Tuesday, October 26, 2010

What do women ruggers want?

Carbs. Some funky spandex. And maybe a smidge of recognition.
This article in WaPo did a great job describing the situation of many collegiate women's rugby teams. Most of them are club teams. That means they provide (or seek out through fundraising or non-athletic department institutional sources) most of the funding for participation. This is despite the fact that the NCAA has listed women's rugby as an emerging sport. That means that schools could elevate their women's rugby teams to varsity status and perhaps deal with some lingering Title IX issues by doing so. Rugby teams are large. Not as large as crew teams--but also not as expensive. And it's a growing sport, actually the fastest growing women's sport at American colleges.
But only four schools have elevated women's rugby to varsity status.
Because while it might help with Title IX numbers, there is some (legitimate) concern that NCAA and institutional oversight of rugby isn't really what the sport needs. Rugby has a pretty unique culture that includes, as the article states, hanging out with your opponents after games. Not that this would be impossible as a varsity sport, but it seems many of the traditions of the game just do not fit with athletic department mentality.
But others in the sport think elevation to varsity status would be helpful for the visibility of the sport, women's sports generally (having another women's contact sport on the program would be good!), and of course financial support from the athletic department.
I am pretty sure that women's rugby, though, will be taken off the list of emerging sports if more intercollegiate teams are not created--soon. So it may not be an issue much longer...

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