November saw the start of the BUCS American Football season that provides an opportunity over the winter months for University students to be introduced to and play football. The sport takes a break over Christmas and New Year as students go home for the holidays and then return for exams.
Like the BAFA league that is played during the spring and summer, BUCS is still expanding as football in the United Kingdom continues to grow. The York St John Jaguars are the BUCS new kids on the block and join 81 existing teams that are split into North and South conferences.
Each conference has a Premier division of five teams and below them are division one and division 2 subdivided into three geographical areas resulting in three layers of football and seven divisions in each conference.
Universities first started playing the sport in 1986 with the British Collegiate American Football League organisation which in 2007 morphed into the British Universities American Football League (BUAFL) which a year later was officially associated with NFLUK.
Four years ago, the University teams became part of BUCS which is the governing body for university sport in the United Kingdom and manages the organisation of the teams.
The York St John Jaguars will make their debut on December 3rd when they are scheduled to host the Teesside Cougars so we wish them every success and hope they enjoy their new adventure on what we hope will be a long journey ahead.
Played in wet, cold conditions the University League brings out the bravest players, but usually only for the three years of their degree courses. This guarantees a regular change of personnel and means teams find it difficult to maintain consistency unless they have a solid football programme and good coaches behind them.
Last season, eight teams gained promotion and eight were relegated. Six teams found themselves promoted from division two to division one while six teams went in the other direction. Leeds Beckett was elevated into the Premier North and the Portsmouth Destroyers into the Premier South passing Nottingham Trent Renegades and Kingston Cougars on the way down.
Both teams promoted to the Premier lost their first games as they encountered a higher level of football. Some of the other promoted teams fared little better. The Edinburgh Napier Knights, Leeds Gryons, Brunel Burners and Leicester Longhorns also lost, but Plymouth Blitz beat Southampton Solent 40-26. Having been shutout 31-0 in their first game, Canterbury Chargers handed the University of Cambridge a 26-0 shutout.
The irregular schedule means some teams have not played yet while the Manchester Tyrants in Division 2A North are leading the way by racking up three wins and piling on the points producing a ratio of 168-8.
Last year’s champions were the Stirling Clansmen who overcame the Durham Saints 10-7 in the UniBowl. Saints are still smarting from their defeat and Club President Joe Partington said, “We use that feeling of hurt after losing in the National Final to make us work twice as hard on the field and in the gym, to prevent it happening again.”
This Sunday will offer the Saints in the Premier North an opportunity for revenge when they host the Clansmen while in Division 1A Midlands the two Nottingham teams will face each other.