With the California Cup wrapping up this week, the NorCal teams in D1 and D2 are ramping up for their league seasons next weekend.
As reported this past October, NorCal's D1 was going to have the addition of Olympic Club and a full San Francisco Golden Gate (SFGG) side (with the postponement of the Pacific Rugby Premiership). Also Fresno RFC, San Jose Seahawks and the Sacramento Blackhawks all opted to drop back down to D2.
A month ago the Napa Wine Thieves sought permission to move from NorCal's D2 back down to D3, but their request was denied based on the timeline (being too late to move) and thus would remain in D2.
The NorCal Executive Committee (leadership) approved on January 17th a request by SFGG to field a side in D2 as well as Santa Rosa's request to drop down to D2 just 10 days before the competition was to start!
So this will have a ripple effect all across the union. With the departure of Santa Rosa from NorCal's D1, the teams will need additional matches to meet the requirements for post season eligibility (11 games). Additionally, this late in the game would make it too difficult to add a team, so games will have to be added with the current five teams. We'll get to that later.
The biggest issues is coming from the D2 clubs. Five different D2 teams have raise issues with the decision to allow such a late request to be approved when it will now impact the schedule for the season. Some teams have noted that not only does this pose an issue in terms of schedule but would require them to secure additional fields/dates or give up dates, additional travel, impact the personal scheduled of players (as most have already planned everything around the existing schedule), and added costs to the clubs. Some clubs have even alleged that there is favoritism citing that Napa was not permitted to move down a month ago as there wasn't "sufficient time" to change the schedule, but SFGG (one of the largest and most well established clubs in the union) is being allowed to alter the entire D2 scheduled so it can field a D2 team in addition to its D1.
It is said that the Divisional Representative for NorCal's D2 polled the clubs with regard of the addition of SFGG (and stating they were unaware of the Santa Rosa request to move down as well) and that the members were not in support of the late addition. That seems to be fueling much of the frustrations of the membership as to why their decision was not respected by the Union's leadership. Note the NorCal AGM occurred in the summer so this is very late action by SFGG and Santa Rosa.
The NorCal leadership cited the following reasons for approving SFGG's request as SFGG needed to schedule matches for all their other players. With any PRP play on hold for this season, SFGG needs to schedule matches for three sides. The leadership considered the request in what they deemed are the best interest of the game in NorCal.
The rational for approving Santa Rosa's request was that "current situation with reduce numbers due to player migration, retirement and injury as well as the three area premier league teams needing to schedule their top players in D1 would prohibit them from playing in D1". The justification also went on to note "Santa Rosa recently lost to Santa Rosa Junior College and edged out D3 side Redwood Empire by only two points". The implication that Santa Rosa is in no way a D1 caliber side that the current moment.
NorCal believes in its response to the D2 clubs that it would be able to integrate the Santa Rosa and SFGG into a new 2017 D2 scheduled with the move of the Regional Playoffs from April 29th to May 6th allowing more time for the now 12 team competition to finish all its games.
The new D2 season will have 12 clubs playing eleven matches starting next weekend through April 22 (start of Divisional playoffs). However to meet the scheduling needs NorCal's D2 will only have the week of the Las Vega's 7s off. So you'll have 12 clubs (some who don't have deep numbers) grinding it out each week over 12 weeks with just one bye for all on the same weekend.
Consequently, the NorCal D1 will free up a bye week for each team where Santa Rosa was scheduled. With some changes to the schedule clubs will use the byes in those weekends and in such a physical league will likely make for better rugby (with healthier players). D1 will expand the playoffs to having the top four teams play a round robin the last three weeks of the season allowing for the 11 game requirements.
The clubs in D2 however do not believe that the merger of the two teams into their current schedule can be done without significant impact to each team in terms of player availability, venues as well as financial costs.
Now you may think that the decision by NorCal was right based on circumstance, or that it was wrong, but it was unanimous as reported by the Union. Now, the question one should ask is why aren't clubs taking a realistic look the coming season and see if they are capable of playing at their current level? Fresno RFC dropped this summer because they finished the season with less than 20 players which won't work in NorCal's D1. Santa Rosa was having difficulty most of last season fielding a full-side. Last season SFGG's D1 couldn't field a full side for some games partly because they'd move so many players up to have available for the PRP, and when it learned that the PRP was going to be postponed and many of those would go to DI, and that it would have a surplus and would need to field a 2nd side. Why not make the request earlier?
In the end we are not here to decide what is right or wrong for NorCal, but rather just inform you of the changes. You make the decision if you can sort through all the factors. It should be noted that some of the leadership of NorCal are with some of those D2 clubs who will be impacted and still voted in favor so weight it all in before rushing to judgement of the Union leadership.
NorCal D2 Clubs Now Include:
Santa Rosa RFC
BA Baracus RFC
Silicon Valley RFC
San Jose Seahawks
Napa Wine Thieves
Vacaville Old Dogs