Men’s rugby opts out of collegiate sevens championships

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The men’s and women’s rugby teams at BYU have created a tradition of winning, not just inching along, but winning by large numbers. However, despite the men’s rugby team’s dominance in the Mountain Region Sevens Championships, coaches and BYU administration have decided the team will not compete in it this December.

The 2011 fall season marked the first time BYU has competed in the sevens championships, as well as the first year of the tournament’s existence. BYU made an immediate impact by winning the Mountain Region against Air Force, 24-0, and qualifying for the national championships. Throughout the duration of the tournament, BYU accumulated 178 points, while only giving up 10.

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The BYU men's and women's rugby teams will not compete in the Mountain Region Sevens tournament because it will be during finals.
The tournament falls in the middle of finals, and BYU’s administration says it will not sacrifice academic standing for the players to compete.

“We applaud the decision of USA Rugby to conduct a 7’s championship,” head coach David Smyth said in a news release, “but we find it very problematic … and find it almost impossible to allay administration concerns of the negative impact to our players’ academic standing with the timing of the championships, falling during our final exams.”

Outside of the team’s own training and practice, the sevens tournament marked the first competition of the year.

According to assistant coach Kimball Kjar, this tournament was the only competition during fall play the team competed in.

The men’s regular season does not officially begin until Jan. 21, with the Blue and White scrimmage, followed by a doubleheader on Jan. 26 and 27 against Central Washington and Washington.

As always, the Cougars seek another national championship after winning their first title in 2009 against Cal Berkeley and losing the past two years  in the championship game — both to Cal Berkeley. Berkeley has won 26 titles in the 32 years of the tournament’s existence.

Even though BYU has come up short against Cal, the team does not consider it a rival.

“We don’t really look at rivals in the true sense of Cal or Utah,” Kjar said. “We want to win the Wasatch Cup, win the D-I Western Conference and win the national championship. That means working hard from day one in all the areas that will lead to our success in those two games. If it’s Cal, Utah, Air Force or whomever, we want to be our best and play our best.”

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