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RRRC Competitions Committee Notes – 5/11/20

The Red River Competitions Committee releases their monthly committee call minutes and notes. View all of the archived RRRC minutes or read on for the most recent:

  1. Roll Call
    1. Young
    2. Wilson
    3. Dodge
    4. Kolberg
    5. Roche
    6. Tate
    7. Bloo
    8. O’Gara
    9. Fosco
    10. Tolar
    11. Keuppens
    12. Leming
    13. Tomsak
    14. Kurylas
    15. Watson
    16. Dale
      1. Regrets
        1. None
  2. USA Rugby Reorg
    1. Dodge: As you know the USAR Reorg effort has been going on for a few months now. Kirk is on the task force and has been very involved. There were new bylaws presented on Sunday and they passed. We’ve invited Kirk and the TRU Board to hear a recap on that process and where we are now. We also have our two Congress representatives on the call.
    2. Tate: Thanks Dodge. Lots to cover here. 
      1. Bylaw Amendments
        1. Tate: Bylaw amendments were presented to Congress 10-12 days ago and voted on Saturday. They passed 34-8-2 (or so). The summary of the amended bylaws is that the USA Rugby Board of Directors will be reseated; while Congress will dissolve and then be reintroduced through newly dedicated National Councils. The National Office managed many of the competitive aspects of the game including eligibility, disciplinary etc and most of those functions will be replaced by the new National Councils.
      2. USAR Board of Directors
        1. Tate: There is a change in the makeup of the USAR Board of Directors. Part of it is that Congress amended the bylaws to allow for more International Athletes (IA). Each member of the game, (Youth, HS, IAs, Club etc) will all be allowed to add a member to the USAR Board. This is all still in bankruptcy court but all indicators are that this will proceed. Right now there is a transitional board which includes the existing IAs, Jim M, Paul M, Michelle Y., Paul S, Mike C, Julie L, and Al L. The transitional board will remain in place until the various councils have finalized their makeups and elected their representatives to the Board. There will be a club person on the various committees including the nomination committee. Once the nomination committee is seated it will ratify the four independent positions. The general gist is to guarantee the various groups to have direct Board representation and to give control of the nuts and bolts to the community councils. This separates the National Office and High Performance from the other parts of the game and insulates them as well. That’s the 50,000 foot level of detail and there are still many details being ironed out. If anyone wants to talk more in-depth, give me a ring.
      3. Changes to RRRC/TRU
          1. Tate: For the RRRC competitions committee, we’re still going to have National Championships and we’re going to need a regional structure to determine who qualifies for those Championships. The difference is that instead of reporting to a National rugby committee and a National Competitions Committee, it will be reporting to a competitions committee that is created by the GUs. Personally, I don’t have any complaints with how this group and the TRU Board have worked together and I think we’ve been very productive. I know that is not true in other parts of the country as others have struggled. However, if we desire we will have the opportunity to eliminate and/or combine our two committees. I do believe this would help clarify the “that’s a RRRC thing” or “that’s a TRU thing” that we answer sometimes on a daily basis from our members. We now have the authority to structure that as we see fit at the GU level instead of it being dictated by USAR. We’re still going to need a competitions committee and regions that determine what qualifiers are. All these changes will take time and we may still be operating in the same fashion come this fall until we determine what changes we want to make. The RRRC and TRU is unique in  that we don’t have multiple Competition Regions (CRs) like other unions. So some of this change will be easier for us since we don’t have multiple parties under one hat.
      4. Finances
        1. Tate:  Financially speaking, we will be going through a negotiation phase once the National Office is operating again…we’ll discuss what services we want and how much we’re going to pay for them. Our GU dues will not go to USAR but rather we will collect them directly and then we’ll pass the funds for agreed upon services to USAR. 
      5. GUs
        1. Tate: We have another GU Leaders call tomorrow and we’ll be talking about populating the various committees. Once USAR works their way through bankruptcy court and is allowed to reassemble we will seat those committees. It’s going to be a very busy summer with making all of these changes and we ask for some patience. 
    3. Tate: Any questions? 
      1. Kolberg: Once all the bankruptcy courts are completed, will there be a summary provided to the members? I’m most interested in who’s responsible for the predicament even if it goes back 10-15 years?
      2. Tate: If this is done correctly, that could happen. The new Board once seated will have firing/hiring power over the CEO and other parts of the National Office. They will also work with legal advisors about what should be made public. If the club, college, youth, HS, and other members of the Board want that information out there, it could happen. If we put non-assertive individuals on that Board, it could never come to light. We need to make sure transparency is a huge piece of the Board so that this won’t happen again. You’re not alone in asking questions about this, many people want to know if the Board will continue as is or if anyone will be held responsible. So if we do this right, we could share everything with the members.
      3. Kolberg: Another observation I would make is that we have multiple people on various committees who are rubber stamping decisions they made on another committee.
      4. Tate: I think the bigger issue is that the oversight committee (Congress) was being starved of information just like everyone else. I think it was a more fundamental failure of oversight. The goal is that the new structure would address that. 
    4. Watson: I’d like to weigh in one this, there have been many failures by the USAR Board of Directors, this goes back many many years. Unfortunately Congress is very limited on what we could do to try and stop this. We did take steps to recall members of the Board in the past and we agreed that USAR should file Chapter 11 bankruptcy. It should be noted that when we agreed to file bankruptcy, we also asked for the entire Board to resign but that didn’t come to pass. From my four years of being in Congress, it’s clear that USAR doesn’t know how to make money. They accept dues but they don’t know how to generate revenue beyond that. We’ve suffered greatly because of this.
    5. Bloo: The biggest problem that I’ve seen of USAR has been the nominating committee. The people that have been on that committee for multiple years didn’t do us any favors. They nominated members to the Board who had little to no experience and just wanted a seat at the table. So going forward, this is the most important committee as it will seat the new BOD. The second issue I see is that with 11 members on the new BOD, it will be very difficult to make changes due to the size of the group.
    6. Dodge: I’m a little disappointed to hear that USAR may already have a dues number in mind. It was my understanding that this would be negotiated between each Community Council and the National Office /  new BOD.
    7. Tate: USAR may have a number but it hasn’t been agreed upon.
    8. Dodge: Has it been given to the bankruptcy court? And what formula did they use to determine the number?
    9. Tate: Yes, a number has been given to the bankruptcy court but I don’t know what formula they used to determine it. We still have to have community agreements signed between all the members of the game and that may determine what each group’s dues are when they elect or don’t elect services. For example, accident insurance for youth and HS where they do a lot of flag rugby won’t be as expensive as it would be for college and club. So there is a fee to cover that across the board but club and college may need more coverage and so we would negotiate fees for that.
    10. Tomsak: Why do the International Athletes (IAs) get so much representation? 
    11. Tate: The United State Congress passed the Ted Stevens Act that covers all NGBs that belong to the USOC. That Federal Law requires a minimum percentage of athletes on those Boards. They just recently increased the minimum number of athletes that need to be on Boards but they are expanding the criteria to allow for different types of athletes to fulfill this requirement. Think older Eagles that may have more experience in business as opposed to a 25 year Eagle that is still playing the game.
    12. Bloo: It’s not just the Ted Stevens act, it’s in the Olympic and Paralympic bylaws. These also apply and are even more restrictive.
    13. Tate: The amount of representation that the IAs have can be considered a challenge but part of what we’re doing with the reorganization is that Club keep their money, College keep theirs, etc. A little bit goes into the National Office but the majority of the funds go right back into the game. Before it was all going into one pot at USAR and it was being spent on whatever the current need/crisis/favorite project/priority was. We know there has been a history of poor decision making in this area so if we don’t allow the money to get into the shared pot, it stays in the community game.
    14. Leming: Thank you for all this information! Why do we need USA Rugby at the club level?
    15. Tate: You’re not the only person to ask this question. There are reasons why we need it and there are reasons why it’s nice to have them. We need to have a National Governing Body (NGB) to play rugby Internationally or be part of a World Community. That includes rugby tours in and out of the USA as well as players that travel to play internationally. If you never plan on playing anyone overseas or having any foreign players and don’t have any Eagles…you don’t need USA Rugby. That’s the need part, now the nice to haves. If the National Office is run well they can leverage the economies of scale to provide us with additional services at a negotiated rate. Coach, referee, administration education, insurance, National Championships are some of those items…but they have to be run well. If I tried to go out with our 2500 members and get all of those things, it would be very expensive. Coming to the table with 100,000 members should be cheaper. This requires the National Office to be run competently and overall that hasn’t been the case. There are pieces of it and individuals who have done good work over the years but unfortunately most of them were the first to be let go. To be honest, this is part of the thinking on the club side and why we’re pushing to have the GUs make up the Club Council instead of USAR. We can run the game and we can do it better.
    16. Fosco: What keeps us from saying that we don’t want to be part of USA but rather going directly to World Rugby?
    17. Tate: Unfortunately that’s a non-starter, World Rugby doesn’t want any part of that. It would be nice but wouldn’t be allowed.
    18. Bloo: World Rugby will only recognize you if you’re the exclusive NGB. That is USA Rugby for us.
    19. Watson: We did discuss with World Rugby an option to create a new NGB but only for 7s. We were told we could do this but it wasn’t recommended.
    20. Tate: To be fair, it’s not 7s that is the issue, it’s the Men’s 15s program. 7s is so much less expensive than 15s and with the funding from the Olympic Committee…they are pretty good. The men’s 7s budget is solid and they don’t overspend (by much). Women’s 7s has a very small budget but Emilie makes it work. The men’s 15s program overspends constantly, they were $1MM over budget at the 2019 RWC. Again the women’s 15s has a very small budget but they didn’t overspend.
    21. Dodge: We’ve been going on this for an hour now…any other questions before we move on?
      1. Tate: Thanks for having myself and the TRU Board on tonight. We’ll still have our monthly call next week and I may have more insight after our GU Leaders call tomorrow.
  3. 7s
    1. Dodge: I know this is still up in the air but I’d like us to have a contingency plan. Please note that we are looking at purchasing liability/accident insurance for TRU members just in case USAR doesn’t re-up. This may allow us to have a fall season even if USAR doesn’t pay for an extension.
    2. Keuppens: Yes, everything is still up in the air but we’re working through several scenarios. We’re hoping to keep a 7s National Championship pathway but as time passes, this becomes more difficult. The key here is that we doubt USA Rugby will hold a National Championship event if ANY states remain closed. Essentially every state in the USA would have to open and then USAR would consider hosting a 7s NC event. Bottom line, we’re trying to figure out our options because we all want to play. But we have to follow all of the COVID-19 restrictions. 
      1. Fosco: Are we going by any of the World Rugby phased openings?
      2. Keuppens: Unfortunately we don’t know yet. We’re preparing for contingency plans but we haven’t chosen which path will be the one. We just want to be in a position to move forward when we can.
      3. Dodge: One thing on that, USA Rugby has been authorized to pay their accident/liability claims BUT since they are in bankruptcy court and can opt to not pay. Essentially this means that  USA Rugby won’t allow play to continue until most of the country has re-opened. 
    3. Keuppens: While we are making contingency plans, there are no plans to return to play at this time. This is much more complex as various metroplexes have different guidelines in place right now. Austin is in shelter-in-place until the end of May (may be extended to June 15), DFW is at 25% re-open…etc. So this is very tricky. 
    4. Fosco: Can I suggest that we put something out that indicates where we’re at right now? I’m receiving lots of questions around this. 
    5. Keuppens: We’re fielding these questions as well but I feel that it’s more dangerous to put all the possibilities out there. 
    6. Dodge: I think we could put something out there, letting our members know that we aren’t sitting on our hands. 
      1. Keuppens: Sure, I can take that to the 7s sub-committee.
    7. Roche: I’d like to add that our focus this summer is going to be participation. We may have to have mini tournaments (due to group size restrictions) or different types of events than we’ve had before. Our focus is on clubs that own their own land because we can work with them and be a bit more flexible. We’re also considering return-to-play strategies, how fast can clubs begin playing in a tournament safely? 
    8. Keuppens: This summer could very well be old school rugby, brackets put together at the last minute, motley teams but if we can resume play…it won’t look like it has in the last few years. We’re all going to have to be flexible but if we’re playing…we’re playing. 
      1. Young: Fil and Kat, are we thinking of things like considering touch rugby? If we can’t play 7s due to non-contact rules, perhaps we could have touch leagues or tournaments?
      2. Keuppens: We haven’t discussed that specifically.
      3. Young: Of course we all want to play 7s, but if we have to go non-contact…we could try touch rugby.
      4. Keuppens: It’s a good point, and we’ve had touch leagues in the past in Dallas and Austin. Perhaps that’s a way to bridge the gap and keep people involved in the community. At some point when we put our club hats on, we have to be worried about attrition. 
      5. Young: Agreed, we have to worry about attrition now. I don’t know that this is an issue for the 7s sub-committee but it’s something we need to be thinking about.
      6. Keuppens: I think we can start by contacting the clubs we’ve been talking with and see if they’re interested in hosting touch tournaments if we can’t do 7s. 
      7. Young: Cool and I’ll add this to the TRU agenda for next week for further discussion.
  4. Survey Results
    1. Dodge: We’ve got the results from the survey and it’s all very telling. All but four clubs filled it out and many weren’t shy about their concerns. Kat provided us a very clean summary and I urge you to review it. A few quick trends to think about is that clubs want more tournament options, most clubs don’t prefer a split fall/spring season and there are continued concerns around multiple side clubs and the player movement rules. It’s a bit early to act on any of this right now but on the next call we can start talking about promotion & relegation. Then we can start looking at the feedback and making adjustments as we see fit. 
  5. 3 YC Rule Clarification
    1. Dodge: Last meeting we had agreed to do an email vote on clearing up the rule. I updated the document with what I thought was the agreed path but it appears I didn’t have it right. My updated weren’t approved but we did determine that after a third yellow card, it is automatically reviewed by the disciplinary committee. The player is NOT automatically suspended but rather it triggers a review. Do I have it right now?
    2. Young: Yes, but do we have an appetite to continue with this? If you read social media on our notes from last month there was lots of confusion on why we’re tackling this right now. I do agree that the rule is confusing but we don’t have anyone hitting the threshold now and we could be looking at a complete rewrite of the disciplinary regulations with the GU reorganization. We’re currently following the World Rugby Disciplinary Guidelines and those are made for the professional game. The club game needs their own version that we can actually support and understand.
    3. Kolberg: I think what Dodge has said makes sense. It’s simple and after a third yellow card it is reviewed by the disciplinary committee. 
    4. Dodge: I think we’re 90% of the way to the finish line and don’t know why we would stop now. The regulations could be re-written but we don’t know when that would be or when they would be finished. The rule is already out there and it isn’t clear to the players or us about what happens upon a player receiving a third yellow card because the rule is ambiguous.
    5. Roche: My biggest thing is that the rule is unclear right now and an individual could be suspended automatically after three yellow cards. We can clear this up pretty easily by changing the language. Secondly this makes our unions stand out positively as we’re dealing with repeat offenders. 
    6. Dodge: I think we may see some tweaking of the disciplinary guidelines but a wholesale rewrite may not occur. 
      1. Dodge: Ok, so we agree that after a third yellow card, it is automatically reviewed by the disciplinary committee. The player is NOT automatically suspended but rather it triggers a review. I’ll update the document and circulate it to the committee for another email vote.
  6. Virtual Coin Toss
    1. Roche: The virtual coin toss WAS SO GREAT! We had live video events that garnered over 1,500 views per video (a record for us) and we received lots of feedback from within the TRU and outside. I wanted to thank this group for allowing us to do it as it turned out really good and it kept our members engaged.
  7. New Business
  8. Meeting Adjourned (9:32 PM)