Women’s rugby not advancing to varsity sport

Kayla Ebner, Managing Editor

The women’s club rugby team will no longer be moving up to full varsity status, according to John King, vice president of Student Life. 

The surprising announcement comes just over a year after the RWU Athletic Department announced that the team would be moving up for the 2018-2019 season. 

“We came to the conclusion that there are actually many more opportunities for a club program to compete with different teams,” King said. 

According to King, there are two “equally important” reasons that were both factors that deferred the decision to move the team to varsity. The first reason had to do with budgeting. The Athletic Department looked at what the budget could realistically do in terms of supporting the athletic program, and realized it may not be able to financially support the team. 

“As we got closer and closer, we began to realize that there are still some unmet needs in our current athletic programs,” King said. 

Another main reason for the changed decision was the difficult “landscape” of varsity rugby itself. After looking into it further, the Athletic Department realized that there are fewer programs for the sport than they had originally thought. According to King, there are only four current Division III rugby programs in the country, and only eight or nine teams that could have been scheduled to play our Hawks. Only two of those teams are within two-and-a-half hours of RWU, with the others being up to six hours away.

“We didn’t do our due diligence before we offered the club program the opportunity to go varsity, and that was a mistake that I take responsibility for,” King said. 

He also noted that the decision had nothing to do with the new athletic director, Kiki Jacobs. 

After this decision, King said the Athletic Department will be conducting a review of all the varsity and club sport offerings next year to determine the future fit for the sports at RWU. 

“We’re proud of the women’s club program and their tremendous success and we are committed, because of this decision, to do some program enhancements for them for next year,” King said. 

Junior Steph Kimner, a second row player for women’s rugby, said that she is disappointed that she will not be able to play on a varsity team before she graduates.

“I think overall the team is disappointed as many were very excited to become varsity,” Kimner said. “They should have fully evaluated the budget before getting us all excited, but it’s not going to stop us from playing our game.” 

Senior fly-half player Paige Murphy was also disappointed in the decision, as the team had been preparing to transition to varsity since the announcement came in February of 2017.

“I speak for the entire team when I say none of us saw this coming,” Murphy said. “I have seen this team win National Championships, the Beast of the East tournament multiple times, and move up from Division III to Division II. I hope the school can recognize all of these accomplishments in the future and help our team succeed in the ways I know we can by providing us more funding and increasing our status to varsity level.”