College rugby has a proud tradition stretching back all the way to the 1800’s. Today, more than 32,000 players make up the entire collegiate body of Ruggers across America.
Because the sport is a late bloomer compared to American Football or Baseball, the NCAA does not govern Rugby clubs played at Universities. Instead, USA Rugby is the governing body for all teams.
They have divided the schools into different divisions, College Rugby D-1A being the highest. Just recently, in 2011, USA Rugby broke the former Division 1 teams up into Division 1A and Division 1AA. Most of the former teams decided to play within the AA but there are over 31 elite schools playing in Single A.
Arguably, the USA Rugby’s Collegiate National Championship is the highest achievement for a college rugby team. This tournament is sponsored by USA Rugby, as opposed to the Varsity Cup which is governed by the Universities that broke off and founded the Tournament, quickly gaining national recognition.
The D1-A championship has only been played since 2011, when USA Rugby split the league into two as previously mentioned. Prior to this, the College Rugby Championship was the climax of the season.
The University of California Golden Bears Rugby team has been the most decorated college team in American history. Winning 26 championships since 1967 and going on to produce some of the finest rugby players for the USA Eagles, including Mike MacDonald who is the most capped player in Eagles history.
Because there are two different tournaments played by different tier 1 schools, it is hard to say who is currently the best team in college rugby. in 2015, BYU beat California in the Varsity Cup while St. Mary’s beat Life University in the USA Rugby’s Collegiate National Championship. making up the top 4 Universities respectively.
College Rugby is one of the fastest growing sports in America. Many Universities have added rugby as a varsity program in order to hand out scholarships to athletes and promote the game. Schools like Texas and Notre Dame have even upgraded their club status team to an Olympic status. The championship games are being aired on national television bringing 18,000 fans to the matches every year and growing.
Other divisions outside of the D1A include D1AA, Division II, Division III, and Division IV. Below are the current champions in their divisions respectively:
D1AA: University of Central Florida
Division II: Minnesota
Division III: New England College
Division IV: Mount St. Mary’s University