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Rugby teams facing challenging obstacles

October 11, 2012

Club sports, which include men’s and women’s rugby, lack the financial support provided to varsity sports, along with the other types of support that allow UW-River Falls varsity sports to prosper.

The structure of the rugby club team does not include coaches or trainers like the varsity teams have. The men’s club leader, instead of a coach with a whistle and a wealth of trained knowledge, is UWRF senior Casey Doten.

In a team scrimmage Chris Konieczka carries the ball into a crowd.
In a team scrimmage Chris Konieczka carries the ball into a crowd. (Megan Rodriguez/Student Voice)

Doten serves as the club’s captain, a position found in many sports, and as the president, which means that he “handles all the administrative stuff, both with the school, the USA Rugby and Minnesota Rugby Union as well. It’s a lot of paper work and filling out forms.” Even with this added responsibility, he does not consider this the most difficult aspect of being a club sport versus a varsity sport.

“I’d say one of the hardest things is that we don’t have the same access to facilities that the varsity sports do. We don’t have our own trainers at games, when people get hurt they have to go to the doctor. We don’t have the strength and conditioning coaches like the other sports would for the weight room,” said Doten.

Another stark contrast between a club sport and varsity sport is how they are funded. Rugby, and other club sports, receive money from Student Senate every year after applying for a specific amount. However, just like any other student organization on campus, that funding can be cut at any time.

“Every year we have to reevaluate what we can do and from one year to the next. We don’t know what kind of money we can have,” said Doten.

As a result of not having a consistently high budget, all of the rugby team’s materials are provided by the team members. The only exception are the jerseys, which were newly provided by the University to the team through a bonus of Senate funding, after the University told the team to change their name from ‘Fighting Cocks,’ the original name of the club, to something more appropriate.

Doten considered this change understandable because they were representing the University and said that the jerseys were in need of replacement soon anyway. These differences are only a few between the 16 varsity sports and the 18 club sports on campus. One of the biggest differences was highlighted by Crystal Lanning, UWRF assistant athletic director.

“I guess to be a varsity sport it means that you’re recognized by us as a varsity sport through your affiliation through conference and you’re recognized by the NCAA as a varsity sport,” said Lanning.

The NCAA is a group of 1,066 schools that are separated into different divisions, Divisions I, II, and III. The NCAA has rules for the members, which include rules on financial aid, eligibility, recruiting, and other aspects.

Not only do varsity athletes have to follow these requirements while they are training, they have to follow University regulations as well, which include things like codes of conduct to individual team rules on studying to maintain a 2.0 grade point average.

The process to change standings from a club sport to a varsity sport in order to have the same benefits is a long process. UWRF women’s hockey was the last team to make the change, and the decision by the UWRF Athletic Department was made after considering various issues.

“It’s a process of different things to make sure that they have a place to play, were going to have enough numbers, were going to stay in line, we also need to consider Title IX gender equity,” said Lanning.

If the rugby team were to make the same transition as women’s hockey, they would first need to be established at the national level and then UWRF could make the decision to accept it as a varsity sport.