NBC, Versus, Universal Sports Tackle Collegiate Rugby Sevens

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NBC, Versus and Universal Sports will team this weekend on coverage of the 2011 USA Collegiate Rugby Championships.
The second annual, 16-team, USA Rugby Sevens competition takes place in Chester Pa.'s PPL Park, home of Major League Soccer's Philadelphia Union, on June 4 and June 5.

NBC Sports Group teammates NBC and national cable network Versus, as well as Universal Sports, an NBC joint venture with Leo Hindery's InterMedia Partners, will combine for 14 hours of coverate this weekend.

Rugby Sevens features seven players per side on the same size pitch as a traditional 15s match. The high-scoring format provides for non-stop play, as each match is split into two seven-minute halves, followed by a new game about every 20 minutes. Rugby Sevens kicks off as an Olympic sport in 2016.

College rugby: Utah-Cal

The event , which also features an eight-team women's competition and a free Dropkick Murphys concert on Saturday night, is part of NBC Sports Group's commitment to rugby. On Feb. 12-13, NBC and Universal Sports televised 15 hours of the USA Sevens, an international competition held at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas. NBC also has the rights to the 2011 Rugby World Cup, which kicks off this September from New Zealand, and the 2015 quadrennial from England.
Jon Miller, head of programming for NBC Sports and Versus, said that globally rugby is gigantic.
"It's the third biggest sport in the world behind soccer and basketball," he said, "not just not in this country."
Indeed in the States, the game has a ways to go. The sport is not yet sanctioned officially by the NCAA, but is growing in numbers and stature on the club level. The Peacock's coverage of the aforementioned USA Sevens averaged 1.04 million viewers, outscoring the Illinois-Purdue men's basketball game on CBS with the Nielsens, according to NBC officials.

This weekend's USA Collegiate Rugby Championships was the brainchild of NBC, USA Rugby, USA Seven, and the International Rugby Board. Last year's event played out in Columbus, Ohio.
"There really wasn't a competition to bring all of this top talent at the college level together," said Miller," so we created this event."

Miller believes the partners have found right home for the competition.

"PPL Park is a great venue and there is unbelievable support for rugby in the Delaware Valley. Our goal is to be in Philadelphia for a long time with this event," he said.
Miller noted that the USA Collegiate Rugby Championships worked with Comcast-Spectacor, the principal owner of Global Spectrum, which operates PPL Park, in establishing the event.
Miller believes that sports fans will find the non-stop, rapid-pace of the sevens competition compelling. The matches, which are being principally supported by Subway, ADT, Bridgestone Tires and Toyota, run commercial-free, with spots limited to pre-, post and halftime segments. However, the sponsors gain exposure via on-air billboards, stadium signboards, on-air virtual imaging and other enhancements.
Competition is divided into four groups, with winners and challengers then separated into their own brackets.
The winner and runner-up will wind up playing five matches over the two days, according to Miller.
The competitors are as follows:
Pool A: Cal, LSU, Ohio State, Penn State
Pool B: Boston College, Dartmouth, Notre Dame, Utah
Pool C: Army, Central Washington, Navy, UNC
Pool D: Arizona, Oklahoma, Texas, Temple
On the women's side, Brown, Temple, Penn State and Virginia are in Pool A, while Pool B comprises Army, Navy, Princeton and UNC.
Universal Sports starts with two hours of live coverage on Saturday at noon (ET), immediately followed by Versus' presentation from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. NBC will pick up the rugby action at 4 p.m., before Versus wraps matters up on the first day from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Sunday's coverage will showcase live quarterfinal matches on Universal Sports, followed by the two semifinals on Versus. NBC will then air the bronze Medal, challenger final and championship final matches from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. The championship final will feature extended, 10-minute halves.
Veteran announcer Todd Harris will call the game action from PPL Park and will be joined in the booth by analyst Brian Hightower, a former USA Rugby World Cup 99' participant. Marty Snider will report from the sidelines.

Collegiate Rugby Championships logo

Live schedule for the 2011 USA Sevens Collegiate Rugby Championships (all times ET)
Saturday, June 4

12-2 p.m.  Universal Sports
2-4 p.m. Versus
4-6 p.m.  NBC
6-8 p.m.  Versus

Sunday, June 5

12-2 p.m. Universal Sports
2-4 p.m. Versus
4-6 p.m.  NBC

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