Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship Leaving Its Mark
May 10, 2018
The Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship (CRC) has become the crown jewel of collegiate rugby. Playing in pristine conditions, and being broadcast on live television, the tournament attracts interest from across the country. Dozens of teams have tried to secure a spot through the Las Vegas Invitational and the Heart of America qualifiers, all with the hopes of making an impact on the June tournament in Philadelphia.
Many rugby programs see the value in playing in this well-respected event and a number of schools have benefitted back on campus from their participation. Both men’s and women’s rugby programs have gained legitimacy in the eyes of athletic departments and university administrations, benefitting from the increased exposure.
Men’s and women’s programs at smaller schools are reaping the benefit of playing in the Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship. Kutztown University, located in Northeast Pennsylvania has made a name for itself thanks in part to its success at the CRC. The men’s program was recently granted Elite Club Status because of its ability to recruit students both nationally and internationally as well as compete at the highest level of division one.
“The Kutztown University Rugby program has been elevated to an elite status on campus for several key reasons. However, the CRC and our on field performance, was the deal breaker in elevating our program. We are a university with 8,500 students and the first athletic team to ever promote the university on a national broadcast. Everyone associated with the university and the community of Kutztown, understand the importance of this opportunity” said Kutztown coach Doc Jones.
The Life University men and women have become a staple at the CRC, particularly, because of their excited and easily recognizable fan base. The school made a commitment to rugby by making it Varsity in 2008 and the CRC has helped make a greater return on that investment.
“The CRC has been an amazing way we’ve built a community for our rugby program and our university. The event is one of the biggest highlights of the year where we have hundreds of fans make their way to Philadelphia to support our women and men’s teams. It’s a premier event to connect with our alumni and fans at our kickoff party at the tournament. Many recruits have become familiar with our teams because of our performance at the CRC and has given our university a great deal of media exposure,” said Life women’s coach Rosalind Chou.
Big schools, like the University of Tennessee, raised awareness for the men’s program through increased brand presence for the athletic program. The relationship grew out of the use of the official “Power T” logo, which has been the official logo of the University since 1964.
In order to participate in the CRC, Tennessee needed to get school approval for the use of the logo and as a result, the athletic department began to see value in the sport. Through the approval process, the rugby program built a relationship with the athletic department and new opportunities emerged. The team now have access to resources they did not have prior to the CRC and has a working relationship with the illustrious Tennessee football program, recruiting players that may be a better fit for rugby.
“We are invited to the football walk on tryouts because the University wants us to have an opportunity to invite them to come play rugby. That would not have happened if it wasn’t for our invite to the CRC in 2016,” said Tennessee coach Marty Bradley.
The University of Arizona men have seen a similar benefit from the exposure at the CRC. The program has joined all of the varsity sports in wearing the school’s official uniform supplier Nike. Head coach Sean Duffy spearheaded that effort for over a year and claimed that having an event like the CRC contributed to the programs growth.
“The CRC is the pinnacle of college rugby. Having a product that has commercial viability is huge for growth of programs and the sport. Being broadcast on national television and having sponsors like Penn Mutual has really given tremendous legitimacy to the sport,” Duffy said at the 2017 CRC.
The Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship is more than just a tournament. It has become the standard bearer for collegiate rugby and nearly everyone who participates is benefitting.
Check out the 2018 Penn Mutual CRC on June 1-3 at Talen Energy Stadium in Philadelphia.