RIO GRANDE, Ohio — University of Rio Grande athletic director Jeff Lanham has announced the addition of men’s and women’s rugby as varsity sports beginning in the Fall of 2021.
“With no previous varsity rugby program in southeast Ohio, Rio athletics is very happy to set the foundation with our program,” Lanham said. “Our teams will operate like any other athletic program and will receive full university support.”
Lanham said that rugby is a fast-growing sport, especially in Ohio, where programs already exist at schools such as Xavier University, Denison University and Franciscan University.
“We’re excited to open up this opportunity for student-athletes to compete at a high level, while receiving an outstanding education at the University of Rio Grande,” he added.
Lanham said Rio Grande plans to become a member of National Collegiate Rugby, an organization which provides a wide array of services and governance for men’s and women’s collegiate rugby programs.
NCR evolved from the National Small College Rugby Organization (NSCRO), which was founded in 2007 and originally created to support the growth and development of small college rugby. The group now serves college rugby programs of all sizes.
“I am delighted to have the University of Rio Grande join the NCR family,” said Jeremy Treece, NCR’s Chief Executive Officer. “We look forward to assisting them build their men’s and women’s varsity programs through our great team here.”
NCR currently features 25 Small College Division conferences and 16 conferences over three Open Divisions.
According to the NCR website, national championship pathways are provided for both men and women’s collegiate clubs.
The men’s division offers three championships offered between the two levels of play in XVs (traditional 15-player lineups) and two separate 7s (alternate 7-player lineup) championships. The women’s division now offers championships in both XVs and 7s for both levels of play.
“It’s wonderful to see smart and forward-thinking universities like Rio Grande, turn to rugby to increase their enrollment, retention and ROI (Return On Investment),” Greece said. “Rugby is truly one of those sports that can achieve all of those goals.”
Lanham said a national search for a coach to lead the program is underway.
“We want to compete at the national level and we believe we can be very competitive our first year,” said Lanham. “We plan to bring 25-30 student-athletes for each team for our first season. We’ll recruit our area very hard, while adding international players as well.”
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.