BYU rugby: Looking back over a successful 2014 season

By Kelby Jones

For the Deseret News

Published: Thursday, May 8 2014 1:30 p.m. MDT

These increased playing opportunities will include a heady schedule that Smyth says will continue to rely on top tier collegiate games mixed with some men’s teams.

“You have to strike a balance when building a schedule,” he said. “We want to strengthen ourselves as a team and make these players develop individually, but we want to do this in a very controlled and well-thought-out fashion.”

With a renewed home-and-away series in 2015 with the Gaels of St. Mary’s, a likely expanded Red Rock Invitational, the Wasatch Cup expanding to a home-and-away series as well as more fixtures with top men’s division sides, next season will undoubtedly prove challenging for the BYU rugby program.

Also, a continued participation with the BYU development team in the Utah Rugby Conference will offer the “meaningful playing opportunities” that Smyth referenced.

When asked about the future plans of the Varsity Cup and its partnership with United World Sports, Smyth was very positive in his praise.

“The Varsity Cup has showed in just two short years that it is an elite postseason collegiate rugby championship,” he said. “We are excited about the relationship the Varsity Cup has with United World Sports and they bring a level of unmatched professionalism that college rugby has deserved for years.”

Smyth said the Varsity Cup’s plans for 2015 and beyond look bright after all 12 Varsity Cup coaches met with each other and UWS officials last weekend at Rio Tinto Stadium to discuss the future.

“Everyone in the room was very positive and committed to the goals of the Varsity Cup,” Smyth said. “Please it to say we all left the meetings committed to continuing our proactive stance with regards to growth and continuing to develop a premier post-season college rugby championship that serves to develop the game itself and the related marketing opportunities along with the experience of the student-athlete.”

Sumsion shared his coach’s sentiment from a student-athlete’s perspective.

“To play in front of 10,000 fans in a college rugby match is no small thing,” Sumsion said. “It was really exciting and in just the two years we’ve been involved with the Varsity Cup I’ve seen the general public latching on to not only what it is, but also to our program as a result. People know who we are and what we’re doing with the rugby program. And a lot has to do with how the Varsity Cup has put rugby in front of the general sports fan. I think it’s only going to continue growing.”

The Varsity Cup is America’s top collegiate postseason championship. The mission of the Varsity Cup is to grow American rugby by harnessing the collective strength of collegiate rugby and collegiate sport in general. The Varsity Cup features 12 of the most recognized and accomplished collegiate rugby programs in the country vying for the right to be named the Varsity Cup National Collegiate Champion.

The 12 Varsity Cup teams are the U.S. Air Force Academy, Brigham Young University, University of California, Clemson University, Central Washington University, Dartmouth College, U.S. Naval Academy, University of Notre Dame, University of Oklahoma, University of Texas, the University of California – Los Angeles and University of Utah. In the 34 years of the collegiate rugby championship play, 32 of the collegiate national champions have come from one of the 12 Varsity Cup teams. In total, a Varsity Cup program has played for the collegiate title every year except for 1984.

The Varsity Cup programs also boast hundreds of collegiate All-Americans and scores of USA National Team members, making the Varsity Cup a veritable proving ground of American rugby. With the country’s best high-performance training facilities, state of the art match venues and strong coaching experience, the Varsity Cup programs set the standard for elite player development in America.

The 2014 Varsity Cup National Championship was played in front of 10,172 fans at Rio Tinto Stadium and broadcasted live on the NBC Sports Network into approximately 80 million homes nationally.

With the addition of the Varsity Cup to the national championship trophy case, the BYU Cougars now officially close out the 2014 season and look to the offseason as they build toward 2015. With only five players graduating and a senior-laden team returning next season, the Cougars will likely be primed for another run deep into the postseason.

“We’re excited about our prospects,” Smyth said. “Our fans, alumni and BYU administrators have been crucial in getting this program to where it is today. We’re very grateful for all of their support and all of them should be excited about the future of the program, because we are.”

Kelby Jones is a student at BYU studying public relations and currently writes for BYU Rugby.

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