This letter is now making the rounds. Makes for some interesting reading:
To the rugby community:
On February 25, 2013, (roughly three and a half weeks before the DII women’s Rugby Regional playoffs were scheduled to be held at the University of Northern Colorado (UNC), in Greeley, Colorado), Colorado Mesa University (CMU) rugby coach Randy Lewis was contacted by Eastern Rockies Rugby Football Union representative Amy Russert, asking if CMU would like to host the DII Regional Playoffs. Russert explained that UNC had offered up the field, but would not have anyone there to plan the tournament (the women’s coach had resigned and the men’s rugby coach said it was over their spring break).
CMU accepted the challenge and got everything ready for the tournament. A regulation sized grass pitch was reserved, port-a-potties were reserved, hotel accommodations were arranged for traveling teams, and athletic trainers were contacted to be on site during the tournament. A back-up turf field on campus was also reserved (with snow removal plans set in place in preparation for any inclement weather in Grand Junction, CO).
This change in location ruffled a few feathers in the West. After a week of debate between Russert and the West “higher ups,” CMU was told by Rich Cortez that Amy Russert did not have the authority to move playoffs from Greeley, CO to Grand Junction, CO. Furthermore, the head of the West (Bill Sexton) complained about expecting teams to drive over the Continental divide, a task both Utah Valley University (UVU) and CMU would have to do instead. (Apparently Midwestern teams aren’t expected to drive over mountain passes to get to tournaments but western-slope teams are?) Subsequently, the tournament was moved back to Greeley, CO, on March 7, 2013. UVU and CMU had to change their travel plans back to the initial location of UNC, and the University of Nebraska Lincoln (UNL) and Truman State would have to undertake the hazardous flats of I – 70.
Unfortunately, USA Rugby and “The West” failed to make sure that UNC was fully prepared to host this tournament. With premonitions of the entire thing falling through, CMU coaches asked Rich Cortez over and over, if all of the other teams (UVU, UNL, & Truman) were really going to travel to Greeley, CO, on March 23rd. Rich Cortez responded, “yes” multiple times. However, CMU does not believe this “yes” to be honest.
At 8:55AM on Wednesday, March 20th, 2013, (3 days before the playoffs), Rich sent out an email asking teams when they would like to “check-in” for the tournament. (The West and USA Rugby requires paperwork to document that only eligible collegiate athletes are competing in these tournaments). Sophia Karlsson (a coach from UVU) responded to Rich’s email at 9:52 AM with the following…”We need to check in Saturday. As we will not be there till late sat night..Thanks, Sophia..UVU rugby.”
What?!!! UVU was supposed to play Truman State Saturday morning at 10 AM?!!Why was UVU not planning to travel to UNC until late Saturday?
When Randy Lewis (a coach of CMU) lost his cool about the situation to Rich Cortez on the phone on Friday, March 22nd, he was told by Rich that Truman stopped their traveling to Greeley, CO, in Kansas City, MO, because of the rain earlier that day. Unfortunately, Sophia’s email response 2 days prior reveals that she already knew Truman State would not be at the tournament. Why should UVU travel on Friday and waste money on hotels if they didn’t have to play until Sunday? With no game Saturday morning, UVU would travel Saturday during the day and get to Greeley that night. The four-team tournament was now down to 3 teams with the number one seed having a bye. Not very honest. What’s worse, the location of the tournament was changed from Grand Junction, CO, back to Greeley, CO, to appease Truman State’s coach and head of the West, Bill Sexton, and they did not even attempt to come. Politics seems to win.
CMU and UNL traveled to Greeley, CO, through some poor road conditions on Friday, March 22nd, because they planned on playing each other at noon on Saturday. Unfortunately, upon waking up Saturday morning (the first day of a now 3 team tournament) Greeley, CO, was in a winter storm. The match was cancelled by Rich Cortez Saturday morning because there was nobody from UNC to remove snow off the field, the refs couldn’t travel, and it was “dangerous to play in those kinds of conditions.” CMU players have practiced in snow before, and both of our coaches have played games in snow before, but none of this seemed to matter. There was still hope in moving the game between CMU and UNL to Sunday and having UVU play the winner.
However, after hearing that I- 70 was closed by this time, Rich Cortez cancelled the DII Women’s Rugby Regional Tournament all together…After all UVU would not be able to make it over the pass to get there by Sunday, even though they should have already been in Greeley on Saturday. (Truman had already bailed out prior to the poor weather conditions).
Adding to everything else, I- 70 and I- 25 were closed, so CMU was forced to stay in Greeley, CO, until Sunday morning even though there were no games on Sunday.
What’s more, the weather in Grand Junction, CO, the Saturday of the canceled tournament was 45 degrees and sunny (weather is always warmer on the Western Slope). The weather in Greeley, CO, on Sunday was 38 degrees and sunny, playable conditions.
Here is a recap: CMU was not notified by the West that Truman had pulled out until Friday, March 22nd. CMU was not notified by the West that UVU was only going to play one game until Friday, March 22nd. CMU was not notified of the cancelled game between them and UNL on Saturday until they called Rich Cortez at 9:30 AM on Saturday. CMU has to figure things out last minute and react. Case and point, last year CMU traveled to St. Louis, MO with only one and a half weeks prior notice. It is getting old.
With the cancellation of the regional tournament, UVU, who came into the tournament ranked #1 would get the #1 spot and move on to play a home match vs. a CA team.
CMU came into the tournament ranked #2 and was told that if they could find a way to get to Washington to play on April 6, 2013, they could attempt to win a spot back into the National Championship tournament.
This year CMU CIPPed 34 players. giving the West 34x$40= $1,360. CMU does not feel the West has done anything to support their team and further the growth of rugby. We have documented the money we have spent on a trip that didn’t matter in addition to the projected money that would be needed to travel to Pullman, WA, (an unanticipated trip). CMU would appreciate some support in funding these trips.
CMU to Greeley March 22-24th
7 Rooms at America’s Quality Inn- $1,319.86
(2)- 15 person Vans for 3 Days (rental is closed Sunday and the roads were closed Saturday) $736.48
——————————————————————–Total for a waste of a weekend: $2,660.98
We also had parents fly in form Minnesota, California, North Carolina, and drive from Wyoming, Utah, and all parts of Colorado. If we would have been told Wednesday that Truman was not coming, and that UVU was not coming, we could have notified our people and told them to cancel their plans.
Personally, my Grandma was going to watch me play for the first and only time in my 6 year career in which I have played for my high school, state, region, college, All-American, and USA U20s teams.
The situation this past weekend was handled extremely poorly, and I am more than disappointed in the West, USA Rugby, and everyone involved. Rugby should not be about politics, but it really seems like that’s the only way things work. This letter is an honest appeal for change. It will be sent to many people. Please do with it what you will.
CMU to Washington April 6th
Airfare 23x$550= $12,650 (Far too expensive for our budget)
Charter Bus (Friday 4 am to Sunday am) = $8,490.22
(2)- 15 person Vans for the coaches to drive the team 15 hours one way to Pullman, WA; one night in a motel; food; and gas (Two nights the team will be camping) =
——————————————————————–Total to get to Washington: $2,657.94
**Anticipating and hoping for the win in WA, the team will then need to get to CA the following weekend.
Furthermore, the women of UNL sent the CMU women’s rugby Facebook page a message on Tuesday, March 26, 2013, as follows:
“CMU Ladies, We were so disappointed that we did not have the opportunity to play you, we had stayed in Fort Collins because we got cheaper hotel rooms; so if we would have been in Greeley, we would have loved to meet up with you!
Secondly, if we were in a financial position to help you get to Washington, we would definitely help you out, but sadly this trip to Greeley that resulted in a cancelled tournament took just as much of a toll on our funds as I’m sure it did to yours.
If you do any online fundraisers or anything that we can share links or spread the word to help you get to the next level, we would love to help you out!
I’m hoping that all of the changes that are happening within USA Rugby turn out for the positive and prevent this sort of corruption from happening in the future.
Angela Wickard, President, UNL Women’s Rugby”
We are not alone.
This letter was from the perspective of CMU players and coaches.
Captain & Co-founder of the CMU women’s rugby team
Reviewed by CMU coaches Randy Lewis and Danno Lewis