For many, college rugby is the heart of the game in America; it’s where many players get their first taste of rugby and where many alumni still make significant contributions. Still, that doesn’t mean that college rugby is neatly organized and in a productive state. Over the last few years there have been several unsuccessful attempts to get the best teams playing against each other regularly and to get the sport on television.
To some degree getting the top teams to play regularly against each other has worked. While it has been far from perfect, competitions like DI-A and its predecessor, the College Premier Division, brought together many of the best teams in the country (again it wasn’t perfect). However, missing by and large from this equation has been exposure on television. The last few DI-A finals were both shown on ESPN3, but almost every other college match has been left off their air.
That is beginning to change, but not in a way many would have predicted a few years ago. Instead of trying to get their matches on national or even local television many teams and conferences have instead turned to making their matches available online. If you think about it, that’s smart. Many of the people tuning in to watch a match between the University of Washington and Washington State are going to be college-aged kids who aren’t able to attend the match. The alumni that will be interested in the match are probably adept enough to watch the stream online as well.
By and large webstreaming a match is a far cheaper alternative to traditional television and it allows teams to still reach their targeted audience. It also allows conferences and teams to grow their own brand. It’s important to remember that there are only a few varsity rugby teams in the country, and it’s up to the individual conferences and teams to promote their regular season matches (U.S.A. Rugby is and should be responsible for the post-season). As such, having an outlet to promote your sponsors is smart business for a team trying to attract support.
While many teams have used webstreams, the Allied Conference has taken it to a whole other level. The conference, which includes teams from Texas and Oklahoma, features a Game of the Week every Monday. The Game of the Week highlights some of the best rivalries, including Texas and Texas A&M and are available for free. In order to get the Game of the Week off the ground, the conference turned to T5 1/2, a company with a specific mission to air rugby matches. Although the broadcasts are only a few weeks old, they have already generated quite a bit of buzz.
The downside to having your own webstream is that you do lose out on the opportunity for viewers to accidentally stumble upon rugby. That element can’t be understated. Eagle Miles Craigwell was first turned on to rugby by watching the Collegiate Rugby Championship, the only college event to air on national television. If rugby is to continue to grow it will need to attract more fans who simply discover the game by flipping through the channels.
Hopefully the DI-A finals will continue to be shown on ESPN3, just as the National 7’s Championships were this last fall, but college rugby’s real hope for landing on national television appears to be the Varsity Cup. The competition was put together by BYU in an effort to appeal to large fan bases like Notre Dame while at the same time including some of the top teams in the country like Cal and Dartmouth. No television has been announced yet for the event but it seems imminent. The quarterfinals of the tournament will be held as double-headers in Annapolis and Provo and are set up as perfect opportunities for a broadcast. The final will be held in Provo and will most likely be broadcast.
It’s a big gamble for the Varsity Cup. The teams in the tournament gave up post-season play in DI-AA just to compete in the tournament, and if they don’t attract a television audience and sponsors, the tournament will be considered by some to be a failure. However, if it succeeds, more teams may find the opportunity to switch away from the webstream and onto television.
Gilbert has released a new line of rugby cleats. The Gilbert Virtuo 8S is part of the exciting new product. Check it out.
The entire All Blacks apparel line has been updated for 2013/14. Check out the New Zealand All Blacks polo.
The Nike Tiempo is a solid rugby cleat and one of few styles still made from full-grain natural leather.
The Gilbert Blitz 8S rugby cleat is a great cleat at a great price of $69.99. Get a new pair of cleats today.
A cool looking all black rugby cleat with the high performance adidas is known for. Get in the Gear!
Wear the crest of the British and Irish Lions on your t-shirt. A great look for the summer.
The All Blacks Performance t-shirt is black with hints of blue from the training jersey. Very Cool.
The New Zealand All Blacks training jersey for 2013/14. Get in the Gear!
The USA Rugby Pro Alternate rugby jersey is perfect for any fan of the Eagles. Get yours to wear during the summer Test matches.
The NEW All Blacks 2013/14 jersey has arrived at World Rugby Shop. Dare to wear the colors of the All Blacks.