Rugby Tip of the Month – Rankings, Schmankings

By Karen Fong Donoghue


Photo Credit: VeterinarySchools.com

“I want to play for a Top 10 school.” “I want to study at a Top 25 Business School.” “I want to be at the best school in the country.”

But, do rankings really matter? In the grand scheme of college rugby, rankings don’t mean much to me and I often discourage students from using rankings to make decisions about their college choices as, for the most part, rankings are subjective and can be based on any number of criteria – many of which are not universal or mean much to an average player or family. A couple thoughts:

Limited sources – as most of you have figured out, there is simply not enough “rugby media” out there to give more than a couple opinions of where programs should be ranked. While I love GoffRugbyReport, TheRugbyBreakdown, RugbyToday, and ThisIsAmericanRugby who regularly put out rankings, their opinions are simply that – opinions. Now, while these are definitely opinions based on research such as gathering data points, wins/losses, point differentials and other stats, at the end of the day, just like in any other sport, there may be a variety of ways one could look at the numbers and come up with a different conclusion. For example, D1ARugby.com ranks their top 4 programs as St. Mary’s College, Life University, Cal and BYU while RugbyToday listed their Top 4 as St. Mary’s College, Life University, Cal and Lindenwood University.

Who is right? Who knows. Maybe we will never know. (Interesting because St. Mary’s was knocked out in the Elite 8 round and both had them listed as #1).

Multiple “Best Colleges” – I tend to see this a lot when it comes to College Rankings in general. Below you will see “The Most Beautiful College Campus”:

#1 – University of Virginia – BestCollegeReviews.org #1 – Elon University – TheBestColleges.org #1 – Berry College – TimesHigherEducation.com

There are hundreds more, but as you can see, there are literally THREE #1s listed, and it is all in the eye of the beholder.

When it comes to finding the best-fit rugby program for you, I urge you to look beyond rankings and look deeper into the institution – what academic programs does this school offer? What type of school atmosphere is on campus? What kinds of student support is available for student-athletes?

Rankings will continue to change as college rugby also continues to change and grow. Make sure your choices are not cemented into someone else’s idea of “the best” as you may find it is not the best for you.

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