NEW YORK – United World Sports and the Varsity Cup universities announced Monday that the United States Military Academy at West Point and Penn State University have committed to the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup Rugby Championship as the final 15th and 16th teams in the competition.
Army and Penn State bring their considerable rugby histories and success to the Varsity Cup, which is widely recognized as the most prestigious postseason championship tournament in the history of U.S. collegiate rugby. The Black Knights and Nittany Lions add their 21 final four national championship appearances to the Varsity Cup’s 76 for an updated total of 97 final four places and 34 national collegiate championships among the participating teams.
“Historically and on an annual basis, these two iconic institutions are among the very best rugby teams in the nation,” said Jack Clark, the head coach at California and member of the U.S. Rugby Hall of Fame. “They have outstanding coaching and significant institutional support.”
The additions of Army and Penn State add significantly to the Varsity Cup’s eastern representation, which already boasts perennial Ivy League champions Dartmouth and powerhouse Navy, along with Atlantic Coast stalwart Clemson.
David Smyth, head coach for three-time Varsity Cup national champion BYU, said, “The Black Knights and Nittany Lions are the perfect teams and universities to round out our 16-team postseason.”
Dan Lyle, Executive Vice President for United World Sports, added, “From a standard-of-play perspective and, moreover, from a commercial viewpoint, these two teams add considerably to the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup’s national prominence.”
Both teams voiced excitement over their entry into the championship tournament as its newest members.
“We are delighted to be joining the Varsity Cup Championship,” said Black Knights head coach Matt Sherman, a former international player for the United States and former head coach of the Collegiate All-Americans. “We look forward to the opportunity to compete against these great institutions and rugby programs this upcoming spring, in particular our fellow service academies.”
“We are grateful for the opportunity to participate in this year’s Varsity Cup,” added Army West Point Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Boo Corrigan. “This will be a new and exciting challenge for our cadets and coach Matt Sherman as we compete on this national stage.”
Penn State head coach Blake Burdette, also a former U.S. international player, echoed the enthusiasm to compete for the 2016 Varsity Cup crown.
“We are excited to be a part of the Varsity Cup and raise the profile of Penn State rugby,” Burdette said, “This move will help with recruiting and branding, and continue the strong tradition of our program. We have had tremendous support from the University, athletic department and alumni.”
“Penn State is honored to accept an invitation to join the Varsity Cup,” added PSU Assistant Athletic Director Michael Cross. “The opportunity to align with the best rugby programs in the country is a testament to Penn State’s strength as a program and its historical excellence. The Varsity Cup provides an excellent way to increase awareness of rugby nationally through significant TV exposure and we look forward to a long partnership.”
The 2016 Penn Mutual Varsity Cup Rugby Championship will commence with four rounds of single-elimination tournament play on April 9, with the quarterfinals contested April 16 and semifinals on April 23. The Penn Mutual Varsity Cup Rugby Championship final will take place on May 7. Tournament seedings and venues are expected to be announced shortly.
The additions of Army and Penn State bring to 16 the number of teams in the Varsity Cup, which began in 2013 with eight programs. Four more joined to create a 12‐team field in the 2014 edition, and the decision by the Black Knights and Nittany Lions follows the same move by Arizona State and Arkansas State in 2015 to join BYU, Cal, Utah, UCLA, Navy, Dartmouth, Notre Dame, Texas, Air Force, Central Washington, Clemson and Oklahoma in next spring’s premier postseason for collegiate 15s. The Penn Mutual Varsity Cup final was televised nationally by NBC Sports Network in 2014 and ‘15, and will return to the network for another live national broadcast in 2016.
ABOUT UNITED WORLD SPORTS
United World Sports (UWS) LLC hosts a dynamic line up of emerging sports properties and has quickly become the leader at delivering premier international sports properties to U.S. audiences. UWS’ flagship property is the USA Sevens Rugby Tournament held annually in Las Vegas. This exciting 16‐nation, three‐day tournament has become the largest attended rugby event in North America with more than 70,000 fans coming to Sam Boyd Stadium. Broadcast live on NBC Sports the tournament serves as the only U.S. stop on a nine‐city world tour and reaches more than 350 million television households worldwide. Additional UWS properties include the Las Vegas Invitational, America’s Rugby Seven’s Cup, the College Rugby Championship (CRC), the Varsity Cup and the Pro Soccer Challenge.