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Thursday, May 9, 2013

Utah State Rugby Carries On Despite Obstacles

Like many smaller rugby schools around the country, Utah State University faces a number of challenges. But it’s in those challenges that teams like the Aggies come together. We recently caught up with USU team president Zac Root to get his thoughts on the Aggies season, the Utah Conference, and what it’s like running a rugby club on campus. He shares some interesting insight that’s well worth reading.

This Is American Rugby: How long as the club been around?

Zac Root: The club started in 1967.

TIAR: You play most of your matches against opponents in Utah, how is the level of competition?

ZR: The level of competition in Utah is very good. We play Utah and BYU at least once a year. With both being some of the top programs in the state we feel like we don’t get a harder match than when we play them. Our team hasn’t beaten either of those two teams in recent years but we put up a fight and go down swinging. We like to be the toughest team to play even if we can’t beat you. We are just lacking some fundamentals, that if we had a coach, we could become a top program in the state. We took second in the conference this year losing to Utah Valley (U of U and BYU are not in our conference as they do their own thing).

Take the jump to read more.

TIAR: Has joining the Utah Collegiate Rugby Conference been a good thing for the program?

ZR: Joining the conference has been interesting. In the past it sucked: no refs provided and no games scheduled. So we had to do both ourselves but still pay dues to a union. This year as the Conference came together and commissioner Bill Ungricht really tried hard to make it right. We had a couple games without refs but at least a schedule was made for us and dues were lowered. The thing that really bothers me is that we pay 65 dollars for a field ref and touch judges. The on-field ref is supposed to make 45 and the touches 10 each for the game as I understand it. Touch judges are never provided. The field ref pockets the full 65 and we all know they are doing this on purpose. The quality of the game is sacrificed and it makes things difficult when some unknowing fan has to touch, then people get mad at them for not knowing what they are doing. I think this a Referee Union thing but it’s still stupid.

TIAR: What kind of culture is there surrounding the team? Do players hang out together off the pitch? Get involved in the community?

ZR: We are fairly close knit group of guys. Everyone likes each other and hangs out fairly often. It got more involved as the season move on and we aren't losing as many players each semester. We are a different kind of rugby team. Most don’t drink or party and that has to do with the (LDS) Church influence over most. Some of us still do and we are the better group of friends. As for the community aspect we don’t get involved that often, we try but it always falls through. I think for us to gain better support we need to start doing it more.

TIAR: What is the clubs relationship with the school administration? Relationship with the student body?

ZR: The administration likes us and the student body doesn’t know we are here. This sounds weird but for some reason the fact that USU has a rugby team is unknown. We are the oldest and longest running school club.

TIAR: As a smaller program, what are some of the ways you have gone out to raise funds?

ZR: Fund raising is a mystery to us. We can’t get enough guys to commit to doing it. So we ask for sponsorships from local businesses and companies we do ok on money about 2000 a semester is raised. Just enough to travel in Utah and buy water.

TIAR: What are the ambitions for the club?

ZR: Ambitions for the club are not that high. A win over Utah or BYU in the near future would be the greatest thing to ever happen to us, as well as winning the conference title. Those two things are what we want to do.

TIAR: How do you deal with the natural turnover on the team on the administrative end and from the playing end?

ZR: Turnover is bad. We lose all of the freshmen after one year because they go on missions, then they never come back to play. Our team is always really young and really inexperienced. When guys do decide to stay they play their 4 years and graduate out. As it happens we just lost our best player. It’s really frustrating to have to teach everyone everything new every semester. I feel like this is the reason we do well in the Spring but bad in the Fall.

ZR: Having no coach or core group of guys is what is beating us. It is getting better though, I have high hopes for the team next year. If most of the people return who I think they will we should be pretty good.

1 comment:

  1. I don't mean to be too rude, but that is some seriously depressing reading for a major state university's rugby team in Utah.

    People on campus don't know you exist? Try doing some basic marketing. I note that the Utah State Rugby Twitter hasn't been updated since January. Instead of wondering why no one knows about your team, go out and spread the word.

    Want to beat Utah and BYU? Come up with a plan. Recruit. It's not as if Utah is lacking in local high school talent and surely not all of it goes to BYU or Utah.

    Also, show some leadership and get the guys on the team to help fund raise. Same goes for finding a coach.