Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Shippensburg Suspended Until 2018

By Brendan Triplett

April 12, 2016

It has been a difficult couple of years for rugby in Shippensburg (SHIP). After walking off a suspension and building a team without past leadership they spent most of the last few months working on gameplay and strength/conditioning. They seemed to be on a good run putting up good scores in the KRC 7’s Tournament in both the first and second legs of the three-part series. However, it wasn’t to last and a party in December of last year marked the beginning of the end for the team for quite some time. Only a few days ago a sanction was passed down that will suspend all rugby at Shippensburg University until the fall of 2018. Coach Dan Roth gave the sentiment that this seemingly harsh punishment is due in part to the fact that the team has just recently (this season) gotten off of a suspension for the same behavior in the past.

Take the jump to read more.
What does this mean for SHIP Rugby in the future? Well, we won’t be seeing them at the last leg of the KRC 7’s Tournament on April 16th. They, as well as Rutgers, will be replaced by another local team waiting in the wings for a chance to prove themselves, possibly Rowan and/or Drexel and a handful of others. Then there is the fact that they will be missing from the sport altogether for a couple of seasons which lends us to confront several difficult questions. Most importantly being the possibility of relegation from the D1AA KRC to a D2. Coach John “Spider” Sciotto sits on the board for the KRC and both he and the other board members will be discussing some hard choices with SHIP, USA Rugby, and the other coaches when looking to the future, “This does damage to the league and they (SHIP) have been a great ally but we need to be able to move forward and at some point the concern is not about them being competitive but about someone getting hurt.” There also has to be the consideration given to the idea that if a student still does want to play, they may be attached to a local team and the level of gameplay will be much different of that at the collegiate level. Needless to say there are many concerns but Coach Spider says this, “… at the end of the day it’s all about having fun and we need to do what best for the guys.” In this day and age safety is paramount but we have to remember that this is a sport and though it is building men and leaders it is supposed to be fun.

Can they come back sooner than expected? There is the glimmer of hope that SHIP administrators might see the great work that the boys are doing, off the pitch, and will allow them to scrimmage, under strict guidelines, sometime next year. This will take some work but the KRC prides itself on not only being a competitive conference but also one that supports all of its teams through the good times and the bad. “We are in an interesting position with the teams that are moving around this year. If we are in a good position and they (Shippensburg Rugby) are practicing and doing well then we will have a place right here for them,” said Coach Spider. The major concern for the KRC being that they need to make sure they maintain membership that guarantees a spot in the XV’s National Championships.

The boys at SHIP rugby will not disappear from our radar so do not think that we are seeing the last of them. The time now is being spent growing the sport in other ways. Brian Madden is the President of SHIP rugby and says that the goal of the team for the future now is, “…to build the culture of our team. We want to be known as rugby players and not for something like drinking even though it is often seen as part of the game. There is a culture that surrounds the sport that we are embracing and it speaks to the core values of World Rugby – Integrity, Solidarity, Passion, Discipline, and Respect. This is what we want to build our identity off of.” SHIP players are reaching out to local teams such as Old Gaelic and the Chambersburg Turtleheads to team up with and help local youth teams learn the sport and the ethos that comes with playing the game as good sportsman and professionals. Brian went on about this to say, “We know what the sport is meant to be and we have a chance here to help mold young rugby boys into men and build the right culture for them to grow up with.” Culture is the name of the game for SHIP and also the hot topic on the international circuit. SHIP will be center-stage as a case study to see if a focus on culture makes a difference at the collegiate level. They will be building their team from the ground up based on this ideal which sounds difficult but when we look at the best teams in the world they credit it all to culture and seeing a collegiate team look at it with such importance is refreshing.

There will, of course, be a challenge in getting the sport back on track after such a long hiatus. All of the seniors, juniors, and some sophomores will be gone, which gives us the understanding that the University is looking to purge the negative traditions that were once cultivated in the club. The boys are not fighting the sanctions and are not even upset with those that imposed them. Rather they are concerned about the sport for the University and are working to do everything that they can to show the University that they are learning, growing, and perhaps able to train or at least scrimmage in 2017 so that the sport does not die out at a time when it is becoming such a large spectacle both nationally and on the world stage. Time will tell if this is successful but if there is any team that can do it, it’s the boys from SHIP.

The 7’s tournament on the 16th will still go on without SHIP which means there will be some room for another team to make a mark and perhaps even upset the whole tournament. SHIP will be missed after such a strong performance in the first parts of the tournament but when they return we will see a more mature, trained, professional team with a mindset of cultivating a program based off of the ideals that are held on a pro-league level. They may have to do some work to get back to their former glory but they are not lost to us and I am excited to see this team progress as it gains support from the community through their own services. If they are relegated it won’t be for long, with Coach Roth at the helm, Old Gaelic at his call, and some sophomores and freshman that have been making names for themselves already, Shippensburg has an opportunity to be devastating. Work hard and come back to us soon boys, we’ll be waiting. Ruck on!

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