So we had a plethora updates last week on the changes in NorCal’s D1 and D2, but as the week went on and all the different variable at play it was really difficult to give you all a “final” update. So there where changes made and some of those were subject to appeal. While wanting to get the information out to you as soon as we could, timing wouldn’t allow us to do so.
We spoke and received updates from several members of the NorCal administration, clubs, etc. and had gotten a lot of information on the background and the different contingencies, but at this point some of that is “old news”.
So, we will briefly try and bring you up to speed on where everything stands now, but not dive into all the different back and forth and changes that went on that week. We’d have to define who is who, and what their relationship is, the various committees, USA Rugby protocols, and…and…and. To bring you up on all the different aspects to the process and changes would take pages and you’d need a “crime wall’ with all the images and strings connecting and crossing over, etc. So to not confuse you all or have you loose interest over a long write up we are going to try and give you a quick update.
So as you recall, NorCal had accepted initially a request from Santa Rosa and SFGG’s B-Side to move down to D2. The issue for Santa Rosa was their low numbers and concerns that they wouldn’t have the numbers to play out and complete a season in NorCal D1. SFGG’s request was to move its seconds to D2. With the postponement of the Pacific Rugby Premiership and the success of the Cal Cup, SFGG had more players than it could secure games for. So, it was going to field a D1 side and to have their D 1 B-Side play in D2.
The logic makes sense and the efforts of the league to try and facilitate more opportunities for people to play rugby seems well intended. The issue was more of timing for the D2 clubs. This initial change was approved less than 10 days before the NorCal D2 league schedule was to start. The inclusion of two clubs this late was going to impact the schedule in D2 (not in just making one as Pete Smith got one done quickly). The addition of the two clubs would have also extended the season for the league's winner to play 14 games in 15 weeks as they head into nationals.
Another issue was that earlier Napa Valley RFC had sought to also drop back down to D3, but their request had been denied because it was too late to make the change. So many D2 clubs (including Napa Valley) voiced objection to two teams being able to move down so late in the year, when a request for a D2 to drop was rejected based on the grounds of timing. The D2 clubs were citing the hardship a late change to the schedule to make to their clubs in securing new dates for fields and player available (all covered in the earlier update we wrote).
So led by the San Jose Seahawks' Dan Nagel, an appeal was filed by the six of the ten D2 clubs requesting the scheduled to remain as it was (and approved by the CR1 back in December) and to have Santa Rosa and SFGG’s 2nds remain in D1 for this season.
The appeal was heard and accepted (on January 23, 2017) which forced Santa Rosa and SFGG’s 2nds to move back to D1 (but with some options). NorCal agreed with the points that such a late change would create a hardship for many of the clubs and the fact that six of the ten clubs had objections to the changes should be heeded. NorCal’s president Ben Parker also noted that a point of consideration was that including Santa Rosa and SFGG’s B-Side would force the D2 clubs to play 14 games in 15 weeks. This could pose a serious challenge to many of the D2 clubs who don’t operate with a lot of depth. NorCal could have a club wining NorCal and going into nationals depleted by injuries and not having numbers to field a full side going into nationals which really wouldn’t be in the best interest of the union.
There was also argument that if some of the clubs knew that there would be five D1 clubs dropping down versus three (San Jose Seahawks, Fresno RFC and Sacramento Blackhawks) that other clubs may have opted to drop down to D3 (as Chico did) where they’d play more to the level of competition they felt their clubs could handle at this time. If Napa, Silicon Valley or a few others had known there is an influx of D1 sides would they have remained or moved down?
The other issue is looking at the balance of the Divisions. If the appeal was not accepted NorCal’s D2 and D3 schedule would have seen a growing number of clubs in those divisions, but a significant reduction in D1 sides. The concern for the league is that it could end up with 17 teams in D3, seven in D2, and five in D1 at the end of this season. So the focus for now as to keep things functional and to work on options for 2018 to create more balance.
To be eligible for postseason play clubs need to reach the number of competitive games against same level competition to be eligible for Nationals without getting waivers from USA Rugby. If NorCal dropped to five teams in D1 there would be some challenges to getting the necessary number of games without having to keep playing the same clubs three to four times in a season. The schedule developed by NorCal initially before the D2 appeal had set it up for top four clubs to play round robin games the last two weeks of the season to get in the number of needed games. However with the appeal of D2 the schedule changed yet again.
NorCal in an effort to ensure its teams have sufficient games to qualify for nationals and comply with the Ted Stevens Act it devised a schedule that would allow SFGG’s B-s to play in D1 as a separate team (SFGG Green). This would allow D1 to have seven teams. The Divisions would be broken into two groups. One group would consist of SFGG’s Green (or Bs), Santa Rosa RFC, and the Sacramento Lions (who are also struggling with getting 20 players) and a second group which would consist of Olympic Club, EPA Razorbacks, SFGG and Life West.
The small group would have teams playing each other twice (for four games) and then cross over for one game against each of the larger group sides/clubs. This would give them eight games. The larger pool would end up with nine games and then the additional games would be made up in a NorCal Playoff and then CR1.
Now if SFGG’s Green wins out they would be eligible for post season play, but the question then becomes would SFGG want to have two teams playing against each other going forward into post season or put all its support behind one? Its been done in 7s (having more that one side), but not really in 15s (because there is the options for different divisions which 7s structure doesn’t have).
SFGG opted to appeal the decision of NorCal’s ruling (on the D2 appeal and the structure of D1) to the CR1. So going into this past weekend, no one knew what would happen with the rest of the season. D1 clubs were not sure of what would happen (although the report was the D1 representative Andrew King had worked out everything with D1 clubs). D2 clubs were going into their league opener with the possibility that their season schedule could change again and impact their players and clubs. Santa Rosa was reported to be on board with the restructuring of D1 (with the two pools and matching the clubs with lower numbers to primarily face each other), but had informed NorCal that if SFGG’s appeal to CR1 was approved that they too would then submit and appeal to CR1 to move down as well..
Well SFGG’s appeal to the USA Rugby’s CR1 was denied just before the weekend and thus SFGG will have two full sides in NorCal’s D1. Santa Rosa will not appeal and play in D1. Both Santa Rosa (a club with over 40 years) will work to field teams this season with limited numbers as will the Sacramento Lions (who last week had less than 20 players CIPPed). The construct of D1 will make it more amenable to these clubs and hopefully get them through the season.
NorCal will have to look at options to build up its D1. It may not be effective to have teams come up one at a time (as had been done in the past with automatic promotion), but to get groups to go up together (as was done four years ago with Santa Rosa, Fresno RFC, San Jose Seahawks and Diablo Gaels) and have those teams primarily play each other with a cross over match versus the stronger more established D1 sides. D1 should likely be driven by a club’s: 1) desire to play in D1 and 2) number of players to play in a gulling league like NorCal’s D1) but that is a different topic.
All the rest is to be discussed and decided after this season. For now this is the breakdown of the NorCal men’s D1 and D2 (as there was changes there).
East Palo Alto Razorbacks
San Francisco Golden Gate
San Francisco Golden Gate-Green
Bay Area Baracus
San Jose Seahawks
Silicon Valley RFC
Napa Valley RFC
Modesto Harlots (San Joaquin)
Central Coast (Aptos)
San Francisco Fog