This upcoming weekend is a massive one on the path to May Madness as there will be 12 Automatic Qualifiers happening throughout the country at various levels, allowing over 100 teams the chance to punch their ticket to New Orleans.
NCR newcomer Southern Nazarene University will host the Premier Cup Qualifier in Bethany, OK, where some of the top programs in the country will battle it out in strong wind and heavy rain for an automatic bid to the Premier bracket. Air Force Academy, University of Oklahoma, Iowa State, Iowa Central Community College, and Southern Nazarene University are all expected to put up a strong fight this Saturday. Air Force is getting a late start to their season thanks to a tour to France, however they have established themselves as a strong program, claiming the third most 15s National Championship wins in collegiate rugby, behind only Cal and BYU. Iowa State is coming fresh off a victory at the Heart of America Conference 7s title, and will be looking to continue that momentum through this weekend. Iowa Central is getting their second chance at a Premier bid this season, after losing their first game at the Notre Dame Qualifier but going on to win their next three games and only narrowly losing the Survivor’s Cup. Host team Southern Nazarene is in their first competitive season of rugby, but has proven to be a force to be reckoned with, having already traded wins with Oklahoma earlier in the season.
Harvard is set to host the Ivy League finals which will grant an automatic bid to Nationals to whichever Division I club team fights their way to the top. Dartmouth is a strong favorite heading into this weekend and no stranger to the big stage as they have competed in the CRCs many times in recent years, winning back-to-back championships in 2011 and 2012, and saw some of their graduates go on to play for the national 7s team, including captain Madison Hughes and his college teammate Nate Brakeley. However, they have some work to do this weekend as they will be looking for redemption against Brown and Harvard who have both taken down the Ivy powerhouse this year.
On Sunday, the Liberty Conference will also be hosting their championship at Fairfield University. Iona College leads the pack having won the first two conference tournaments, however host team Fairfield University is trailing closely behind and will be looking for support from the home crowd to fuel them for an upset. AIC and Fordham University are also having strong seasons, setting this tournament up to be a very hard fought battle for the bid to May Madness.
At the Division II level, the Mid-Atlantic Rugby Conference, Southern Conference, and Gateway Conference will all host their league championships this Saturday, all granting an automatic bid to the winners. Georgetown is leading the MARC and will head to Harrisburg, PA looking to secure their trip to New Orleans. While the Southern Conference is led by the Citadel, there will be pressure from UNC-Chapel Hill, UNC-Wilmington, and Lander University, who all have a shot at winning the automatic bid at Wake Forest. The Gateway Conference 7s will be hosted by Central Missouri, and heavy favorites, Principia College, will likely continue their dominant performance this season and look to carry that momentum all the way to the National Championship. On Sunday, Division II and Small College teams will gather in Springfield, MA for the New England Wide CRC Championship to cap off their busy Spring. Everyone is chasing the Norwich Cadets who have found success at all levels over the past six weeks.
At the Small College level, five teams will be granted automatic bids at various conference tournaments this weekend. Babson College will host New England RFU 7s, a two-day tournament featuring strong programs like Holy Cross, Colby College, Maine-Orono, and Babson College. The All Minnesota 7s tournament will also take place in Rochester, MN with Wisconsin-Stout, St. Scholastica, Nebraska-Omaha, and Wayne State all vying for the Championship. The Northwest Championship will be hosted by Western Oregon where Gonzaga, Pacific College, and Oregon Tech all have a strong shot at winning the automatic bid. The Mid-Atlantic Rugby Conference will also be holding their Small College championship this weekend at Gettysburg, PA, where Susquehanna University is leading the pack followed closely by Loyola Maryland and Widener University. Finally, the Three Rivers Rugby Conference will host their championship at Grove City College where each of the nine teams in attendance will stand a fair chance at taking home the cup and earning their trip to New Orleans.