The CRC Experience
The Ultimate Life Rugby Fan Event
By Mike Hollerbach DC Student
The Life University Rugby 7’s team worked hard, fought hard and once again made the Life community proud of their efforts. Although it was a very disappointing final minute loss to Kutztown State the guys played very well coming in third out of the twenty best rugby programs in the country. This year’s event had most of the major colleges in the country in attendance. Schools like UCLA, Notre Dame, Michigan, Texas, Ohio State and Arizona, to name a few, with the ultimate champion for the second consecutive year being the University of California. The Life U Running Eagles dominated in their first three games of the tournament, out scoring their opponents 85-0. On the final day in the first game of the elimination round the boys trailed the entire game and won it in exciting fashion with a last-second try against the Navy. Although the ending was not what the Life contingency had hoped for, it was still an exciting weekend that helped promote the university and the Life Rugby program on a national level.
The CRC tournament is a made-for-TV event that happens at the beginning of June each year and is broadcast via NBC and NBC SportsNetwork. The tournament is held at PPL Park, the home of the Major League Soccer’s Philadelphia Union. PPL Park is a beautiful state of the art artificial grass stadium located in suburban Chester, Pa. It is a very picturesque location alongside the Delaware River, adjacent to the New Jersey riverbank with the Commodore Barry Bridge overlooking the stadium. Many times during the weekend large freighter ships gracefully pass the stadium which enhances the beauty of the stadium.
Life University rugby fans traveled from all across the country to be at this year’s event. The Life fans were loud and enthusiastic. Even though there were four local schools that may have had more fans in attendance, Life fans were much more boisterous. The marketing department provided inflatable noisemakers to enhance the spirit of the crowd. There were approximately four hundred Life fans in attendance with 50% of them being students who made the thirteen hour drive to Chester, Pa.
I have been fortunate enough to attend the Collegiate Rugby 7’s Championship in Philadelphia, Pa. over the past three years and I must say it is some of the most fun that I have had in my four years of being a student at Life University. The event grows each year, and each year Life University is committed to making a great impression on the national rugby community, spreading the message of chiropractic while exhibiting the passion we have for Life Rugby. The administration, the Life U marketing department, student services and the athletic department do a fantastic job of working together to promote student involvement and also promote the Life brand. At the tournament Life is well represented by running videos of the university on the stadium’s big screen multiple times each day and also buys advertisements for thirty second commercials on the nationally televised NBC broadcast. During these commercials they share the vitalistic philosophy of the school in promoting the undergraduate program as well as the Chiropractic program. Each year Life University is one of the standout schools of the event on and off of the field.
The majority of the 8,000 fans in attendance were well aware of Life University due to our great representation over the past two CRC events. In last years event, the marketing department handed out over three thousand Life U t-shirts for free which was a very popular decision. They went with the intention of selling the shirts but when told they were not allowed to sell the shirts due to a non-compete clause with another merchandiser. Shelly Batcher and the marketing team decided to just give the shirts away which created quite a stir in the concourse with fans from other schools eager to grab our shirts. This year I saw many of those same shirts worn by people who are fans of other schools and I personally had six people ask me if we were passing out shirts or they wanted to know where they could get one of our new shirts. At one point on Saturday I had a family approach me and say how much their children liked the shirts they got last year and how the children love wearing the shirts as pajamas. The family was very friendly and appreciative of last year’s gesture. It put a smile on my face to have complete strangers ask for something we take for granted. There were even many people who work in the stadium that remembered us and were happy to see us because of the good impressions we made the past two years.
As far as the student’s involvement, the CRC bus trip package was offered to students for $100, which was a fantastic deal for the experience they received. The $100 got them coach bus transportation to Philadelphia, two nights hotel including breakfast, tickets to the games on Saturday and Sunday. The students also received two very stylish shirts similar to the jerseys worn on the field each day. One of the shirts was a replica dry fit blue and neon green jersey. The other shirt was an unconventional red with Christmas tree green lettering. The red shirt was an odd choice and not typical of the Life University green. But, with four hundred people wearing the red shirts in our section of the stadium it was quite a site, very eye-catching. All of Life’s uniforms were chosen by Life President Dr. Riekeman, and although the red shirt was not well received by the Life contingency it really did look great in and around the stadium.
When asked about the event, Life University Sports Information Director Craig Dekshenieks said, “Once again, LifeU fans were the loudest, most passionate and largest of all the schools, including teams from the Philadelphia area. We have also set the standard for fans at the CRC with our t-shirts as well as our cheers and chants. We now see other schools trying to follow our lead, which only helps the popularity of the sport of rugby and the CRC event in particular.”
Included in the weekend was a Kickoff Party on the 33rd floor of the Loews Hotel in Center City Philadelphia. It was a beautiful site for a gathering. The views of the downtown buildings with the sun setting over the city and overlooking the William Penn statue perched atop of the Philadelphia City Hall building was truly remarkable. At the party, students were able to mingle with Dr. Riekeman, Dr. Cynthia Boyd and many other members of the administration. As well as getting the opportunity to chat with Dr. Riekeman and Boyd, there were numerous successful alumni in attendance to network with. Towards the end of the evening Coach Dan Payne and the rugby team stopped by to show their appreciation. It was a relaxing environment with delicious appetizers and desserts. Another bonus of the Kickoff Party this year was that there were many of the replica shirts free for the taking. Many students were encouraged to take extra shirts with them as they left the party. In all, there were forty three students who chose to take advantage of the university’s generosity and ride the charter bus.
When asked about the bus trip Craig said, “Our rugby team definitely appreciates our fans. Many of them have expressed that hearing our section cheer for them really spurs them on. The Athletic Department wants to thank the students who made the ultimate road trip to Philadelphia. Their support is what makes the CRC invite us back year after year.”
The next CRC is less than eleven months away, and I for one am looking forward to it already and I know I am not the only one. With our team coming in fourth in 2012, 2nd in 2013 and 3rd this year I know we have a great chance of winning it all next year. So with each student loan check set $25 under your mattress and you will be all set to join us next year in Philly. And like each year in the past, Saturday night of CRC weekend you will be able to eat a Philly Cheesesteak or Italian Hoagie alongside the “Rocky” statue. And if you have always dreamt of running up those famous steps to the Philadelphia Art Museum just like Rocky Balboa himself, you will have the opportunity to fulfill your dream. So stay focused and always remember to keep the “Eye of the Tiger.”