Sept. 6, 2012
BERKELEY - Beginning September 14-15 at the Buckeye 7s Invitational while simultaneously preparing for its spring 15s season, California will play a fall schedule of tournaments in the same format of the sport that returns to the next Summer Olympics after a 92-year absence.
"Mid-September feels awfully early to compete for us, but we are chomping at the bit to get this 7s season underway," said head coach Jack Clark.
Following the Golden Bears' clash with the Buckeyes, Navy and Notre Dame at Ohio State University, Cal will travel to three more seven-a-side tournaments over the next two months, culminating the fall 7s regular season November 3-4 in Los Angeles at the PAC 7s tournament with a chance to qualify for the USA Rugby National College 7s Championships November 30-December 1.
Cal's history in Rugby 7s consists of just one fall 2011 tournament and three trips to the Collegiate Rugby Championship 7s from 2010-12. With their bronze-medal victory at the most recent CRC 7s, the Bears' all-time 7s record stands at 16-6 (.727).
In 15-a-side rugby, by comparison, Clark has coached the Rugby Bears to a 538-70-5 (.877) record entering his 30th year at the helm. The program itself began in 1882.
Its 7s history is young, but Cal rugby's Olympic history dates back to the 1920 Summer Games in Antwerp, where Cal's Charlie Tilden captained the gold-medal U.S. team that also included Bears Matt Hazeltine Sr., Charles Meehan and Colby "Babe" Slater. The U.S. repeated as gold medalists at the Paris Games in 1924 with Cal's Meehan, Slater, Tilden, George Dixon and Ed "Mush" Graff on the team. Graff returned to Berkeley as Cal's head coach from 1931-37.
The International Olympic Committee voted for rugby's return to the 2016 Rio Games in the form of 7s with the belief that its format will work well as a quickly unfolding competition.
Originally developed as a fast-paced cousin of the traditional game, Rugby 7s features seven-minute halves, three-man scrums and a wide-open style on the same-sized pitch as the 15s code. All conversions are taken as drop kicks and the team that scores makes the ensuing kickoff to restart play.
Whereas the quadrennial Rugby World Cup is a month-long 15s tournament played by 20 qualifying countries, Rugby 7s will be played by just 12 nations over the last two days of the 2016 Rio Games. The next Olympic cycle is already underway and Cal, the University that just earned 17 medals at the 2012 London Games, has made 7s a priority on par with its 15s schedule.
The Bears return the majority of their team from 2011-12 and have added an exciting freshman class that includes solid 7s potential.
Captain Seamus Kelly is back for 2012-13 after his summer call-up to the U.S. National Team travel squad as the Bears' all-time 7s leader in tries scored (14) and matches played (17).
Other returning veterans who made June's CRC 7s travel roster include two 7s All-Americans in junior Jake Anderson and senior Brad Harrington. Also on that squad were seniors Danny Barrett, Anthony Lombardo and Josh Tucker, juniors Paul Bosco and Andre Coquillard, and sophomores Andrew Battaglia and Eakalafi Okusi.
Unavailable for the fall due to injury are Alex Aronson and Ahmed Chehade, both of whom made strong contributions at the CRC 7s, and Brendan Daly, who is still recovering from injury after an All-America season last spring.
Only three other Bear veterans - senior Jared Braun and juniors Hunter Frisinger and Max Shaulis - have any prior 7s experience in blue and gold, but several more are expected to push for places on match-day rosters. They will be joined by a freshman class that also features several strong prospects for 7s varsity playing time.
"From a 7s personnel standpoint we return a solid group, but I'm most optimistic about the young 7s players we have," said Clark. "I think over time they will really distinguish themselves and, by extension, our team."
The Bears will progress from the Buckeye 7s to Arroyo Grande, Calif., for the Cal Poly 7s on Oct. 6, followed by the Stanford 7s Oct. 13 before all the member universities of the Pac-12 meet for the PAC 7s Nov. 3-4, when Cal will attempt to qualify for the college 7s championships held Nov. 30-Dec. 1 in College Station, Texas. Click here for the full fall schedule.