute match (or event 60-minute match).
Frederick said this has become a frustration for the stronger DII clubs, and one carrot to attract them to DI was the guarantee of B-side matches. All DI teams will be required to play a B-side match. DII teams are expected to, but it has been recognized that it won’t often happen.