Cal Crew schedules announced; could Cal Rugby play in the 2021 CRC 7s at NoLa?

Men's Tennis has not played since the end of January

While this period between the end of men’s basketball and the beginning of fall football is considered the offseason for the blog, the 2020-21 school year is far from over. In fact, Cal still got several teams that have yet to debut.

Let’s take a look at some recently announced schedules, speculate on the potential Cal Rugby action, and check on which Cal team has faced the most cancellation thus far.

Cal Women’s Rowing announced their 2021 Schedule

With Women’s Rowing being an NCAA-sponsored sport, there were no doubts that a championship would be held this year. The NCAA Division 1 Rowing Championship had been scheduled for May 28-30, 2021 from Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota, FL long before Cal released their schedule.

With COVID canceling all of the usual races, from Head of Charles in the fall to the San Diego Classic in the spring, Cal Women’s Rowing will instead start their 2021 season at the Las Vegas Invitational this weekend (April 10th and 11th). They will have dual battles against Stanford (April 24th) and at Washington (May 1st). Pac-12 Championships will be held on May 16th from Gold River near Sacramento.

The Las Vegas Invitational is a newish Pac-12 regatta. On their website, we can see a pretty full list of competitors for this weekend:

  • #1 University of Washington

  • #2 Stanford University

  • #6 University of California, Berkeley

  • #15 University of Wisconsin

  • #18 University of Southern California

  • #20 University of California, Los Angeles

  • #21 Oregon State University

  • #24 University of Alabama

  • #26 Washington State University

What is perhaps more interesting for the next section is the following note:

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, no spectators are allowed. Men’s teams we were not allowed as they do not fall under the State regulation exception for NCAA teams.

The Las Vegas Invitational had originally planned on a separate weekend an event for men’s collegiate teams. Those plans had to be canceled because Men’s Rowing is not governed by the NCAA and thus not allowed under Nevada’s state regulation.

Cal Men’s Rowing announced their 2021 schedule, including the IRA Championship in New Jersey

The two most successful programs in Cal Athletics history are both not governed by the NCAA. Men’s Crew has avoided joining the NCAA to retain its history of valuing the most important national championship at the annual IRA Championship to the winning Varsity Eight Boat rather than the school with the most accumulated points (there is a separate trophy for that) like how the NCAA Women’s National Championship is decided.

With all the issues that NCAA faces, it is certainly understandable for the oldest intercollegiate sport to avoid being swallowed by that dysfunctional entity. The downside of not being an NCAA sport is that Men’s Rowing does not count for The Director’s Cup nor the Capital One Cups for the Men’s. This has caused certain schools to drop the program, including the recent announcement by Stanford to cut their men’s rowing team with 10 other programs.

For this weird pandemic school year, club status at a lot of schools also meant that they would not get the same treatment as the varsity student-athletes, particularly with all of the extra COVID testings and adjustments that will cost schools money. There is no such issue for Cal because Men’s Rowing student-athletes are under the Cal Athletics umbrella.

The IRA Championship for 2021 was not confirmed until a couple of weeks ago. With so many of the traditional men’s rowing entrants being Ivy League squads, the 2021 field will be significantly smaller just due to the Ivy League schools not having any kind of athletics this school year. Apparently, some of the 8 Ivy League teams are trying to get special permission from their schools to compete, nonetheless. It will be very interesting to see if the two-time defending champs Yale will be present. Despite its history, Yale only won their first IRA national championship recently under former Cal rowing coach and one-time AD Steve Gladstone (he got credit for hiring Tedford). It is a somewhat controversial move that Gladstone’s Yale team has resembled the championship-winning teams of Cal and Washington in relying on international talent.

And the competition is not going to be at the level it normally is. All eight Ivy League schools, including defending champion Yale, have been handcuffed by both a lack of full rosters and a decision by the Ivy League to ban championship participation for all sports.

However, according to Caldwell, several Ivy League schools have expressed an interest in racing if they can get individual institutional approval. That, Caldwell pointed out, would be dependent on the local state of the pandemic for each of those schools.

Cal head coach Scott Frandsen was also quoted in the article.

“We are excited to see the IRA Championship firmly at the end of the spring racing schedule,” Frandsen said. “Through all of the ups and downs of the past year, many of our programs have continuously adapted to the latest adversity while training towards an uncertain future. Giving all of our student-athletes this light at the end of the tunnel to focus on and train towards is really motivating for everyone involved,” he said. 

The Men’s Rowing schedule is still an evolving thing with the IRA Championship at the end. A race against UC San Diego on April 17th was recently added as the season opener. Cal will race Oregon, Santa Clara, and Stanford over a two-day event at Redwood City on April 24-25. They will make the same trip as the women to Washington on May 1st. The Pac-12 Championship will also be a joint event with the women.

The IRA Championship from Lake Mercer, New Jersey (near Princeton where IRA is headquartered) will once again host the IRA Championship on May 28th and 29th. In most years, the IRA and NCAA Rowing Championships are on separate weekends. This year, they will be on the same weekend.


No 2021 Cal Rugby schedule…yet; CRC 7s tournament moves to New Orleans, LA

Since the announcement that the rugby team has returned to train on campus, there has been silence from Cal Rugby on their schedule. The initial release said that Cal will be game-ready by mid-March.

While several collegiate rugby schools in the south (Arkansas State, Life in GA, and Lindenwood in MO) have been playing for several months, the west coast only saw Central Washington, Arizona, and Grand Canyon being active in March. When will Cal join them?

If Cal Rugby was worried about scheduling issues from both Cal men’s and women’s soccer taking over Witter Rugby Field this season, the soccer seasons are about to end. Men’s Soccer will have their last home match this Saturday while Women’s Soccer will play on Friday, Sunday, ahead of a regular-season finale on next Friday (April 16th).

In a typical year, Cal will compete for the 15s national championship which will have a title game in early May before switching gear to prepare for the 7s national championship. The Golden Bears have often competed in the Collegiate Rugby Championship (CRC), a competition that has undergone several owners in recent years.

For 2021, a new ownership group of CRC has opted to move it from Chester, PA (just outside Philadelphia) to New Orleans, LA. It is scheduled for May 29-31 (the same weekend as the rowing championship above).

Will Cal be a part of the field in NoLa for the Rugby 7s championship? That is certainly a possibility. While Cal has won 5 CRC titles (and I was fortunate to be there for all 5), the CRC in the past had not always been the most accomodating tournament to the west coast schools from their refusal to not play on Sunday for BYU to not extending an invitation to Cal until a month prior.

In a pandemic year, while the NCAA has rightfully got destroyed for their unequal treatment of the men’s and women’s basketball tournament participants, you can count on a certain level of COVID protocols from them. I would not be completely surprised in 2021 if certain rugby powerhouses refused to play in a few, precious rugby events if they do not think the protocols would be good enough.

Impacts of the pandemic on 2021 Cal Athletics’ schedule

While an overwhelming majority of the Cal programs were lucky enough to compete weekly despite the pandemic, the same cannot be sad for Cal men’s tennis.

Cal Men’s Tennis:

Cal Men’s Tennis has not had a match since January 25th, in the ITA Kickoff. Despite tennis being a sport where social distancing is easier to maintain.

The Daily Cal believes that Cal Men’s Tennis will be back this weekend, but they also previously said that Cal will play the previous weekend only to have that match postponed/rescheduled.

I had previously believed that this Cal Men’s Tennis team with its great group of seniors were capable of doing achieving some greatness (a return to top-16 in the country?) this year. Now, it would be an achievement if they can just be competitive by the Pac-12 championship by the end of April.

Cal Softball:

Earlier in non-conference action, Cal had to turn several scheduled doubleheaders into just single games. It was not clear if the lack of available pitchers were a Cal problem or that of their opponent.

Two weekends ago, the UCLA series was canceled due to COVID on the part of No.3 Bruins.

Nonetheless, Cal Softball (12-11, 1-5 in Pac-12) has been able to play regularly in a season of virtually no expectations in the first year under new head coach Chelsea Spencer.

Cal Women’s Soccer:

Women’s Soccer only got one match at Washington State canceled this year. The interesting thing to note here for both women’s and men’s soccer is how the Pac-12 standings are ranked according to “point per game” rather than total points. A team is awarded the typical 3 points for a win and 1 point for a draw. Instead of the total, to compare all teams more fairly, the average point per conference game is used instead.

With the NCAA field reduced from 64 to just 48 (so far fewer at-large bids) for this spring 2021 season, Cal Bears (5-4-1, 3-4-0 in Pac-12) will really need some big wins against UCLA, USC, and a rematch with Stanford to improve their current 1.29 points per game (tied for 7th) and secure a postseason spot this year.