April 15 - The final and largest weekend of qualification for the Collegiate Rugby Championship is upon us, with 33 tournaments across the country offering automatic bids to the big dance. On the men’s side, every division still has tournament berths up for grabs.
In the Premier Cup, the Big Ten will crown a champion Saturday at Notre Dame. Heavily favored Indiana already has a bid, but another Big Ten team could well punch their ticket in South Bend. The host Fighting Irish look like a contender.
In the Big Rivers, a four-tournament series comes to a head in Adrian, Michigan. With 12 teams, the finale will be the largest stop. Marian won the opener in Oklahoma, Thomas More the second tournament in St. Louis and Wheeling the third in Cincinnati. The final Big River standings will consider just the top two performances from each team.
The three-tournament Rugby East series also comes to a close Saturday in Kutztown, Pennsylvania, where the host Golden Bears are a favorite to win the tournament, but not likely the series, having participated in just one stop so far. Mount St. Mary’s, Mary Washington and Virginia Tech are chasing Queens in the standings coming into the final leg.
A fourth Premier Cup team could qualify out of the Southern Conference, where Belmont Abbey looks like the bully. Depending who wins, the SoCon champ could also be slotted in the 12-team Division I club field.
Elsewhere in Division I, the Mid-Atlantic Rugby Conference and MAC are also crowning champions Saturday. The MAC title is being played for in Louisville, Kentucky, and the three-tournament MARC series crescendos at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. Going in, the host Rams sit atop the MARC standings, followed by Delaware and James Madison tied for second.
There are seven conference championships across seven states in Division II. The High Peaks championship is at the University of Northern Colorado, the MARC in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, the Southern Conference at East Carolina University, the Gateway in St. Louis, the Great Midwest in Madison, Wisconsin, the New England Wide in Springfield, Massachusetts and the Allegheny in Cherry Hill, New Jersey.
The University of Central Missouri looks like a favorite in the Gateway, having won the St. Patrick’s Day Tournament at Missouri S&T last month. Defending national champion Indiana University of Pennsylvania has been punching above its weight against DI competition all spring and looks fit for another MARC title run. In the SoCon, ECU’s qualification for the Premier Cup opens up the pathway to D.C. for a second DII team.
Men’s Small College has eight conference championships – the New England Rugby Football Union at Babson, Colonial Coast at Bryant University in Smithfield, Rhode Island, the MARC at Gettysburg, the SoCon at ECU, the Small College East qualifier in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the Great Midwest in Madison, the New England Wide at Springfield, and the Small College New York qualifier in Geneseo.
Virginia Military Institute from the Cardinal and Southeastern Louisiana from the Deep South will join six Southern Conference teams for the SoCon Championship at ECU, with the winner earning a berth to Maryland. In the Colonial Coast, Endicott looks to rebound from a second-place finish at the automatic qualifier in Canton, Massachusetts last week with a conference title. UMaine Orono and surprising Springfield College are in the running for NERFU's bid. Host SUNY Geneseo will look to knock off conference champ LeMoyne for the New York berth.