History of Rugby in College Sport

05-Aug-2017 | 2 min read

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Rugby has been played in colleges across America since the 1800s, but it wouldn't be until the 1960s, when the sport really gained traction within schools - specifically within the Catholic and Jesuit colleges in the east of the country. Schools like Indiana’s Notre Dame became well known for promoting the sport, and was named among the earliest champions in collegiate rugby. Nowadays, rugby is the fastest growing club sport in American schools, and is celebrated among hoards of students and players across the States.

Since 1980, USA Rugby has named a school as an official champion annually, in order to encourage competition as the emerging sport gained establishment. This title is something which has been won, almost exclusively, by California, twenty-eight times over thirty two competitions. The Golden Bears have remained the dominant team in college rugby for decades, which serves to appeal to prospects who wish to follow in the footsteps of players like Seamus Kelly and Danny Barrett, who left Cali to go on to join the US national team.

However, it isn’t just California who have ensured rugby has become seen as a major collegiate sport. In 2011, USA Rugby created a Sevens Collegiate National Championship, which has been championed by Georgia’s Life University since its founding. Rugby is Life’s most notable sport, and despite its status as a small school, their Running Eagles have a quality leader and coach in Dan Payne - the former assistant coach to the US national team and the Chief Executive Officer to USA Rugby.

Not to be overshadowed by the men, women’s rugby has been labelled an NCAA Emerging Sport since 2002, and has grown rapidly in size and popularity in recent years. Programs like Eastern Illinois’ Panthers have worked hard to become NCAA approved in Division I, and continue to promote the sport among female students, encouraging them to take up rugby in equal numbers to their male peers.

This is a guest blog written by Bethany Sharpe.


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