Atlantic Coast Rugby League

The Atlantic Coast Rugby League is an annual rugby union competition played every spring among eight universities—seven from the Atlantic Coast Conference, plus Navy.

Atlantic Coast Rugby League
SportRugby Union
Inaugural season2011
CommissionerPatrick Kane
No. of teams8
Country United States
Most recent
Maryland (2nd title)
Most titlesMaryland (2 titles)
Official website

Member schoolsEdit

The current 8 member schools of the ACRL are below. Most schools are members of the ACC and joined the ACRL in its year of inception in 2011. Navy was the first non-ACC member, and announced in 2012 it would be joining the ACRL for the 2013 season. The University of Maryland left the ACC to join the Big Ten Conference in July 2014.

Institution Location Enrollment Nickname Varsity
Head Coach
Clemson University Clemson, South Carolina 20,576 Tigers 19 1967 Justin Hickey
Maryland College Park, Maryland 37,641 Terrapins 20 1968 Jeff Soeken
Navy Annapolis, Maryland 4,576 Midshipmen 30 1963 Mike Flanagan
North Carolina Chapel Hill, North Carolina 29,340 Tar Heels 28 1966 Pete Earsman
North Carolina State Raleigh, North Carolina 34,767 Wolfpack 25 1965 Jim Latham
University of Virginia Charlottesville, Virginia 20,895 Cavaliers 25 1961 Jon Roberts
Virginia Tech Blacksburg, Virginia 30,379 Hokies 21 1891 / 1968 Andy Richards
Wake Forest Winston-Salem, North Carolina 7,079 Demon Deacons 18 1973 Patrick Kane

Former ACRL membersEdit

Founding and early successEdit

Organization of college rugby has been evolving since 2009, with many schools organizing into conferences similar to the traditional NCAA conferences. In November 2010, USARFU's college management committee set out a plan for transitioning universities to NCAA style conferences.[1] The purpose of the realignment is for college rugby to capitalize on the marketability of major college conference rivalries.[2]

The ACRL is one of the first college rugby conferences that re-aligned along traditional NCAA conference lines. In March 2010, eight of the twelve schools that participate in the NCAA's Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) announced that they had formed the Atlantic Coast Rugby League (ACRL) and would begin play in spring 2011.[3]

The ACRL was formed to improve rugby in the Atlantic Coast universities by capitalizing on traditional ACC rivalries, increasing the number of fans, attracting talented high school rugby players, and playing other regional schools, which would both reduce travel and create more competitive matchups with traditional college rivalries.[4]

The ACRL quickly gained commercial success. The ACRL announced in February 2011, before it had even begun its inaugural season, that it has partnered with Adidas as its corporate sponsor.[5]


Patrick Kane has served as the League Commissioner since the ACRL's founding in 2010. Kane also sits on USA Rugby's men's collegiate competition committee. Kane has been the Head Coach of the Wake Forest men's rugby team since 2004.[6]


Year Champion Runner Up Third Player(s) of the Year Top Try Scorer(s) Top Points Scorer Coach of the Year
2011 Maryland North Carolina Virginia Matias Cima (MD)
Alex Lee (NC)
? ? ?
2012 Maryland Clemson Virginia Tech Trevor Tanifum (MD)
Amir Khan (NC)
Trevor Tanifum (MD)
Amir Khan (NC)
S. Friend (Clem) (77) Patrick Kane (WF)
2013 (spr) Navy Clemson Virginia Tech R. Neel-Feller (Navy) ? ? Justin Hickey (Clem)
2013 (fall) Clemson Maryland Virginia Matias Cima (MD) ? ? Jon Roberts (UVA)

Maryland won the 2011 inaugural ACRL, defeating North Carolina 39-32 in the title match held at Charlotte RFC.[7] Maryland, by virtue of its conference championship, qualified for the national playoffs, but lost to Florida in the Round of 16.[8]

In the 2012 season, the championship was determined based on final table standings, rather than a championship match. Maryland repeated as champion, despite the loss early in the season of Matias Cima, their flyhalf and 2011 ACRL co-player of the year.[9] Maryland and Clemson both finished with a 6-1 record, but Maryland won the league table due to the bonus point earned in its 19-22 loss to North Carolina State. Maryland, by virtue of its conference championship, qualified for the national playoffs, but lost to Tennessee in the Round of 16.[10]


  • Green shading indicates conference champion. Red shading indicates last year in conference.
  • In 2011, despite North Carolina's undefeated regular season, Maryland was conference champion due to its 39-32 victory over NC in the championship game.
  • In 2012, Virginia Tech finished third, despite its 3-4 record, due to its 9 bonus points (6 from tries, 3 from losses).
  • In spring 2013, Navy elected to play in the Varsity Cup post-season competition, meaning that runner-up Clemson participated in the USA Rugby Division I-AA playoffs instead.
  • In 2013, the ACRL switched from a spring schedule to a fall schedule, resulting in two tables for 2013. The Fall 2013 champion, Clemson, qualified for post-season play in the newly formed American Collegiate Rugby Championships.

Atlantic Coast Invitational (ACRL 7s)Edit

The Atlantic Coast schools started moving in the direction of setting up their own conference in 2008, beginning with the Atlantic Coast Invitational tournament.[11] The ACI tournament was co-founded by Andy Richards (Head Coach, North Carolina) and by Patrick Kane (Head Coach, Wake Forest). The ACI tournament is one of a number of college rugby tournaments that are tapping into the increased interest of sevens while also targeting traditional collegiate conference rivalries.

The Atlantic Coast Invitational tournament changed to a sevens format in 2010.[12] The ACI was switched to a 7s tournament this season in response to 7s becoming an Olympic sport and in the wake of the success of the Collegiate Rugby Championship which was broadcast live by NBC. The ACI tournament also experienced commercial success in 2010, landing USA Sevens as tournament sponsor.[13]

Beginning in 2011, the winner of the Atlantic Coast Invitational has advanced to the USA Rugby National Championship.[14] N.C. State won the ACI tournament in 2011 defeating Virginia 24-17 in the final.[15]

Year Location Champion Final Score Runner Up Tournament MVP
2008 Raleigh, NC Virginia -- Maryland --
2009 Tallahassee, FL Boston College -- North Carolina --
2010 Greensboro, NC North Carolina State 24-12 North Carolina Will Teague (N.C. State)
2011 Greensboro, NC North Carolina State 24-17 Virginia Bryan Maxwell (N.C. State)
2012 Virginia Beach, VA Virginia Tech 33-31 Virginia --
2013 Navy 57-0 North Carolina St. --

Atlantic Coast Invitational Rugby 7s SeriesEdit

The Atlantic Coast Rugby League announced in March 2012 the creation of a new competition for member schools—the Atlantic Coast Invitational Rugby 7s Series—to begin in the fall of 2012. The ACRL 7s Series consists of four one-day tournaments of 8-12 teams played at various ACRL venues throughout the fall of 2012. The Series leads up to the two-day Atlantic Coast Rugby 7s Championship played later in the fall. The ACRL's reasons for developing this series was due to the increasing popularity of rugby sevens throughout the United States since the 2009 announcement that rugby sevens would be added to the Olympics.[16] Clemson head coach Justin Hickey believes that this new Rugby 7s Series gives the ACRL "the opportunity to set the standard on how Rugby 7s operates and competes at the collegiate level."[17]

Year Virginia Tech 7s Maryland 7s AC Invitational 7s
2012 Virginia Tech (1st);
NC State (2nd)
Kutztown (1st);
Navy (2nd)
Virginia Tech (1st);
Virginia (2nd)

See alsoEdit


  1. ^, Cal superleague exit spurs conference gains, Dec. 31, 2011,
  2. ^, ACC launch unveiled, national league gains steam, March 17, 2010,
  3. ^ Wake Forest University, Men's rugby scores big, March 2, 2011,'s-rugby-scores-big/[permanent dead link]
  4. ^ ACI Rugby, University Men's Rugby Clubs Form New Atlantic Coast Rugby League, March 17, 2010, Archived 2011-12-23 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^, Atlantic Coast teams in breakthrough sponsor pact, Feb. 16, 2011,
  6. ^ The Atlantic Coast Rugby League, About, Archived 2012-06-17 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ The Atlantic Coast Rugby League, 2011 All ACRL Teams announced, April 21, 2011,[permanent dead link]
  8. ^ Rugby Mag, Scores April 2011, May 1, 2011, Archived 2013-01-26 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ Rugby Mag, Atlantic Coast Doles Out Accolades, April 30, 2012, Archived 2012-05-11 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ Rugby Mag, Scores April 2012, May 3, 2012, Archived 2013-01-26 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ ACI Rugby, University Men's Rugby Clubs Form New Atlantic Coast Rugby League, March 17, 2010, Archived 2011-12-23 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ ACI Rugby, University Men's Rugby Clubs Form New Atlantic Coast Rugby League, March 17, 2010, Archived 2011-12-23 at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ Rugby America, Atlantic Coast Invitational 7's, Sep. 9, 2010,[permanent dead link]
  14. ^ ACI Rugby, Winner of Atlantic Coast Invitational Will Advance to USA Rugby Men's Collegiate Sevens Championship, March 17, 2010, Archived 2011-12-23 at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ Wolfpack Repeat as Atlantic Coast 7s Champs, Sep. 18, 2011,[permanent dead link]
  16. ^ RugbyMag, ACRL to Start 7s Series, March 14, 2012, Archived 2012-04-20 at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ RugbyMag, ACRL to Start 7s Series, March 14, 2012, Archived 2012-04-20 at the Wayback Machine