College Premier Division
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College Premier Division
Division 1-A Rugby (D1A Rugby)
Division 1-A Rugby Logo.png
SportRugby union
Formerly known asCollege Premier Division
Instituted2010; 10 years ago (2010)
Inaugural seasonFirst championship in 1980, became Premier Division in 2011
Number of teams67
CountryUnited States
HoldersLife University (4th title)
Most titlesCalifornia
Broadcast partnerCBSSN, ESPN+

Division 1-A Rugby (formerly known as the College Premier Division) is the highest level of college rugby within the United States and is administered by USA Rugby. Division 1-A rugby is modeled after NCAA athletic competitions, with the 67 D1-A rugby schools divided into eight conferences: East, Mid-South, Rocky Mountain, California, Big Ten, Liberty, Red River, and PAC.

The regular season sees all teams in the conference play one another, with the two top seeds qualifying for the playoffs. Playoffs are a single-elimination format, occurring each year in April and May, with the winner of D1-A declared the National Champion.[1] Regular seasons for most conferences are played in the spring, although some cold-weather conferences, such as the Big Ten Universities, play their regular season in the fall.

The competition's first season was played during 2011 and consisted of teams from 31 schools from across the United States. The first ever match of the competition was played on Friday March 4, the Arizona State Sun Devils hosted the Colorado Buffaloes at the Arizona State University Soccer Stadium in Tempe, Arizona.[2] The 2011 final was played at Rio Tinto Stadium, in Sandy, Utah, on the 21 May 2011.

D1-A Rugby secured sponsorships in 2012 with World Rugby Shop and Veloce.

Several players who have excelled in the top level competitions in college rugby have also represented their country as part of the United States national under-20 rugby union team.


History of college rugby in the U.S.

A group of British Army officers organized a game of rugby against the students of McGill University (Montreal, Quebec, Canada) in 1865; the Canadians were so enamored of the game that they decided to continue to play football by the Rugby code. In 1874 McGill organized two games of football against Harvard, one was played under Harvard's rules, the other being a game of rugby. After this game, the Harvard students also decided to adopt rugby, making them the first American institution to do so. Columbia, Princeton and Yale were persuaded by Harvard to play football according to the Rugby School code in 1876, these four colleges thus formed the Intercollegiate Football Association (IFA), an organization that eventually expanded to become the "Ivy League." In fact, the governing body of all American intercollegiate varsity sports, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) traces its roots to the IFA and is thus a product of rugby rather than any of the sports it now governs.

1920 USA Olympic Rugby Team.

By 1886 the Yale coach Walter Camp had modified rugby's rules in order to solve the problem of tackled players lying on the ball by introducing a series of four downs to gain ten yards; ironically in the same year the Rugby Football Union in England solved the same problem by requiring that tackled players release the ball. This is still one of the most fundamental differences between Rugby Union and American Football but one further modification, that of allowing one forward pass per down, was suggested by the Notre Dame coach Knute Rockne which, when accepted in 1905, gave rise to that distinctly American form of football.

1924 USA Olympic Rugby Team.

Around the turn of the century American football was being frowned upon for its violence. Publication of graphic photographs of a harsh game between Swarthmore College and the University of Pennsylvania[3] caused a stir; President Theodore Roosevelt was forced to insist upon reform or abolition of the game. During this period of uncertainty, rugby made a brief but important reappearance in many colleges, most notably at the University of California and at Stanford. It was Stanford that supplied most of the players to the two US Olympic rugby teams, along with Santa Clara University and the University of California. (1920 & 1924) who claimed fame by winning both Gold medals (as 1924 was the last time the Olympic Games staged a rugby competition, this will make the USA the defending Olympic Champions when rugby is re-introduced, after almost a century in 2016).

In 1934, there was only one official rugby body in the United States, the Eastern Rugby Union, with a total of 9 member teams. By 1950, there were 30 clubs in the US, existing only in small pockets on the East and West Coasts.

It was not until the mid-1960s that rugby began to re-appear with regular fixtures and competitions; the game suited the mildly anarchistic temperament of American College students of the period;[] it required minimal costs for the individual, the style of the game provided constant action, there was an emphasis on enjoyment rather than winning because rugby was not part of the now rigidly institutionalized athletic system that American Universities had developed. The formation of the United States of America Rugby Football Union (USARFU, now USA Rugby) in 1976 was a major organizational milestone for the sport in the US, and by 1980 there were over 1,000 clubs nationwide.

In 2011, there were 2433 clubs in the United States with more than 88,000 registered players, approximately 40% of which are college players (about three-quarters being male and one quarter female).[4]

The 2011 CPD participants, colored by conference
Pacific gold -- West green -- Mid-South blue -- East red

Formation of Division 1-A

Prior to the formation of Division 1-A, there had been some difficulty in determining how many teams each territory would send to the Sweet 16 tournament, as the relative strengths of the rugby teams in each territory fluctuated over time, and despite the disparity in the levels of rugby, it was politically difficult to deny a union any playoff bids, even though the team that came third or fourth in a more powerful territory might be a better side. Further problems occurred because of the different competitive seasons across the continent; in the East the league season is played in the fall while in the South and West spring is the primary season, so this structure was frequently open to criticism.

Because of these issues, and to raise the level of rugby in the consciousness of the American public, USA Rugby restructured Division 1 college rugby. In 2010, several of the top college teams agreed to form the College Premier League to begin play in spring 2011.[5] USA Rugby and the top colleges believed that an elite level college rugby competition would make it easier to get college rugby onto TV and attract sponsors.[5] USA Rugby also believed that a higher level college competition would develop players to potentially play for the U.S. national team.[6]

D1-A Championships

Year Venue Metro Area Champion Score Runners-up Attend TV Coverage Semi-finalists
2011 Rio Tinto Stadium Salt Lake City, UT California 21-14 BYU 11,000 ESPN3 / ESPNU Arkansas St. / Utah
2012 Rio Tinto Stadium Salt Lake City, UT BYU 49-42 Arkansas St. 8,733 ESPN3 Life University / St. Mary's
2013 UNCG Soccer Stadium Greensboro, NC Life University 16-14 St. Mary's (CA) 4,000 ESPN3 / ESPNU Arkansas St. / Cal Poly
2014 Steuber Rugby Stadium Palo Alto, CA St. Mary's (CA) 21-6 Life University 4,000 USA Rugby TV Arkansas St. / Lindenwood
2015 Fifth Third Bank Stadium Atlanta, GA St. Mary's (CA) 30-24 Life University 3,100 ESPN3 Lindenwood / Davenport
2016 St. Mary's Stadium Moraga, CA Life University 24-20 St. Mary's (CA) 2,000 Rugby Channel Lindenwood / Utah
2017 St. Mary's Stadium Moraga, CA St. Mary's (CA) 30-24 Life University 2,000 CBSSN BYU / Arizona
2018 Stevens Stadium Santa Clara, CA Life University 60-5 California 4,000 CBSSN Penn State / Lindenwood
2019 Stevens Stadium Santa Clara, CA Life University 29-26 California 4,000 CBSSN St. Mary's (CA) / Lindenwood

Previous Division 1 Championships

The earliest claims to a national title go back to the mid-1960s when Sports Illustrated Magazine started demonstrating an interest in Collegiate rugby. During the 1965-1966 season, the University of Notre Dame won several cups and tournaments and, in the absence of a bona fide national championship, Sports Illustrated named them unofficial Collegiate Rugby Champions.[7] The next year, under the authority of USARFU, Notre Dame played a match on April 8, 1967 against California at Memorial Stadium for the unofficial national championship, again as a result of both teams being highly rated by Sports Illustrated; Cal won 37-3.[8]

The first official National Collegiate Championship series began in 1980. Rugby in the United States is divided into territorial unions (the Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, Northeast, Pacific Coast, the South, Southern California and the West),[a] each of these unions organise collegiate rugby into "Division One" and "Division Two" league competitions, generally with promotion and relegation between the divisions. Between 1980 and 2010 each Territory qualified Division One and Two teams for the Sweet 16 of a D1 and D2 National championship.

California was dominant in Division One for the 31 years that the competition was run in this format, winning 28 titles, (26 in Division 1 & 2 in the Varsity Cup Championship). Air Force has won three titles; San Diego State and Brigham Young University have each won one D1 national championship but two in the Varsity Cup with one having been stripped.[9]

Year Location Champion Score Runner-up 3rd Place 4th Place
1980 Davenport, IA California 15-9 Air Force Illinois Navy
1981 Dayton, OH California 6-3 OT Harvard Miami (OH) Kansas St.
1982 Greeley, CO California 15-14 Life College Michigan New Mexico St.
1983 Athens, GA California 13-3 Air Force Navy Illinois
1984 Pebble Beach, CA Harvard 12-4 Colorado Long Beach St. Miami (OH)
1985 Pebble Beach, CA California 31-6 Maryland Colorado Illinois
1986 Pebble Beach, CA California 6-4 Dartmouth Air Force Bowling Green
1987 Pebble Beach, CA San Diego State 10-9 Air Force Bowling Green Dartmouth
1988 Pebble Beach, CA California 9-3 Dartmouth Air Force Bowling Green
1989 Colorado Springs, CO Air Force 25-7 Penn State Army Long Beach St.
1990 Pebble Beach, CA Air Force 18-12 Army Ohio State Long Beach St.
1991 Houston, TX California 20-14 Army Ohio State Wyoming
1992 Colorado Springs, CO California 27-17 Army Air Force Penn State
1993 Houston, TX California 36-6 Air Force Harvard Wisconsin
1994 Washington, DC California 27-13 Navy Air Force Penn State
1995 Berkeley, CA California 48-16 Air Force Penn State Army
1996 Colorado Springs, CO California 47-6 Penn State Stanford Navy
1997 Berkeley, CA California 41-15 Penn State UC Davis Stanford
1998 San Francisco, CA California 34-15 Stanford Navy Indiana Univ.
1999 San Francisco, CA California 36-5 Penn State Navy Army
2000 Tampa Bay, FL California 62-16 Wyoming Army Indiana Univ.
2001 Virginia Beach, VA California 86-11 Penn State Navy Army
2002 Virginia Beach, VA California 43-22 Utah Army Wyoming
2003 Stanford, CA Air Force 45-37 Harvard California Army
2004 Stanford, CA California 46-24 Cal Poly, SLO Navy / Air Force
2005 Stanford, CA California 44-7 Utah BYU / Navy
2006 Stanford, CA California 29-26 BYU Utah / Penn State
2007 Stanford, CA California 37-7 BYU Navy / Penn State
2008 Stanford, CA California 59-7 BYU St. Mary's / Colorado
2009 Stanford, CA BYU 25-22 California Army / San Diego State
2010 Stanford, CA California 19-7 BYU Arkansas State / Army


Map of Conferences in D1-A Rugby


East Conference
School NCAA Conf. City Coach Stadium Founded Joined D1-A
Army Patriot League West Point, NY Matt Sherman Anderson Complex, Warrior Field 1961 2011
Kutztown D2 - PSAC Kutztown, PA Dr. Gregg Jones Luckenbill Avenue Rugby Pitch 1984[10] 2011
Penn State Big 10 State College, PA Don Ferrell PSU West Campus Pitch 1962[11] 2011
St. Bonaventure A-10 Allegany, NY Tui Osbourne Marra Athletics Complex 1975 2014
Mary Washington D3 - CAC Fredericksburg, VA 2019
Notre Dame College D2 - MEC South Euclid, OH



Mid-South Conference
School NCAA Conf. City Coach Stadium Founded Joined D1-A
Lindenwood D2 - MIAA St. Charles, Missouri Josh Macy Harlen C. Hunter Stadium 2011 2013
Life (NAIA - MSC) Marietta, Georgia Dan Payne Life University Sports Complex 1980 2011
Davenport (NAIA D2 - GLIAC) Caledonia, Michigan Kruger Van Biljon Turf Field 2009 2012
Arkansas State Sun Belt Conference Jonesboro, Arkansas Blake White 2011
Clemson ACC Clemson, SC Steve Lynch National Athletic Village Field 1967
Navy Patriot League and AAC Annapolis, Maryland Gavin Hickie 1963 2011


California Conference
School NCAA Conf. City Coach Stadium (capacity) Founded Joined D1-A
Cal Poly BWC San Luis Obispo, CA David Burnett Cal Poly Sports Complex 2011
Saint Mary's WCC Moraga, CA Tim O'Brien St. Mary's Stadium (5,500) 2011
San Diego State MW San Diego, CA 1956 2012
UC Santa Barbara BWC Santa Barbara, CA 2012
Santa Clara WCC Santa Clara, CA Paul Keeler 1961 2012
UC Davis BWC Davis, CA Andy Malpass 2016
Grand Canyon WAC Phoenix, Arizona

Rocky Mountain

Rocky Mountain Conference
School NCAA Conf. City Coach Stadium Founded Joined D1-A
BYU WCC Provo, Utah Steve St. Pierre South Field 1962 2011
Air Force MW Colorado Springs, CO Denny Merideth 1968 2011
Colorado Pac-12 Boulder, Colorado Sean Edris[12] Kittredge Field 2011
Colorado State MW Fort Collins, Colorado Justin Mort[13] 1970 2011
Wyoming MW Laramie, Wyoming 2011
Utah State MW Logan, Utah Zac Root[14] USU Legacy Field 1967 2016
New Mexico Mountain West Albuquerque, NM Johnson Field 2012
UVU WAC Orem, Utah

Big Ten

Red River Conference


PAC Conference
School NCAA Conf. City Coach Stadium Founded Joined D1-A
Arizona Pac-12 Tucson, AZ
California Pac-12 Berkeley, CA
UCLA Pac-12 Westwood, CA
Utah Pac-12 Salt Lake City, UT


Independent Teams
School NCAA Conf. City Coach Stadium Founded Joined D1-A
Central Washington D2 - GNAC Ellensburg, Washington
Notre Dame ACC Notre Dame, Indiana



  • Green shading indicates the highest-ranked team to debut in the rankings that year. Silver shading indicates the team that increased the largest number of places in the rankings that year.
  • 2012: Cal was not included in the D1A rankings because it withdrew from D1A mid-season.
  • 2013: Utah was not ranked because its rugby program was suspended by the school. Central Florida, and Bowling Green were new to the rankings; they had been ranked #17 and #19 respectively in D1-AA during the previous 2012 season.
  • 2014: Army was ranked low, due in large part to the team's suspension during the season.

2011 season

Notable events

  • First Season of the College Premier Division
  • Funding for Cal Rugby, which previously was announced would be dropped,[23] was restored after additional funding was raised by donors, alumni and fans.[24]
  • Life University participated in its first playoff game in school history[25]
  • BYU hosted its first rugby playoff game in club history.[26]
  • BYU and California played for the national championship for the 6th consecutive year (2006-10 in USA Rugby Collegiate Tournament, 2011 USA Rugby College Premier Division)

Regular season

Records and final standings for 2011.[27]

Playoffs and final

Quarterfinals (May 7-8)
@Higher Seed
Semi-Finals (May 14)
Infinity Park, Glendale, CO
Championship (May 21)
Rio Tinto Stadium, Sandy, UT
W1 Brigham Young 64
E2 Navy 12
W1 Brigham Young 36
MS1 Arkansas State 15
MS1 Arkansas State 30
PC2 St. Mary's (CA) 17
W1 Brigham Young 14
PC1 California 21
PC1 California 43
MS2 Life University 10
PC1 California 62
W2 Utah 14
E1 Army 26
W2 Utah 32

After the season

2012 season

Regular season

Records and final standings for 2012.[28]

x-Conference champion
y-Qualified for playoffs

Playoffs and final

Quarterfinals (May 5)
@Higher Seed
Semi-Finals (May 12)
Location determined by Quarterfinal results
Championship (May 19)
Rio Tinto Stadium; Sandy, UT
W1 Brigham Young 103
W1 Brigham Young 26
MS1 Life University 20
MS1 Life University 75
E2 Penn State 3
W1 Brigham Young 49
MS2 Arkansas State 42
E1 Army 20
MS2 Arkansas State 36
MS2 Arkansas State 31
PC1 Saint Mary's 17
PC1 Saint Mary's 24
W2 Utah 15

After the season

  • Nine schools from the Big-10 joined Ohio State in D1-A and formed the Big Ten Universities conference.
  • Texas A&M and Oklahoma were joined by several other Texas schools to form the Allied Rugby Conference, composed mostly of Big-12 South schools.
  • The Pacific Coast Conference was renamed the California Conference, several former D1-AA California schools were promoted to this conference, and Central Washington became an independent D1-A school.
  • D1-AA champion Davenport was promoted to D1-A and joined the Mid-South Conference.
  • UCLA, Utah, Arizona and Arizona State moved from their respective past conferences to the newly formed D1-A PAC Rugby Conference.
  • BYU moved from Division 1A to the D1-AA Mountain States Conference; Navy moved from D1-A to the Atlantic Coast Rugby League; and Rutgers moved from D1-A to the Empire Rugby Conference.

2013 season

x = conference champion and automatic quarterfinal berth
y = conference runner-up and eligible for playoffs
z = conference champion and eligible for playoffs

Playoffs and final

Quarterfinals (April 27)
@ Higher Seed
Semi-Finals (May 4)
@ Higher Seed
Final (May 18)
Greensboro, NC
Cal1 St. Mary's 65
W2 Colorado 25
Cal1 St. Mary's 58
Cal2 Cal Poly 24
W1 Colorado State 19
Cal2 Cal Poly 40
Cal1 St. Mary's 14
M/S2 Life University 16
M/S1 Arkansas State 31
East2 Kutztown 10
M/S1 Arkansas State 13
M/S2 Life University 18
East1 Army 29
M/S2 Life University 55

After the season

2014 season

Regular season

Playoffs and final

Quarterfinals (April 26)
@ Higher Seed
Semifinals (May 3)
@ Higher Seed
Final (May 10)
Stanford, CA
USA Rugby TV
St. Mary's 103
Santa Clara 10
St. Mary's 72
Lindenwood 7
Lindenwood 64
Davenport 32
St. Mary's 21
Life University 6
Arkansas State 43
Cal Poly SLO 12
Arkansas State 27
Life University 34
Life University 57
Colorado 3

After the season

2015 season

For the 2014-2015 school year, a number of conferences -- particularly those in the colder northeast and upper midwest -- played their regular seasons in the fall.

Playoffs and final

Quarterfinals (April 25) Semifinals (May 2) Final (May 9)
M1 Life 64
E2 Penn State 3
M1 Life 43
M3 Lindenwood 14
W1 Air Force 12
M3 Lindenwood 59
M1 Life 24
C1 St. Mary's 30
E1 Army 24
M2 Davenport 50
M2 Davenport 32
C1 St. Mary's 48
C1 St. Mary's 72
Utah 26

2016 season


Quarterfinals Semifinals Final
1 St. Mary's (CA) 77
Air Force 17
St. Mary's (CA) 81
Utah 32
4 Utah 36
Arizona 14
St. Mary's (CA) 20
Life Univ 24
2 Life Univ 44
Davenport 0
Life Univ. 41
Lindenwood 7
3 Lindenwood 36
Indiana 28



April 22
April 29
May 6
1 St. Mary's (CA) 72
9 San Diego State 5
1 St. Mary's (CA) 43
14 Arizona 7
14 Arizona 48
16 Baylor 5
1 St. Mary's (CA) 30
2 Life Univ 24
Lindenwood 20
2 Life Univ. 37
2 Life Univ. 36
3 BYU 26
3 BYU 44
7 Indiana 17

After the season

The Varsity Cup folded in November 2017 when the organizer, broadcast partner and a major sponsor, Penn Mutual, withdrew their support.[29]



Source: As of April 14


Sweet 16
(April 14)
Elite Eight
(April 21)
Final Four
(April 28)
National Championship Game
(May 5)
1 Saint Mary's 58
16 Cal Poly 22
1 Saint Mary's 22
9 Lindenwood 43
8 Texas A&M 12
9 Lindenwood 83
9 Lindenwood 22
3 California 43
6 Indiana 0
11 Navy 47
11 Navy 27
3 California 33
3 California 85
14 Grand Canyon 14
3 California 5
2 Life 60
2 Life 87
15 Central Washington 7
2 Life 44
10 Army 10
7 Colorado State 15
10 Army 52
2 Life 69
5 Penn State 14
5 Penn State 51
12 Arizona 34
5 Penn State 48
4 BYU 46
4 BYU 34
13 Arkansas State 23



Sweet 16
(April 13)
Elite Eight
(April 20)
Final Four
(April 27)
National Championship Game
(May 4)
1 California 141
8 UC Davis 3
1 California 61
4 Arizona 16
4 Arizona 28
5 Central Washington 19
1 California 28
2 Saint Mary's 24
3 BYU 50
6 UCLA 12
3 BYU 12
2 Saint Mary's 71
2 Saint Mary's 74
7 Grand Canyon 12
1 California 26
1 Life 29
1 Life 34
8 Penn State 3
1 Life 40
5 Navy 25
4 Oklahoma 0
5 Navy 71
1 Life 27
6 Lindenwood 19
3 Wisconsin 0
6 Lindenwood 97
6 Lindenwood 22
7 Arkansas State 18
2 Army 24
7 Arkansas State 31


See also


a. ^ There are also four independent State Unions (Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho and Montana).[31]


  1. ^[Application]\\Structure\\Content\\Brand%20Resource%20Center\\Content\\Home\\23181D59-12DB-9878-88FD-03AB48491E70{{Tab%3AView}}
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-03-24. Retrieved .CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
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  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-05-11. Retrieved .CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ a b The Roar, USA Rugby forms a College Premier League, March 17, 2010,
  6. ^, USA Rugby releases Collegiate Premier League schedule, August 25, 2010
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  8. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-09-17. Retrieved .CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
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  10. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-05-11. Retrieved .CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  11. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-07-18. Retrieved .CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
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  15. ^ "Final 2012 D1-A College Rankings", Rugby Today, May 201, 2012.
  16. ^ "All Divisions College Top 25 May 22, 2013, presented by Selective Service" Archived September 24, 2015, at the Wayback Machine, Rugby Today. Retrieved October 9, 2014.
  17. ^ "Men's DI College Top 25, May 15, 2014" Archived September 24, 2015, at the Wayback Machine, Rugby Today. Retrieved October 9, 2014.
  18. ^ "College Top 25, May 14, 2015", Rugby Today, Pat Clifton.
  19. ^ "Men DI College Rankings Spring 2016 #15 - Final One!", Goff Rugby Report, May 9, 2016
  20. ^ "Final DI College Rankings: Who Gets To Be #1?", Goff Rugby Report, May 9, 2017
  21. ^
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  23. ^ Berkowitz, Steve (September 29, 2010). "California to cut five varsity sports, including baseball". USA Today.
  24. ^ Thomas, Katie (February 11, 2011). "Donations Preserve 3 Varsity Teams at Cal, But Can't Save Baseball". The New York Times.
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  29. ^ "Varsity Cup's Death D1As Rebirth", Rugby Today, November 28, 2017. Retrieved January 10, 2018.
  30. ^
  31. ^[Application]\\Structure\\Content\\Brand%20Resource%20Center\\Content\\Home\\20907F3F-1296-66EA-DD8E-5E2AF35B49C0\\20907F3F-129C-3DB7-096D-04AA3AB59358\\21D941C5-129D-B97C-2CE7-C1EAFE1403EA{{Tab%3AView}}

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