By Gabrielle Vargas
In November 2017, KU announced that they would be awarding the men’s rugby team elite club status as of January, another step in its growth at KU. In its 34 years as a sport at KU, the team has grown from a social club to an elite program, pushing past 70 team members.
Now, having been awarded elite club status and having gained greater financial stability, the team is looking to recruit more high-level players, according to KU rugby coach Gregory “Doc” Jones, who has been with the team since two years after its founding in 1984.
When asked what the awarded status meant to him, Jones said, “To me, this means the university has taken a stance to support and recognize that rugby on this campus is a high profile athletic endeavor.”
According to the KU website, a few of the requirements that a team must meet in order to qualify for elite club status include: existing on campus for at least five years, demonstrating an ability to recruit both internationally and all over the country, and being recognized as an NCAA or Olympic sport.
Since taking over in 1986, Jones’ teams have racked up over 900 victories and have recorded several undefeated seasons. They have competed for titles at both the regional and national level and are ranked among the top teams in Division I collegiate programs, according to the KU website.
As for changes taking place within the club, team members note several in particular.
“Perks of the elite club status include priority field time, early enrollment for next spring, as well as a $25,000 travel budget,” said Joseph O’Shields, the men’s rugby resident. “Not many people know that we’re the only team on campus that competes at a DI level. Our goal is to be nationally recognized.”
Team members have been recruited from as far away as Australia, England, Scotland, South Africa and Jamaica, along with American players who come to further pursue their passion for the sport.
According to Dylan Wingrove, treasurer of the Student Government Board, “SGB granted rugby this status because we felt the club was very deserving due to their various achievements in previous years.”
Their most recent achievements include winning the fifth annual Kutztown Sevens tournament on April 21, defeating teams like Notre Dame College and University of Buffalo. In February, the team played in the largest sevens tournament in North America and won first place.
KU’s men’s and women’s rugby sevens teams have been chosen to compete in the 2018 Collegiate Rugby Championship at Talen Energy Stadium in Chester in June.