On the heel of the Golden Bears’ come-from-behind quarterfinal win over Navy on Cal Day this past Saturday, Cal Rugby got some unexpected good news as USA Rugby which runs the D1A Rugby National Championship (which the Bears are participating for the first time since 2011, when they won this competition) when it was announced that due to the unexpected upsets on the other side of the bracket to St. Mary’s and BYU, the D1A Rugby bracket has been redrawn for the Final Four. Instead of the 3rd seed Golden Bears traveling to Marietta, GA for a semifinal match at the 2nd seed Life, Cal will merely travel to Moraga, CA for a semifinal meeting against Lindenwood. The Lindenwood Lions shocked the top ranked (but apparently not at full health) St. Mary’s Gaels by a 43-22 result from Moraga last weekend. From Provo, Utah, the Penn State Nittany Lions also shocked the rugby world by defeating BYU Cougars by a 48-46 result. The original bracket would have the Lindenwood (from St. Charles, MO) hosting Penn State from the predetermined semifinal site of Moraga, CA in one bracket while the California Golden Bears will travel to Marietta, GA to face Life in the other semifinal. However, the power behind D1A Rugby made a last minute decision to change the Final Four. It should be noted that the power behind D1A Rugby and Cal have not traditionally see eye-to-eye thus the formation by Cal (and few other rugby powerhouses) to form a separate Varsity Cup national championship contest that existed for the past 5 years. Unfortunately, the Varsity Cup competition collapsed this past offseason due to the lack of funding.
This is the new bracket for the 2018 D1A College Rugby Playoffs.
Golden Bears will get to stay in the East Bay to play Lindenwood. Penn State will instead be the one who travels to Georgia to take on Life University. Both semifinal matches will be broadcasted live on the CBS Sports Network this Saturday (April 28th, 2018).
This move is made obviously to have more people attending the semifinal in Moraga, since it will be televised on national TV on the CBS Sports Network (which typically requires extra money for one to get this channel). The official explanation, released on Sunday, is to reduce travel cost, however.
“It’s important that we do what’s best for the growth of the college game,” stated D1A Commissioner Kevin Battle. ”Three teams criss-crossing the country with five day’s notice is financially prohibitive.”
Both Cal and Penn State are the main benefactors financially from this changes in bracket. Given how much financial trouble, Cal Athletics is facing, this is a welcomed change from a non-competitive point of view.
Many in the college rugby world are not exactly thrilled about this change (particularly the Lindenwood Rugby Twitter) since it does give the Golden Bears a huge (and unexpected) home field advantage. The semifinal sites have been decided long before the regular season finale between Cal and St. Mary’s College that saw SMC beating the Bears for the 2nd consecutive year.
Cal Rugby took its time to announce this move formally today.
Of course, the Lindenwood Lions are no pushover. They turned a 17-15 halftime lead into a rout against St. Mary’s College Gaels in their quarterfinal. It would take another great effort by the Golden Bears to advance to the D1A national championship the following Saturday. The national championship will take place from the University of Santa Clara and be broadcasted on the ESPN family of network (which would get more eyeballs than the Varsity Cup Finals being on the NBC Sports Network for the past few years).
The most successful program on campus, Cal Rugby is seeking its 27th rugby 15s national championship title (and 32nd overall if including the 5 rugby 7s national championships). Be on the lookout this Saturday for a more comprehensive preview of this semifinal match.
D1A Rugby National Semifinal: Cal vs. Lindenwood
Where: Moraga, CA
When: Saturday, April 28th, 2018 at 1:30 PM PT
TV: CBS Sports Network