Men's club rugby jumps to Division I-AA, women's team might be next
The men’s club rugby team for Central Michigan is in its first season as a member of Division I-AA after spending recent years in Division II of the USA Rugby Union.
The women’s rugby team might soon take the same route.
The men’s team is 3-2 with wins over Ball State and Western Michigan and losses to Bowling Green and Ohio.
Club rugby president Michael Fleming remains satisfied with the move.
The realignment was made, he said, because the USA Rugby Union wanted to replicate the Mid-American Conference in Division I-AA for rugby.
In past years, the men’s rugby team was limited to playing teams located in Michigan during the regular season, but now the area has widened to the Midwest.
“We’re allowed to travel to a lot more different places,” Fleming said. “We’re allowed to play a lot more competitive teams, and it gives us a better opportunity to see where we are at.”
While traveling longer distances makes it easier to find more challenging opponents, a problem with the move has been the cost of traveling, he said.
It takes six or seven vehicles to transport everyone to the away games, which are as far away as Cincinnati. Central Michigan gives the team $900, which is used to cover most of the $925 fee the USA Rugby Union asks for.
Fleming, moreover, had advice for the women’s team if it ever makes the leap.
“Just like us, they just need to prepare for it,” he said. “Understand how to manage your budget when it comes to dealing with the traveling budget, but also, just become the best team you can be.”
Women’s rugby president Kristen Vadnais said the USA Rugby Union has talked about moving them to Division I for years.
There is no Division 1-AA for the women with the smaller number of rugby teams.
Vadnais said she has “mixed feelings” about moving up a division.
The cost of travel has her worried. The team is allotted $800 by CMU, $100 less than the larger men’s team, she said.
Also, the knowledge the freshmen on the team have of the sport is usually low.
“Rugby isn’t really a popular sport yet,” she said. “Each year, we have to teach all of our new players how to play the sport. Whereas in DI, I feel like a lot of teams are more experienced.”
The team has no control on what division they are placed in. The USA Rugby Union does everything from scheduling opponents to deciding what level of play a team should be placed.
The women (1-3) will play their next game Sunday at home when they host Ferris State, while the men travel to Miami (Ohio) Saturday.