This afternoon BAFA University Commission Lead, Marcus Boswell, has shared the provisional BUCS League Structures with programmes. While the alignments themselves are still currently under embargo awaiting a formal release, we can at least share a couple of the key takeaways from the new structures, including the addition of the first-ever example of British Universities fielding two full-contact teams for league competition.
While we’ve seen a number of examples in the National Leagues – notably the Bristol Apache, and London Blitz Bs, alongside the recently announced Manchester Titans Bees, the 2019/20 season will be the first to feature ‘seconds’ teams, as two of the rising stars of the University game, the University of Nottingham American Football team and the UWE Bullets will be entering two rosters this Autumn.
Both programmes have seen rapid development in recent seasons, benefitting from the support of their parent institutions to bring in talented scholarship players from both the UK, but also abroad – UWE having already announced their most recent addition to their roster, Quarterback Braxton Morris, an NCAA Division One Baseball star, making the transition back to Football.
The UWE Bullets finished top in the Premiership South last season, their first year in the top tier, and impressed in playoffs when they got the better of BUCS Powerhouse, the Stirling Clansmen, in the postseason – before eventually coming up short against soon-to-be-crowned National Champions, Leeds Beckett Carnegie. Currently, the Bullets’ second team is being dubbed with the moniker ‘Pellets’, with a coaching staff headed up by Bullets Alum, Anthony Fursman.
Meanwhile, the University of Nottingham, who joined the Premiership North last season, fought their way to an undefeated Northern title, and then suffered a shock Quarter-Finals loss to the Herts Hurricanes will come into their 2019/20 campaign having lost only two league fixtures in their last three campaigns. Expected to once again attract a wealth of both domestic and international talent, Nottingham’s seconds squad will allow the ever-expanding programme to ensure they’re able to provide game time for many of the domestic athletes that want a taste of American Football at one of the nation’s top sports universities.
But how do second teams work?
Well, those who play other BUCS sports will be far more familiar with the idea of multiple rosters, and the BUCS regulations regarding the movement of players between one team and another at an institution.
There’s a lot to look at, and luckily BUCS have created a handy guide doing just that!
The gist is – no, you shouldn’t need to worry about former NCAA D1 players suddenly appearing on a BUCS D2 roster on quiet weekends for the first teams. While it’s possible for second-team players to ‘play up’ to a 1sts roster, ‘playing down’ is much more restricted.
Team selections are based on the premise of both teams playing a match on the same day, so everyone for the first team can’t suddenly come and play for the second team just because they don’t have a game – they should be training instead.
What the rules do allow for, and help with, is players coming back from injury for example where they are of first-team ability but need a game to get back into match fitness, or perhaps for new players that show rapid development and deserve an opportunity to play at the top flight of the Uni game.
Will they have enough players?
This is something both teams had to think carefully about before confirming their intention to enter two rosters this season.
Liaising with BUCS, they’ve both looked at current rosters (both players and coaches) and consider expected recruitment, to ensure they feel comfortable that they can commit to fielding a second roster for a full season of BUCS action, ensuring enough depth in typically tough t0 fill-out positions such as on the offensive and defensive line, as well as having sufficient coaches to provide adequate support to two rosters.
With both programmes feeling comfortable that they can meet these commitments, the UWE ‘Pellets’ and Nottingham seconds will join the Winchester Silverbacks as new additions to the BUCS Division Two this autumn.
I’ll have more on the full BUCS 2019/20 alignments shortly once we get the go-ahead from BUCS and BAFA.