Thursday, May 10, 2007

not sure what to think ...

So this link got gchatted to me today ...
And usually I don't blog mad. Today I am blogging mad.
At first i thought AWSOME! Another step forward towards NCAA Women's Rugby. Awsome!

And then I started reading. This site claims its the "OFFICIAL site of Women's College Rugby". Really? There's no NCAA logo - and USA Rugby, with it's NCAA Initiative isn't even mentioned. I'm not sure who owns this site (a whoisquery has it registered to, so just a service), but it FULL of misinformation and certainly misrepresentative.

There's a prominent interview with Frank Graziano, the EIU Head Coach - and no disrepect intended, but some of his statements are flat out WRONG, and I'm pretty sure it's not an accident.

For example, when asked about recruiting, Coach Graziano states:

"With no high school rugby anywhere in the U.S., the cross-over athlete provides the recruiting base for our program". Are you kidding me? There's high school rugby everywhere! EVERYWHERE! Here in Eastern Penn, there are over 30+ girls high school teams.

That statement is echoed, in italics, in bold on the girls high school page. "College Rugby America recognizes the long overdue need for the formation of girls high school rugby. Currently, there is no girls high school rugby anywhere in the United States".

That's right Divine Savior, Kent, Budd Bay, Haverford, Blackhearts, Conestoga, Summit, Littleton etc etc etc. YOU DON'T EXIST.

You wanna be really pissed, everyone who's played rugby in college? Look at THIS page. The first college rugby program was EIU in 1998? I'll bite on the first NCAA program ... but DON'T IGNORE THE REST OF US!!! I played college rugby in 1982!

There is a press release about the newest multi-sport athletes. All are from EIU.

And then there is the "National U18 Development Program". There's much talk of camps to prep athletes for college rugby. According to the site, "This is the only program in the nation designed for the development of future college rugby student-athletes." Really? So what about the Penn State Camp? The East Stroudsberg Camp? The camps run by the USA U-19 Program? The camps run in Minnesota by MARF? The DOZENS of camps run across the nation by club and college programs every summer and winter? Seriously, this is the ONLY camp in the whole country tailored for college rugby student-athletes? I cry b#@$#@*(t.

Let's take a look at the staff for these camps. WAIT, its the EIU staff!

Hey, there's a section where we talk about laws... WAIT, it's with Coach Graziano!

Ok - so granted, I'm a little pissed. Everyone has the right to recruit and recruit and recruit. But DO NOT misrepresent your program our your place in the world. There are hundreds of high school programs in the country. Oh, they don't have a varsity label? That doesn't mean they don't exist. How many high school rugby players were on PSU's winning team this year? LOTS - and I bet more than a few of them attended the PSU camp when they were in high school. I bet the same goes for Stanford. I know that the high school programs in Colorado and Minnesota and Seattle are pumping out international caliber athletes.

DO NOT Represent your staff and your camp as the only people in the country running development programs. Somewhere along the line someone identified and coached all the student athletes playing, and it was someone other than Coach Graziano. There are SO MANY PEOPLE - "big" names and "no" names working their asses off to develop the high school rugby athlete, working their asses off to get them ready for the best college rugby experience - and this web site is representing itself as the "OFFICIAL" source of pretty much everything. USA Rugby HAS an official NCAA initiative - and the aren't even mentioned!

This is not the official anything. It's a marketing tool for Eastern Illinois University, and its misrepresentations are insulting (I can't speak for the whole rugby community, but I'm insulted). You DO NOT represent everyone. Put the EIU logo on this site and make it right.


rachel said...

wow. really wow! and there is no contact information to even write them!!

Just call me coach.... said...

Rachel - I'm willing the bet all the email links will go to Coach G.

Kentucky said...

Did anyone happen to read the "Talking Rules" with coach Graziano thing?? Amazing's basically a showcase of how he is misleading parents and others outside the sport. I'm not really even sure if these are real questions, he could have made them up....

K-Train said...

I personally enjoy the part in the rules section where it says you can't lift legs in DI college rugby. Which is interesting because I didn't think their was a special law book for American college rugby and i thought the laws technically are against short binding (more to the point pre-binding)in the lineout.

The whole site is a comedy of errors and poor choices.

Alison said...

wow. it's hard even to know what to say. an EIU site masquerading as a site for all college rugby...
if they just added the word "varsity" to a lot of the statements on this site they would be much more accurate.

AOF said...

There is no such thing as NCAA rugby yet. It doesn't exist. It's currently a figment of Graziano's imagination. I was AMAZED when I traveled to EIU with my squad for a match. The rule changes, the requirement to only use his refs, the field setup. He has produced a great example of what varsity rugby should NOT look like. I wonder if Bowdoin and West Chester even know they are listed??

The NCAA would probably flip over this site.

Anonymous said...

has anyone sent it to the NCAA? Perhaps USA Rugby should be notified??

Blondie said...

I passed it on to contacts at USA Rugby ... I'm going to post on it when I have a chance.

Katie said...

My favorite part:

College Rugby comes to America

The nation's first college women's rugby game will be played this fall

Details Coming Soon"

Damn, what sport was I playing during all those Saturdays in 1998-2001? Apparently not rugby, because this guy obviously knows everything!

ChiefCUA said...

WOW... I want to believe that this is a spoof, but clearly this guy (and the program) take themsleves VERY seriously. I want to actually send this guy an email! I have to agree with Kentucky, the "Talking Rules" section HAS to be made up... who in their right mind would A) ask those questions? B) word them that way? and C) make oh so many references towards the greatness of EIU. UGH!

Anonymous said...

I would read through the site again to read the words more specifically. (And the site does have an NCAA logo on it.) I did not read through all of it but have read quite a bit.

A few facts about rugby:

There are not any officially sanctioned high school teams in the country. Yes, there are more than a few club teams, but none of them are sanctioned by a single high school sports association in the same way basketball, baseball, football, etc., are sanctioned. That does not mean that rugby is not worth playing -- even for fun -- but it does mean that none of these sports are recognized by any high school organizations.

That is the same situation college rugby faces. Rugby is a tremendous sport, but it does not have the infrastructure that other sports enjoy in this country. For example, volleyball and soccer are supported by USA Volleyball and USA Soccer, respectively. That means these governing bodies develop athletes from youth teams to high school and through college. These national organizations do not run collegiate sports, which are governed by the NCAA. They are in place to develop and promote the sport, not run it.

In this country, we have USA Rugby, which has developed some high school and college 'club' programs. Beyond that, nothing. USA Rugby does not (and would never) run rugby at the NCAA level, just as USA Soccer does not run its sports at the college level. Instead, USA Soccer supports the NCAA's initiatives. That is how USA Rugby needs to support any collegiate initiative. And that seems to be where USA Rugby is rightfully leaning.

There is a vast difference between an NCAA vasity program and a club program in any sport (whether that is rugby or rowing). NCAA teams must adhere to much more stringent rules and guidelines; in addition, they are trained at a much higher level. No club team, in any sport can come close to matching the fitness and athleticism of a NCAA sport. I have spent some time with the EIU team, a squad filled with some super-fit (and skilled) players.

Now, we need to move the rest of the college community in this direction, elevating the training and the regimens so rugby can become a real sport and not remain a weekend hobby. Yes, some teams 'train' a few days a week, but NCAA athletes train rigorously five days a week to prepare for the weekend games. Imagine what would happen if all rugby teams trained in this manner. The USA women's squad would be more fit, more skilled and better prepared to take on anyone in the world. And the sport would also begin to attract higher quality athletes as well.

We first need rugby to build at the high school level, where it should build into a state championship sport. That way, we can develop players for these college squads.

Club rugby is a lot of fun both socially and competively. But let's not confuse the issue: rugby is currently a non-sanctioned club sport at all levels. Hopefully, more programs will step up and work toward supporting NCAA status, where colleges can train and develop both players and coaches -- just as it does for all other recognized varsity sports. Here's hoping it happens soon.

AOF said...


While I understand what you are saying, some of our points I find problematic.

You can't necessarily make statements about culture simply by looking at the governance structure. NCAA = governance structure, but that doesn't somehow mean that they are 100% trained at a higher level (depends on the program). I watched the Ohio State CLUB soccer team while I was getting my graduate degree and would bet you a year's salary that they would beat MANY NCAA D2 & D3 soccer teams. It's not that simple, there are many grey areas.

Rugby is a serious sport not just a hobby. It is completely disrespectful to any coach or athlete that plays competitive rugby to simply dismiss them (hobby) just because they don't play on a field with an NCAA logo. I've seen "Kentucky" play on the rugby field and I can bet this game is more than just a weekend hobby for her.

I started playing rugby 10 years ago in college. We practiced 5 days a week, 2 hours a day during the traditional varisty practice schedule (4-6). I never took myself less seriously and though we did drink and party, most of the time we did so WITH NCAA VARSITY ATHLETES at those affairs. Again, governance structure cannot give you a complete picture of culture.

I would argue the big difference between a "varsity" program and a "club" is institutional support. Club rugby often does not get sufficent funding, paid coaches, medical trainer access, transportation paid for, equal access to fields, etc. This is the great benefit to rugby going varisty, our athletes can be supported more. I think these are the types of things that really will help usher in rugby at a even higher level (more than practice at 5 days instead of 3).

I just am amazed when I read this EIU sponsored website and they discuss NCAA rugby rules. There is no such thing, it just makes me laugh and shake my head.

But if you are right, Anonymous, and club sports cannot compete with varisty sports, blah blah blah, I'd love to know how those EIU ruggers who trained at such a higher level LOST to those weekend hobby kids at Texas A&M.

Anonymous said...

I did not mean to demean the dedication of college rugby players, who sometimes work hard to prepare for a weekend game. I write merely to illustrate some incorrect statements. College remains a club sport, not a varsity sport. College rugby is the same as any other club on campus.

I would have to respectfully disagree about your soccer comparison. I would bet the club soccer team at Ohio State would be fortunate to beat a D-II program. Most D-III programs, though, scramble to get athletes since grant-in-aids are very limited (some do not even have a single athletic scholarship). Perhaps, some of these Ohio State players could have played at D-III (oe even D-II), but, as we know, there is a huge difference between D-II/III and Division I. And that's where college rugby ought to aspire to go.

Yes, the institutional support is amazing, as you correctly state. That is another reason college programs should work with athletic directors to earn NCAA status. Imagine how much better each team would get.

I also agree that some D-I athletes have some beers, etc. I did not say they do not partake in a few drinks once once in a while.

I cannot speak for the EIU coach in regards to the reasons they lost to Texas A&M, however I did watch their game the season before when they had a full squad and won rather easily despite a muddy field and a much narrower field that mitigated the speed advantage that EIU held. That said, the Texas A&M coach is very talented and a great guy. They should have a solid program for years to come.

This year, EIU lost its top scorer a week before the game, a young woman who has blazing speed and can just fly past opponents. Check her stats online. The team also struggled to field enough players this year, playihg with about 15-16 all season. Despite what most people believe, EIU's team is grossly underfunded. The team receives the equivalent of one full scholarship each season, something that is divided among about 10 players. Imagine if EIU (or Ohio State or Penn State) could get funded the same as soccer, basketball, etc. Those schools would be able to attract even faster sprinters and multisport athlete. As a result, the quality of rugby in this country would be tremendous.

Imagine also if these athletes were trained at an even higher level.

I have great respect for those who play rugby and those who work to coach these players. But there is typically a major difference between this training and the training at most D-I schools. I believe the current players would benefit a great deal in moving toward D-I status. That would be great for players, coaches and the sport itself.

Since you have some experience coaching and playing, you might be a great candidate for moving some college programs toward this status. Again, I do not intend to demean those who work hard and love to play the great sport of rugby. I wish you and everybody else who plays luck in moving toward D-I status (or in playing club on weekends). It's certainly a fun sport to watch and play.

Thanks for pointing out that there are grey areas. You are absolutely correct. How to elevate the sport? What season should it be played? How many games? Rules? Those are convesations worth starting with athletic directors and among rugby officials. Not sure what all the answers are, but dialogue among and between rugby officials and NCAA directors should yield some good answers.

I believe the sport can truly become an even more 'serious sport' once it is funded, supported and promoted at a higher level. I wish all luck in finding a way to elevate rugby in this country, showing folks how much fun it is to watch and play.

AOF said...

Thanks for the clarifications Anonymous. You illustrate another important point - NCAA status doesn't necessarily mean greater support. Women get FAR fewer scholarships than male athletes in D1 athletics. The concept that we have reached gender equity in athletic opportunities, support, etc. is terribly misguided. I can ramble off maybe a dozen club rugby programs that have paid coaches, strong funding, dedicated fields, trainer access, etc - that don't have NCAA status. We can support, fund and promote rugby without it being a NCAA sport, look at Vassar, Stanford, Penn State, Dartmouth, Army, etc.

When I lived in the Midwest I coached D2 at a school with less than 1000 women and we had a rugby roster of 45. We practiced 3 days a week, had great funding from the school, worked with athletics, trained incredibly hard and qualified for Nationals. If EIU who promotes NCAA status so vigorously struggles to get 15 people with all the benefits they talk about, that should concern people who advocate that model.

Equestian and squash are both within the control of athletic departments as "varsity" sports and the NCAA doesn't host a championship - there are alternatives.

It's important to realize that many schools at the D1 level will promote women's rugby "varsity" not out of any desire to further the sport or even support female athletes, but simply to maintain bloated football and basketball rosters and budgets. Women's rugby will become the next women's crew in terms of playing a disingenious game with Title IX.

I still would place my bet on Ohio State club soccer.... :-)

rachel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rachel said...

okay I did something wrong with the link, but USA Rugby has a good page on the state of High School Girls Rugby in the us.

Anonymous said...
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