By Karen Fong Donoghue
“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.”
I commonly hear students utter these phrases when we begin building their college list. 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 of thoughts:
Limited sources – as most of you have figured out, there is simply not enough “rugby media” to give more than a couple of opinions on where programs should be ranked. While I love GoffRugbyReport and TheRugbyBreakdown, 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. Certain conferences, like NCR, may also put out their own "Power Rankings" that may differ from the above.
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 – Stanford University Travel + Leisure #1 – University of San Diego The Princeton Review #1 – Berry College – Travellers Worldwide
There are hundreds more, but as you can see, there are literally THREE number ones listed, and it is all in the eye of the beholder. Other stats/rankings that may be more important - Consider some other stats that I urge you to dig deeper into when finding your best-fit college: -How long the coach/coaching staff has been with the program? -How many players go on to play after college (this includes National Team representation, Professional contracts, Senior Club)?
-How many players graduate in 4 years? 5 year? 6 years?
-How many active members are there in their alumni group (if they have one?)?
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 are 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.