The California Conference announces a significant expansion for the 2022-23 competitive cycle. Teams from both the University of California Santa Cruz and Long Beach State University will join the D1A competition. Additionally, Stanford University, Chico State University, San Jose State University, Sacramento State University, Fresno State University and University of Nevada, Reno will join the California Conference as a D1AA division.
The realignment of collegiate rugby in California provides a strong framework for growing rugby. It also provides opportunities for promotion and relegation matches, which will begin following the 2023-24 campaign.
“We are thrilled to be joined by the 49ers and the Banana Slugs, two programs that have been steadily building over the last 5 or 6 years. We believe the collaborative ethos of the California Conference will enable both clubs to continue to develop into elite D1A sides.”, said Marty Storti, California Conference Commissioner.
“The creation of a new D1AA division within the Conference provides additional opportunities for ambitious teams to build towards D1A and provides a pathway for D1AA players to high performance representative sides. There is already considerable parity within the former Pacific Western Rugby Conference and the California Conference. Bringing promotion and relegation into the mix will enable the fluid movement of teams between the competition as their talent pools ebb and flow”, Storti added.
“In creating a D1AA division within the Conference, we’ve brought together teams from the ACR into CRAA. The eventual consolidation of ACRA and ACR under CRAA also ensures playoff pathways for our former Pacific Western Rugby Conference teams and will provide significant economies of scale when it comes to organizing national competitions.”, says Paul Keeler, Chief Executive Officer of CRAA and Head Coach of Santa Clara University.
“This is an exciting opportunity to bring together some of the most prestigious academic institutions and leading rugby programs in California, under one conference. We think this will help retain locally grown talent in California and attract top student-athletes from around the world to study and play their rugby in a California Conference school'', added Tim O’Brien, Head Coach at Saint Marys College.
“We’re really trying to build something greater than the sum of our parts. As we move towards 2031 and 2032, we want to restore California as the hotbed of American rmnugby. Bringing these programs together is a step in the right direction.”, said Jeremy Sanford, Head Coach of University of California Santa Cruz.
The expanded California Conference begins play in January 2023.