Southwest Rugby Conference To Start With 8 Schools

The newest alignment of rugby-playing colleges in Texas will begin with eight members, at the exclusion of a few notable names.

The Southwest Conference Rugby Conference (SWCRC) became an official conference recently when USA Rugby accepted its bid to join the D1 hierarchy. Founding conference schools – Baylor, TCU, North Texas, University of Houston, Rice, Texas State and Sam Houston State – chose Dr. Clayton Jewett, head coach of Baylor, to head the league, then invited the University of Texas on board. This gives the league an even eight for the 2011-2012 competitive season.

However, as with many things in rugby, the story does not stop there. Texas A&M really wanted to enter their second team in the SWCRC. The Aggies’ first team competes in the College Premier Division (CPD).

The board of the conference chose UT over A&M when it came to who would be invited to be the eighth team, according to Jewett.

“I can only assume the Southwest Conference didn’t see it the same way [as we d0],” said Aggie Coach Craig Coates. “Before the league formed we were told that our school was too large (undergraduate population) to compete against the smaller schools like Rice and Baylor. However, UH has an undergrad population of 29,000+, Texas State 27,000+, UNT 27,000+ and the University of Texas 38,000+. Texas A&M has an undergrad enrollment of 36,000+. Apparently school size was not the issue either.”

The Aggies are none-too-happy with this recent turn of events. Jewett stated in an email to RugbyInTexas.com that the exclusion of A&M had more to do with the league wanting to keep the number of teams at eight to begin with – they have to have seven to get a bid when USA playoffs roll around. Two schools applied for one spot. A&M already plays up in the CPD for its first side. Adding UT to the league gives it eight playoff-eligible teams (A&M’s second team would not be able to compete in post-season D1 stuff) from day one.

“Anytime there is change and restructuring, not everyone is going to be pleased,” Jewett wrote. ” Our decision to keep the conference, in its beginning stages, to 8 teams should not be taken by any person or team as a slight against them.  I think I can speak for the rest of the conference when I say that we have nothing but the utmost respect for all of the other coaches, players, and programs in Texas, especially A&M.”

It could have been both the Longhorns and the Aggies looking in, Jewett wrote, had other clubs petitioned to join before those two. Jewett said he made several attempts to contact SFA and SMU, but neither got back to the league. He also maintains that Texas Tech never sought inclusion, although they were mentioned early by the board as a possible invitee, along with New Mexico. Nothing with those two schools went further, he wrote.

As it stands, the Aggies need to find a competitive home for their second side. Why? CPD is a first-side-only league, and A&M has a lot of players who want game – and deserve meaningful game. It should not be held against Coates and his club that they are successful. Coates says A&M will try to get in the TRU D2 league next season. We suggest they go mens’ D3.

Jewett is excited about the SWCRC, and he says the league is looking forward to representing Texas in D1, and advancing the game in the state.

In the end, the Aggies concede that the SWCRC is a league run by someone else, and the members can vote as they please.

“We tried putting together a Big XII Rugby Conference (that failed to materialize) and that would have potentially left out non-Big 12 schools,” A&M Assistant Coach Johnny Smith said.

Jewett said the Big 12 league would make travel too expensive (Missouri, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska), so Baylor and others had to look elsewhere.

Some of you may ask, why not St. Edward’s or the University of Dallas? They really get left out in the cold (this blog’s opinion) because USA Rugby wants D1 conferences to mirror NCAA D1 conferences as much as possible. So, if University of Dallas builds a powerhouse – like St. Mary’s of California – they won’t be able to move up to D1. Their only option is to hope the CPD is still around so they could leap frog over D1. That’s not the SWCRC’s fault, it’s straight from USA Rugby.

If you are UTSA, SMU, SFA or Lamar, you might have a chance.

Lost in all this is A&M hedging its bets against a possible CPD collapse. Do the Aggies know something we don’t? If so, we hope they contact us. Also, if the CPD does fail after this season, we hope the SWCRC reconsiders and opens its arms for their fellow Texans.

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