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Varsity Rugby at HBCUs: The Time is Now

The Men of Morehouse Sabres Rugby

There are few sports growing faster in the United States than rugby; and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU’s) have everything to gain considering the global opportunity rugby presents. The opportunity to extend one’s brand. The opportunity to increase name recognition, being mentioned with other varsity programs as University of California and Harvard. The opportunity for HBCU’s to contribute their rich history and culture to the USA Rugby community. The opportunity to provide young men and women with an interest in HBCU’s a chance to represent these institutions in a global game gaining influence here in the US and the World is greater than it has ever been.  There are currently 102 accredited HBCU’s , and there are rumors circulating that an Executive Order to be signed by the US President in the coming days, that may provide with these institutions with more financial support.

The growth of varsity rugby has not been limited to larger schools like Central Washington University or Private institutions like Quinnipiac or Catholic Schools like Wheeling Jesuit and newly announced Mt. St. Mary’s of Maryland.  Big city setting private schools like Monroe College have launched a varsity-like club program coached by USA International, player of the decade, and Alabama State University Alum Phaidra Knight (pictured).

Phaidra Knight With Ball in Hand Against Ireland

USA Rugby published an article featuring Morehouse College (go ‘like’ their page…we’ll wait) and their rugby club, in Atlanta, GA.  There has been word of Florida A&M and Prairie View A&M getting traction (go ‘like’ their pages too…we’ll wait).  It all rekindles a vision I’ve had for a while now; both of my parents are HBCU Alums (My mother attended Spelman College; my father, Central State University). Being very familiar with the culture and appreciate the value of HBCU’s; I feel they have a lot to offer both the USA Rugby and World Rugby communities. The seeds must be planted and cultivated, the clubs must grow and the value proposition must be made.

Everything starts with a vision. This is where USA Rugby can play a central role. Governance generally has three functions: guidance, oversight, and facilitation. How can USA Rugby facilitate rugby growth at HBCU’s? Does World Rugby have a role to play here as well? What can be done to help these (and other) institutions understand the value varsity rugby can bring to campus? Here a few bullets for the vision board:

5 years from now:
There are 4 HBCU Varsity teams 2 men’ and 2 women’s; 10 clubs (5 men’s, 5 women’s)
70 men and 70 women at HBCU’s playing varsity rugby
2 Men and 2 Women Collegiate All-Americans
All 4 teams are nationally competitive sides
Recruiting locally and globally, with a particular interest in the Caribbean and Africa. (Imagine the impact of a Coach from Howard University annually attending Craven Week in Johannesburg, South Africa)
2 teams participating in collegiate 7s nationally

10 years from now:
There are 10 HBCU Varsity Rugby Teams (5 Men’s and 5 Women’s), 20 Clubs (10 men’s, 10 women’s)
at least 1 mens and 1 womens team has made the final of the national championship tournament
200 men and 200 women at HBCU’s playing varsity rugby
An HBCU 7s Invitational Tournament, hosted as a national event
At least 2 annual rivalry matches (Hampton vs Howard, Grambling vs Southern etc.) games broadcasted via internet
International Tours for top HBCU Sides
An All-HBCU select side for men and women to honor top players

As Black History Month comes to a close here in the United States; there is no time like the present to make additions to the very rich cultural and athletic history of HBCU’s and USA Rugby. Also be sure to check out USA Sevens this weekend in Las Vegas.