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PAC 10 or UCLA Tournament?

Friday Mar 16, 2007 in USA USA

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By Alex Goff

 

Ten college rugby teams met on the campus of UCLA this January to play a two-day tournament. Officially it was the UCLA Rugby Tournament, but by coincidence every team involved came from schools in the Pac-10 Conference.

    College conference tournaments have been an interesting rugby experiment around the country. Rugby teams in Big XII, Big 10 and SEC schools … have all staged tournaments only to draw the ire of the conference or NCAA for associating themselves unofficially with a specific collegiate conference.

But these conferences do indeed exist outside of their athletic competition. You say you’re going to a Pac-10 school, and most people know what you’re talking about.

Cal Wins

For the record, Cal won in the final over UCLA, with Arizona State beating Washington State for third place. Each team played four 40-minute games on Saturday and then one 60-minute game on Sunday.

California was dominant, as expected, giving up only one try the entire weekend. They played basic but high-paced and, for the most part, accurate rugby.

The players from all schools hung out with each other and reveled in being part of something bigger than themselves.

PAC 10 or UCLA Tournament?

It may have been, officially, the UCLA Tournament, but the term Pac-10 still meant something.

The theme, for the most part, was the same among most players at the tournament. Going back to campus and saying, “Yeah, I’m on the rugby team. How’d we do this year? Well, we were third in the Pac-10,” actually carries with it some weight.

Few college rugby teams spend too much time trying to explain what league they’re in. Cal is in the Northern California LAU DI league, but their game reports rarely bother to explain that, because it’s too cumbersome. Everyone knows what Pac-10 means.

“Our program is still building,” said Billy Bidner of USC, which finished a remarkable 5th despite being a DII club. “So it does matter being able to say we won some games against established rugby programs at other Pac-10 schools. Because we’re DII, we don’t play against a lot of big schools. When we do play against them in this competition, it means something to our friends and family.”

“Of course it means something,” said UCLA flanker Scott Hugo. “It’s huge. When you’re talking to people at school about your team, they don’t know what the Southern California RFU league is, but they know the Pac-10. You say you were second in the Pac-10 and they respond to that.”

“It’s a little different for us,” said Cal scrumhalf Brendan Wright. “There’s a lot of rugby history at Cal, so people ask how we did at Nationals last year; things like that. But the Pac-10 means something to most of the sports on campus. So yeah, this early in the season doing well in the Pac-10 is something we’re proud of.”

“We know we have a lot of tests after this,” added Cal flanker Joe Welch. “And there’s some level of expectation from the people on campus, so I am not sure where this lies.”

And Con

The preceding was the overall feeling, but not the only one.

“I don’t think it means that much,” said Washington State flanker Ken Frederick. “How we do here is a matter of personal pride. We’re a little out of the mainstream at school and I guess that’s how we like it.”

“The Pac-10 is nice,” mused Washington State wing Cameron Soller. “But it’s just part of the journey, not the destination.”

PAC 8 Hockey

Off in the UCLA Student Union, there was a poster touting the conference hockey championship. Ice hockey is not a varsity sport, yet there was a conference hockey championship, of sorts. Not all the Pac-10 schools play hockey, so the tournament was for the Pac-8 Championship.

Meanwhile, back at the field, USC coach Dave Lytle gave his pre-game pep talk. His culmination was simple, but a statement that any Pac-10 coach in any sport would understand: “You’re Trojans. You’re USC!”

Officially or unofficially, nobody seemed to worry too much about it.
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