The Museum

Hall of Fame Mission Statement

The mission of the US Rugby Hall of Fame and Museum is to celebrate the history, honor the heroes, inspire the youth and preserve the legacy of rugby in the United States.

It is a private, nonprofit institution created and operated by the United States Rugby Football Foundation.

U.S. Rugby Football Foundation

Since 1963 the USRFF has operated under the mission to support and promote amateur rugby in the United States. The Foundation's goals are to cultivate leadership, sportsmanship and enthusiasm for competition at all levels of amateur rugby, as well as drive for academic excellence among America's youth. Its greatest focus is to build the sport of rugby at the youth level.

Over the years the foundation has grown from a three-man operation based out of Boston, MA, nearly 50 years ago, to its current status of six trustees, 35 directors and three international directors, with headquarters in San Diego, CA. The USRFF has maintained a 501c3 status since 1965.

The Hall of Fame is a private, nonprofit institution created and operated by the USRFF.

Induction process

The Foundation sends out a solicitation to the general rugby population for Hall of Fame nominations. All nominations must be received by early Fall so that a committee of Foundation Trustees and Directors can then review all nominations and vote, narrowing the pool, until 5-6 candidates are chosen as the following years induction class. Induction classes are announced each January.

Please send all nominations to:
United States Rugby Football Foundation
2131 Pan American Plaza
San Diego, CA 92101

The Foundation will be broadening its selection process in the future.

Contact Us

If you would like more information about the Hall of Fame, or if you have any suggestions or comments regarding our website, we’d enjoy hearing from you!

Learn more about the US Rugby Football Foundation at our website: www.usrugbyfoundation.org

To reach us by mail, please send all enquiries to USRFF Foundation Executive Director Brian Vizard at:
United States Rugby Football Foundation
2131 Pan American Plaza
San Diego, CA 92101

Mr. Vizard can also be reached by email at bvizard@usrugbyfoundation.com or by phone at 619-233-0765.

Dennis Storer 1932-2007

Dennis Storer

UCLA Rugby Coach and First USA Eagles Coach

YEAR OF INDUCTION:
2011

POSITION:
Center for Blackheath and Leicester

COACHING:
University of California, Los Angeles 1966-1982; First Eagles Coach 1976-1982

PLACE OF BIRTH:
Birmingham, England

Dennis Storer was a gentleman in every sense of the word. He taught American power-houses to play rugby with great spirit and within the laws of the game.

A native of Birmingham, England, Dennis Storer studied history at London University and Sports and Physical Education at Loughborough College. In rugby, he played center for Blackheath and Leicester, and even had a trial with the English national team. He served in the British Army’s Royal Engineers and emerged at the rank of captain. From there, he taught history and PE in a number of colleges and schools in England, before moving on to be a sports commentator.

Continuing his education, Storer moved to California, where he pursued his master’s degree from the University of Southern California and then his doctorate degree from UCLA. He studied the way body types contributed to success in contact sports and his master’s thesis explained how to convert American football players to rugby.

He put his academic endeavors to the test as the head coach of the UCLA rugby team, often recruiting football players and following the strict philosophy that certain positions in rugby required specific physiques. His methods were incredibly successful, for his UCLA coaching record from 1966-82 was 362-46-2. Those games were against collegiate teams, skilled club teams and while on international tours, notably to England and Australia. Storer’s Bruins took every All-Cal title and sixteen Southern California Division Championships during his coaching tenure. They also won three National Championships- 1968, 1972 and 1975.

Beyond UCLA, he served as the Eagles’ first coach, from 1976-82. He remained firm in the coaching techniques that he had honed at UCLA, at times turning away exceptional athletes who did not physically fit their positions.

Their first match was on January 31, 1976, in Anaheim, California, against rugby world-power Australia. According to former USA Rugby President, Ann Barry, “The Eagles played valiantly in a 24-12 defeat […], but more important than a win or loss, was the fact that the USA fielded a side that played with pride and dedication.”
The Eagle’s second match was Jun 12, 1976 in Chicago, Illinois. This was the first time in forty-two years, since the US won the gold medal in the 1924 Olympic Games, that a US national team faced France on the pitch. The result was a 14-33 loss for the Eagles.

In total, Storer coached the Eagles through thirteen matches. Opponents included Canada, England, Wales, South Africa and New Zealand. Twenty-five years after that first game against Australia, Storer was asked what was his best memory of coaching the Eagles. His answer: “The moments before the game versus England at Twickenham, October 1977.”

Storer’s coaching success was not limited to the Rugby pitch. From 1967-73 he was also the head coach for UCLA’s soccer team. They became an NCAA varsity sport in his first year as their coach, and together they won five All-Cal Titles, three West Coast Championships and finished three years as the NCAA Championship runners-up.

Upon retirement from the UCLA faculty, Storer was the British Olympic Executive Director, 1982-84, and served as the attaché for the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. He was a founding member of the British Community Advisory Board and the British Academy of Film and TV Arts/Los Angeles, as well as the Executive Director of the British American Business Counsel.

After the 1992 LA riots, Storer became the founding President and Chairman of the Spirit of Youth Foundation, which continues to “Foster learning, leadership and global understanding among disadvantaged American and British youth through educational activities and cultural exchange.”

In 1994, Queen Elizabeth II named Storer an Officer of the British Empire (OBE) for services to British American education, sports and commerce. He then went on to be elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in 1999.

Storer passed away in September of 2007, survived by his wife Dorothy and children Gareth, Anna Kristina and Maria.

Storer's picture perfect form as he fends off the opposition

Patrick Vincent 1926-1983

Patrick Vincent

Saint Mary's College Coach, All Black

YEAR OF INDUCTION:
2011

POSITION:
Fullback, Captain of Canterbury Province, Captain of NZ All Blacks

COACHING:
Saint Mary's College of California 1968-1983

PLACE OF BIRTH:
Christchurch, New Zealand

Pat Vincent was truly a renaissance man. Not only was he an athlete, but he was a favored educator, professional musician and a constant comic relief.

Born in New Zealand on January 6, 1926 as the youngest of nine children, Vincent's asthma was present even in his earliest years, and it forced his family to move to the dryer climate of Christchurch. There he attended Christchurch Boys' High School (CBHS), a place that held a substantial role in his life. Upon graduation from Christchurch Teachers' College and then Canterbury University, Vincent returned to CBHS, where he was a beloved history and geography master for twenty years.

Outside of the classroom, Vincent was the Captain of the Canterbury Province rugby team that took possession of the coveted Ranfurly Shield in 1953. This is the greatest prize in NZ provincial rugby. Once won, every match is a sudden-death defense of the shield, and Vincent captained twenty-three of twenty-five challenge games, holding onto the “Log ‘o Wood” for an impressive three years.

Vincent had been overlooked by the All Black selectors on multiple occasions, but he was extremely popular with players and the public, largely because he was a team man. After he captained the 1956 South Island Team to a win over the All Blacks, Vincent was finally selected, to not only be an All Black, but to be their Captain.

He played as the All Black's fullback for two tests against the South African Springboks. The first match was won by NZ, but the Springboks hadn't lost two tests in a row since 1896, and their streak would continue.

Unfortunately Vincent was the fall man for the loss, and he was dropped from the team. Though his All Black career was brief, he is one of four men to hold the distinction of captaining every All Black game in which he played.

At the end of the 1956 season, Vincent hung up his boots and retired as a NZ player. He was the first man to play in 100 games for Canterbury, ending his career at 102. A member of the press wrote: "Because of the comparative brevity of the game, and because of its hurly-burly atmosphere, Rugby football does not thrust up characters as cricket does, but Vincent is an exception. The game has gained as much from his personality as from his play: both are exceptional." (p.41)

Since childhood Vincent had been fascinated with America. Upon his retirement from playing, Vincent received a scholarship to complete his master's degree in American history at the University of Cal Berkeley in 1957. This was his first time to the US, and it was a long awaited journey.

He played on the Cal rugby team during the 1957 season. The game he knew so well was different in America. In a letter to friend Robin Stubbersfield, Vincent commented on American rugby: “The rugby is ragged- forwards are all hard- the gridiron influence. The back play is not as clever but determined” (106).

After completing his master's, Vincent traveled back to NZ. Though he no longer played there, he remained heavily involved in the game, first as a selector and coach for Canterbury, 1959-1962, and then as the 1966 and '67 President of Christchurch Secondary Schools' RFU.

Away from the pitch, Vincent continued teaching, but he had always carried a passion for music. He loved to sing, and would do so for hours on tour busses or upon any invitation at a party or bar. A former student approached him to become a professional jazz singer, and he released several successful albums, and held regular appearances at a cabaret.

He was a NZ rugby favorite, a provincial icon, a beloved teacher and a successful jazz singer. Vincent left it all behind to return to the Bay Area in 1967, where he lived for the rest of his life.

Soon he began to coach for Saint Mary's College of California (SMC). It was a small school with a small rugby program- just able to field one team. Under Vincent's leadership the sport exploded, and soon the Gales had six teams. People had to be turned away from rugby because it was affecting other sports programs at the small college. Everyone wanted to play rugby, and everyone wanted to play for Vincent.

Annual Easter-time tours, either international or domestic, became an SMC rugby tradition that continues to this day. Vincent promoted the tours for the camaraderie they built and for the educational and cultural experiences that they brought to the participants. He believed that you had to meet people in their own environments to broaden your horizons.

Perhaps Vincent's favorite tour was the 1980 tour he brought to NZ. The group was huge, with 108 participants. They played nine games, many against universities, but he made sure to include a game with his alma matter, CBHS. The Gales had a 2-6-1 record for the tour. A loosing record was of little concern to Vincent, because he wanted the boys to play against great teams so that they would in turn learn to play great rugby. He was markedly annoyed when CBHS fielded their second side and the Gales easily won the game. They were there to learn.

After five years of coaching for SMC, Vincent was appointed to the Athletic Department in 1973. He became a member of the faculty and held many roles besides the one of coach. He was heavily involved in student life, as a director of the Student Union and a counselor in the residence halls. His sense of humor endeared him to both staff and students.

Outside of the College, he was the President of the Northern California Rugby Union, 1973-76, a charter signer and Founder of USA Rugby, 1975, and a Governor of the US Union, 1975-77. He also coached and then managed the combined Northern and Southern California team, called the Grizzlies, that represented the state on tours in Canada and New Zealand.

In addition to the important roles he played in the US national rugby scene, he also wrote coaching manuals that were of great assistance to the sport, e.g. “Rugby Football for Americans.” A look at his “How To Make A Half Back From Nothing' illustrates his famous sense of humor and interesting perspective, while giving a little insight into his coaching philosophy.

How To Make A Halfback From Nothing
By Pat B. Vincent, St. Mary's College

  • Look for physique, 5'7-8”, 140-160 pounds
  • Hope that he has an athletic background. (My best prospective is a sophomore who won a wrestling scholarship to Cal)
  • Hope that he is confident, almost cocky in attitude so that he will learn to direct things
  • Erase any habits he may carry over from previous sports, e.g. Basketball, forward throw off the chest. When a Player makes a bad option I call out “Idiot!” They can then judge their progress by the number of “Idiots” they incur during a game.
  • Play games at practice a lot. You have to teach the whole game, rules, attitude, techniques, tactics, positional play, all the time.
  • Bring them along in an orderly manner of progression.
  • Do not expect too much, too soon.
  • Involve them in how teams are selected and built, give them responsibility. I usually make the scrum half captain or vice captain and involve them in organizing the team.
  • Encourage them.
  • Try to give them a good trip a year, especially for their senior year in the first fifteen.
  • They must enjoy what they are doing. (p.115)

Vincent's advice on making a halfback should be heeded, because he was one- he was a great NZ halfback. In fact, upon the century of the Canterbury Rugby Union, the newspaper, The Christchurch Star, conducted a competition to select the best players from the province since 1945. Chosen by the judging panel and the readers, Vincent was honored by being named the Canterbury halfback of the century.

Having been afflicted with asthma his entire life, Vincent accomplished an astounding amount that required the strength of his lungs. Unfortunately, on a flight returning from an SMC Easter tour in Europe, Vincent suffered an asthma attack. He passed away at the untimely age of 57.

His funeral was the largest SMC had seen, and he is remembered to this day by the Gales. Their coach gathers the team at the beginning of every new year and talks about the legacy of Pat Vincent. They honor him by playing up to standards by which he would be proud on the Patrick Vincent Memorial Field.

 

Pat Vincent is one of only four men to hold the distinction of captaining every All Black game in which he played.

Keith Seaber 1931

Keith Seaber

President of the Midwest Union, Vice President of the US Union, Eagles Team Manager

YEAR OF INDUCTION:
2011

COACHING:
Midwest Team, 1972-1978

PLACE OF BIRTH:
England

Keith Seaber first played rugby in 1940 at the Cambridge School for Boys, and he continued playing during his service in the Royal Navy.

When Seaber immigrated to Canada in 1953, he began playing with the Bytown Beavers (now the Ottawa Beavers) and then in 1958 with the Toronto Saracens. It was at that time that he began to referee. A normal Saturday would include Seaber playing a 1st XV game, then refereeing a 2nd XV match, and often again playing with a 3rd XV team.

It was in Toronto that Seaber began his involvement with rugby administration. He was a Director of the Ontario Union, later becoming Vice-President. In addition, he was the Vice-Chairman of the Rugby Tours Committee of Canada, now known as the CRU.

Seaber remembers his days involved with Canadian rugby fondly. His best memory of Canada was while he was the Chairman of the Ontario selection Committee. He managed and coached the Ontario side that played Scotland, only loosing 16-10. Scotland had been a powerhouse that year as the grand slam winners of 1963/4. That game made lifelong friendships that he still maintains with players from Melrose, Scotland.

In 1956 Seaber moved to St. Louis, MO. There he joined the Ramblers and continued both playing and refereeing. This lead him to join the Midwest Union, where he filled many positions, including: Chairman of selectors; Chair of the Referees Committee; President of the Midwest Union 1971-2 and June 1980- January 1981; and Coach of the Midwest team from 1972-1978. Likely the greatest match he coached during that time was in 1976 against the English Champions, the London Welsh. Seaber's Midwest team won 17-16.

Seaber represented the Midwest Union at the 1975 formation of the US National Rugby Union. He served for 15 years on the US Union's Board of Directors, and at times he held the positions of Secretary and Vice-president.

He managed the first Eagles team in 1976 when they played against Australia and coached the Eagles in the first Can-Am match in 1977.

Because of his relationship with Canadian rugby, Seaber attended all of the first 25 Can-Am games, at times serving as the only US official present at the match.

Seaber was also very involved with the Cougars, a team that played internationally and was compiled of players from across the US. He managed the 1978 team that toured in South Africa and subsequently organized matches against Northampton and Melrose during their tours to the US.

He again took the Cougars on tour in 1985. They traveled the Southwest of England after playing the Harlequins/Lords Taverners' Sevens. To end the tour they traveled to Scotland to play in the Kelso Sevens. Though they lost in the semi-finals, they were immediately invited to the following year's Melrose Sevens.

In the 1986 Melrose Sevens the Cougars lost to the Racing Club of France during the semi-final. At the end of the match, as player Brian Vizard was leaving the field, he raised his arm to the stands. The crowd responded with a standing ovation for the Cougars. They saluted the high caliber of players, both on and off the field, and the selection of such players was something that Seaber took great pride in. He considers this one of his greatest moments in rugby.

In 1996, upon the request of National Team coach, Jack Clark, Seaber became the Director of Sevens for the National Teams. He took those teams to Mar de Plata, Argentina, Punta del Este, Uruguay, Paris, Dubai, and Hong Kong.

During the Punta del Este and Paris tournaments, he attended talks to form a World Series of Sevens. At the Paris meeting the IRB announced their intention to form an international series of Sevens tournaments. A committee was formed and Seaber was chosen to represent all of the non-IRB member countries. In Malaysia, 1988, Seaber, Stephen Baines (IRB Secretary), Lee Smith (IRB), Fraser Neil (NZ & Australia) and Allen Payne (Hong Kong RFU) formed the IRB Sevens World Series.

After a serious car accident and subsequent health problems, Seaber retired from active rugby administration in 2002. He remains a dedicated member and supporter of the Bend Roughriders Club in Bend, Oregon.

Keith Seaber with US Team Doctor 'Silky' Sullivan

Miles 'Doc' Hudson 1909-1999

Miles 'Doc' Hudson

UC Berkeley Coach, Winningest Coach in US Rugby History

YEAR OF INDUCTION:
2011

COACHING:
University of California, Berkeley 1938-1974

PLACE OF BIRTH:
New Zealand

Hudson was born November 15, 1909 in New Zealand. At age 19 he traveled to the United States to attend the University of California Berkeley. He met his wife, Ladene, while at Berkeley and they were married in 1937. Upon graduation, he attended dental school in San Francisco. It was at this time that Hudson got involved with Cal Rugby, first as a player, and then as their freshman coach.

He went on to be the head coach of the Cal Golden Bears for 36 seasons, 1938-1974. His record was unprecedented and remains unrivaled, with 339 wins, 84 losses and 23 ties. Hudson is the ‘winningest’ rugby coach in the history of US rugby.

In addition to competing against domestic clubs and collegiate teams, Hudson led the bears to competed against some of the greatest international competition. This included such rugby powerhouses as the New Zealand All Blacks, the Australian Wallabies and the Oxford-Cambridge combined team.

During his tenure as head coach, Hudson led the Bears on a number of international tours. The team he assembled for the 1965 tour to Australia and New Zealand is thought to be the greatest Cal rugby team to ever hit the pitch. Their most notable games included a 25-14 victory over Auckland University and an 8-8 draw against Queensland. The Bears ended the tour with a record of 5-2-2.

When reflecting back on Hudson, Jack Clark, current Cal and US National Team coach said, “Doc is one of the forefathers of the sport of rugby in this country…He is one of just a small handful of people who made the sport popular in this country, and his record of success is absolutely unprecedented.”

Outside of coaching, Hudson was also a successful Bay Area dentist. During his 62 year marriage he lived in Oakland and went on to settle down just through the Berkeley hills, in Lafayette, CA. He and wife Ladene had four children, Bob, Doug, Ron and Shelly, and they went on to have a number of grandchildren. Hudson passed away in late 1999.

Today you will be reminded of Hudson every time you attend a Cal rugby home game. Standing on Witter Field is the Doc Hudson Memorial Field House. The building honors Hudson as arguably the greatest rugby coach in US history.

Cal Bears Coach Miles 'Doc' Hudson, The Winningest Coach in US Rugby History

Colby E. "Babe" Slater 1896-1965

Colby E. "Babe" Slater

In 1912, he and brother Norman led the Berkeley High School rugby team to county, regional, and state rugby titles.

Starred in rugby, football, basketball, and baseball while at the University Farm School in Davis (now the University of California, Davis).

Was one of the first players chosen for the 1920 U.S. Olympic Gold Medal winning rugby team.

Was the first player chosen for the 1924 U.S. Olympic Gold Medal winning rugby team and was subsequently elected team captain by his teammates.

The annual Colby E. "Babe" Slater Memorial Athletic Award and the "Babe" Slater Perpetual Athletic Trophy goes each spring to the Davis student selected as Athlete of the Year.

 

Colby E. "Babe" Slater was born on April 30, 1896 in Berkeley, California. He had two older brothers and an older sister.

Babe and his brother Norman attended Berkeley High School, played on the school's athletic teams, and participated in sporting events on the University of California campus in Berkeley. In 1912, Babe and Norman led the Berkeley High School rugby team to county, regional, and state titles.

In 1914, Babe became a student at the University Farm School in Davis (now the University of California, Davis). The University Farm School, a branch of the University of California's College of Agriculture, offered a three-year course in the principles and practices of agriculture. While at the University Farm, Slater starred in rugby, football, basketball, and baseball. He served as Basketball Team Captain, Junior Class President, House Manager for the Calpha Fraternity, Thanksgiving Day Special Chairman, Picnic Day Parade Chairman, and Picnic Day General Chairman.

When Slater graduated from the University Farm School in May 1917, the First World War was underway. Slater registered for the newly instated draft in June 1917, enlisted in the United States Army in September, and was promoted to Corporal in November.

Slater's company arrived in Southampton, England on July 19, 1918. He served with the Medical Corps and he and his company were "on the move" from July to November in France and Belgium, tending to wounded soldiers, evacuating them from battlefields to hospitals, and setting up dressing stations. Often they came under fire from German aircraft and shelling since they had to work near the front lines. On November 11, 1918, an armistice was signed between the Allies and Germany, and the fighting stopped. Slater's company remained in France until April 1919, when they were able to sail back to America. From New York, Slater and other returning soldiers traveled by rail to California. On May 9, 1919, they received a heroes' welcome in San Francisco. Slater's military service ended May 23, 1919.

After Slater returned from the war, he raised sheep, hogs, and feed in Woodland, California. Still an outstanding athlete, Slater played and coached for the Woodland, Yolo Post No. 77, American Legion's football and basketball teams. Slater led Woodland's American Legion football team to the Northern California Championship in 1927.

Due to the soaring popularity of American football, rugby had virtually disappeared from the United States except in California. In 1920, when the Olympic Games Committee allowed the formation of a United States Olympic Rugby Team, it was no surprise that every team member was a Californian. Slater was one of the first players chosen for the team. The 1920 Olympic Games were held in Antwerp, Belgium. The U.S. Olympic Rugby Team was the only team that dared to challenge the powerful French team, and the French eventually condescended to play the inexperienced Americans. On September 5, 1920, the Americans won the gold medal by unexpectedly beating the French, 8-0.

In 1924, the U.S. Olympic Rugby Team was again made up of Californians, with the exception of one player from the eastern U.S. Babe Slater was the first player chosen for the team and was subsequently elected team captain by his teammates. His brother Norman was also on the team. At the 1924 Paris Olympic Games, only three teams entered the rugby competition: France, Romania, and the United States. Although the Americans had been well received in London, where they had played three exhibition games against English rugby teams, the French public was hostile toward the U.S. team. The French rugby team, regarded as the most skilled in the world, easily beat the Romanians, 61-3 on May 4, 1924.

On May 11th, the United States defeated Romania 37-0. The U.S. Olympic Rugby Team was mainly made up of basketball and American football players who did not have much experience playing rugby, yet their size, fitness, and athletic ability made them formidable opponents. On May 18, 1924, the U.S. Olympic Rugby Team won gold medals by defeating France 17-3 at Colombes Stadium. Angry French fans rioted in the stands, assaulted American supporters, and jeered the U.S. Olympic Rugby Team during the medal ceremony. After the American victory, the French government apologized for the behavior of the French fans. Due in part to the fans' violence, rugby was not included in future Olympic games.

Circa 1927, Slater moved from Woodland to Clarksburg, California and bought rich farming land located in the Holland Land Company subdivision. Slater farmed there for close to thirty years. Slater married Virginia Cave (1909-1991) in 1932, and they had one daughter, Marilyn. In 1955, Marilyn graduated from the University of California, Davis. She married Richard McCapes in August 1955. Soon after his daughter married, Slater retired from farming.

Slater was active in many University of California, Davis organizations including the Cal Aggie Alumni Association, Friends of the Davis Campus, the UC Davis Alumni Agricultural Advisory Committee, the UC Davis Alumni Scholarship Foundation, and the then secret campus society Sword and Sandals. He and Mrs. Slater were often honored guests for Picnic Day at UC Davis. Slater was a Picnic Day parade judge in 1956. In 1956 and 1957, he arranged for reunions of the classes of 1916 and 1917 to be held on the UC Davis campus during Picnic Day.

Also active in the local community, Slater was a member of the Woodland, Yolo Post No. 77, American Legion and the Woodland Elks Lodge, No. 1299. He was elected president of the Yolo County Farm Bureau in 1951 and 1952, and, over the years, he and Mrs. Slater went on many Farm Bureau trips including travel to Australia, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Japan, and Mexico.

Colby E. “Babe” Slater died on January 30, 1965. Later that year, the Calpha agricultural fraternity established the Colby E. "Babe" Slater Memorial Athletic Award at the University of California, Davis. This annual award and the "Babe" Slater Perpetual Athletic Trophy went each spring to the Davis student selected as Athlete of the Year. In addition, Slater was posthumously inducted into the Woodland Athletic Hall of Fame (1973) and the Cal Aggies Athletic Hall of Fame (1980) at the University of California, Davis.

Excerpted biography from the description of the Colby E. "Babe" Slater Collection D-394 at Special Collections, Library, University of California, Davis.  For further information contact:
http://www.lib.ucdavis.edu/dept/specol/

For a full listing of the Colby E. "Babe" Slater Collection see: http://findaid.oac.cdlib.org/findaid/ark:/13030/kt5p3020w9/

The two captains and the referee prior to the 1924 Olympic Gold Medal match. U.S. captain, Colby E. "Babe" Slater is on the left. (Courtesy University of California at Davis)

Harry F. Langenberg 1909-2005

Harry F. Langenberg

Co-founded the Missouri Rugby Football Union in 1933.

Served as Secretary of the Missouri Rugby Football Union from 1933-1983.

Co-founded the Rambler Rugby Club in St. Louis, MO in 1933.

Served as Secretary for the Rambler Rugby Club for over 50 years.

Organized and promoted the first Missouri Rugby Football Union Ruggerfest Invitational Rugby Tournament in 1948. The tournament is still going strong today.

In 1991, participated in his last rugby match, at Princeton University Rugby Team's 60th anniversary. He was 82 years old.

Harry F. Langenberg was born May 20, 1909 in St. Louis, MO. He entered Princeton University as a freshman in the fall of 1927 and graduated with the class of 1931. While at Princeton, Langenberg was introduced to the sport of rugby. At that time, competition was limited to teams representing Ivy League colleges in the Northeast, and a few clubs based in Chicago and California. During his college years Langenberg developed into an avid player and fan of rugby, as well as an assistant coach of the Princeton team.

Upon his return to St. Louis in 1931, Langenberg began a life-long career as a securities broker and economic analyst. He maintained his interest in amateur athletics and in 1933 he joined forces with two others who shared his passion for rugby, Edmond St. John Hoogewerf, a St. Louis University professor from England, and Hugo Walther, a young lawyer and recent Yale graduate. Together, guided by Langenberg’s inspiration and leadership, the three organized the Missouri Rugby Football Union (MRFU) with the intent of introducing and promoting the game of rugby in St. Louis and environs. They patterned the new organization after that of the governing body of the game in England, the Rugby Football Union, Twickenham. The MRFU was the first organization of its kind and purpose in the United States.

Langenberg became the first Secretary of the MRFU at its inception in 1933, and continued in that key role for 50 years. In that capacity Langenberg assumed responsibility and leadership, coordination and administration of all MRFU activities, communications and record keeping. His unfailing dedication and commitment to the game, and especially to those who played it, sustained the Union throughout those five decades and laid the foundation for its ongoing viability as a Territorial Union within the United States of America Rugby Football Union (USARFU).

The first club to be organized under the MRFU was the Rambler Rugby Club, also in 1933. The Ramblers first game was played in Forest Park in the spring of 1934 against a Chicago-based team comprised largely of immigrants from Lancashire, England. Langenberg not only participated in that game, but he also played a key role in founding the Rambler Club and recruiting players from all walks of life. He became the first Secretary of the Rambler Rugby Club, providing the same lifeblood for the club as he did for the MRFU, and continued in that role until the late 1980s when he retired from regular play. He participated in his final game at his 60th college reunion at Princeton University in 1991, at the age of 82.

As a direct result of Langenberg’s dedication over the years, historical records and memorabilia have been preserved dating to the beginning of the Rambler Rugby Club. He also wrote and financed a Rambler newsletter, organized countless social functions and underwrote numerous other activities for both the Rambler Club and the MRFU.

Among Langenberg’s many accomplishments throughout his more than 50 years of active involvement in the game, the following stood out:

  • Securing membership for the MRFU in the Rugby Football Union, Twickenham, England by application filed in 1933 and approved March 30, 1966.
  • Arranging for the use of playing fields in Forest Park in 1934, where rugby continues to be played today.
  • Creating and maintaining minutes, correspondence, publications, schedules and scores, and other related documents dating from 1934.
  • Publishing and distributing annual dossiers and periodic newsletters.
  • Scheduling and securing facilities for all meetings of the Board of the MRFU and for meetings of club representatives.
  • Orchestrating and hosting the annual MRFU awards ceremonies.
  • Hosting an annual social event to which all players, officials, officers and other guests were invited, for the primary purpose of promoting friendship and camaraderie among all those interested in the game.
  • Promoting youth rugby among high school age players, beginning in the 1930s and continuing until his retirement.
  • Organizing and promoting the 1st MRFU Ruggerfest in 1948, an invitational tournament that has become an annual tradition that continues today. This year’s longest running premier national rugby tournament consisted of 72 teams.
  • Stimulating interest and providing encouragement and support over the years to players who have relocated from St. Louis and have organized clubs in other areas of the U.S.
  • Planning, promoting and executing ceremonies commemorating the 50th anniversary of the MRFU, celebrated in 1983 at the Missouri Botanical Garden. Luminaries in attendance included John V. Smith, then President of the Rugby Football Union, Twickenham, England.

Although he had retired from playing, Langenberg continued to serve the game as an Emeritus Member of the MRFU.

In addition to his rugby accomplishments, Langenberg was a founder of the Octopus Club (an amateur ice hockey club), the Claytonshire Coaching Club and the Discussion Club, an economic discussion group which he served as president since 1960.

Over the years Langenberg consistently proclaimed the virtues of amateurism in sports. His steadfast belief that “the game is always greater than the score” is best illustrated by these guiding principles, which he has both espoused and lived by:

1. Player rather than watch
2. Respect the referee
3. Demonstrate sportsmanship and respect for opponents, rather than “win at all costs”
4. Interact socially and develop friendships with opponents and officials
5. Play as an amateur, for love of the game

In the modern era of select sides, corporate sponsorships and paid players, Harry Langenberg’s philosophy remains that rugby is not an occupation, but is an enjoyable form of competition on the field, followed by socializing with friends, new and old. Thanks to his vision and dedication, the MRFU today includes 25 clubs and 542 registered players, testimony to his incalculable contributions to the game spanning 70 years.



Harry Langenberg died on September 15, 2005, of complications from pneumonia. He is survived by three children and five grandchildren.

Harry Langenberg founded the Rambler Rugby Club in St. Louis, MO in 1933.

Ed Lee 1912-1991

Ed Lee

Captain of the 1934 Princeton University championship team.

Founding member of the Eastern Rugby Union and served as an officer, director and attorney with the ERU for nearly 40 years.

Founding member of the United States of America Rugby Football Union.

Ed Lee's entire life was dedicated to the sport of rugby in America. He captained and played on Princeton University's championship rugby team in 1934. The only loss that year was to a touring Cambridge University side. After graduating from Princeton, Ed continued to play rugby while attending Yale Law School. After graduating from Yale, he played for and captained the New York Rugby Football Club.

Ed was a founding member of the Eastern Rugby Union and served as an officer, director and attorney with the ERU for nearly 40 years. He was also a founding member of the United States of America Rugby Football Union (USARFU) in 1975.

Ed Lee was truly America's Ambassador of Rugby for more than 50 years. Through his leadership, Ed help found more than a dozen Unions and foster growth of the sport through planing, coaching and youth development to establish rugby in America.

No request of help to Ed was too small or too big to be fullfilled. His expertise and care of every detail helped nuture many young men and women to carry the game forward at local, club, college, national, and international levels.

He loved the game and he embodied all of the principles of sportsmanship and fellowship to every person in the game, on and off the field. His lifelong passion for Rugby in America earned Ed his place in the U.S. Rugby Hall of Fame.

A team photo of the 1932 Princeton University side. Ed Lee is in the front row, far left. Lee was captain of the 1934 Princeton championship team.

Craig B. Sweeney 1947-1978

Craig B. Sweeney

Helped lead UCLA and then the Santa Monica Rugby Club to back to back Monterey Tournament titles in 1972 and 1973.

Co-founding member of the Santa Monica Rugby Club.

Played in the first four tests for the United States Eagles, captaining the team in the third and fourth tests.

Enshrined in the UCLA and Santa Monica Rugby Club's Halls of Fame.

The USA Classic Eagles created the Craig Sweeney Award, presented to those who have made outstanding contributions to rugby in the United States.

Craig B. Sweeney was born on May 8, 1947. He was introduced to the sport of rugby in 1969 while attending Stanford University, class of 1970. Later that year, he enrolled at UCLA to earn his MBA. At that time UCLA was not only one of the top universities in the country but was also home to one of the best rugby teams in the United States. Sweeney played second row for the Bruins from 1970-72 and was a member of the 1972 UCLA team that won the prestigious Monterey International Rugby Tournament and hence the title of unofficial national champions.

That same year Sweeney toured with the Pacific Coast Grizzlies representative side to New Zealand. He would go on to represent the Grizzlies until 1977 and played against Wales, Ireland and Fiji. Sweeney also played for and captained the Southern California Griffins All-Star team from 1972-77.

Having earned his MBA from UCLA in 1972, he and a number of former UCLA teammates wanted to keep a good thing going so they, along with some USC and Saint Mary’s grads, founded the Santa Monica Rugby Club in 1973. Sweeney’s Santa Monica club won the Monterey Tournament title in 1973 earning back to back national championships. Sweeney was a member of the SMRC team that toured Wales in 1973 and Scotland and Ireland in 1977.

Sweeney showed his dedication to the sport and his new club by driving 120 miles round trip twice a week from his home in Newport Beach to training sessions in Santa Monica. Santa Monica was a feared team up and down the Pacific Coast and in addition to winning the Monterey title in 1973, SMRC won San Diego’s OMBAC Rugby Tournament title five years in a row with Sweeney anchoring the SMRC engine room.

With the formation of the United States of America Rugby Football Union (USARFU) in 1975, it wasn’t long before discussions began about forming the United States National Rugby Team, the Eagles. And one of the names on every selector’s list was Sweeney’s. He played second row in the very first test match the Eagles ever played, against Australia, in Los Angles on January 31, 1976.

He followed that up with playing in the Eagles second test match against France in Chicago on June 12, 1976. He then captained the Eagles in their next, and Sweeney’s last, two matches; against Canada in Burnaby, British Columbia on May 21, 1977 and against England at Twickenham on October 15, 1977.

On March 31, 1978, while on a training run preparing for the Boston Marathon, Sweeney died of congestive heart failure.

Sweeney was one of UCLA’s, Santa Monica’s and the United States finest rugby players and is fondly remembered by UCLA, the Santa Monica Rugby Club and by the USA Classic Eagles. Sweeney was enshrined in the UCLA Rugby Hall of Fame and the Santa Monica Rugby Club Hall of Fame. In addition, the SMRC established the Craig Sweeney Fund to honor its former captain. The Classic Eagles created the Craig Sweeney Award, presented to those who have made outstanding contributions to rugby in the United States.

Sweeney’s sister, Nancy Jo Lindus, endowed the Craig Sweeney Award at Polytechnic School in Pasadena, California in 1983. The honor is awarded annually to the high school athlete who demonstrates exemplary enthusiasm, integrity, respect for others and leadership on the field of play. Sweeney’s nephew, Scott Lindus, is a past recipient of the Craig Sweeney Award.

The Santa Monica Rugby Club in the early 1970s was a U.S. powerhouse. Craig Sweeney is fifth from the right in the back row.

Kevin Higgins 1962-1996

Kevin Higgins

Starred for the United States in both 7s and 15s. Played in 28 test matches for the Eagles and was captain in three of those matches. Played 16 matches for the U.S. 7s team.

Played his first game for the United States while still a junior in college.

Led the Old Mission Beach Athletic Club (OMBAC), in San Diego, California to national championships in 1988 and 1989.

Played for the United States in the 1987 and 1991 Rugby World Cups.

In 1991, was the first Eagle of the modern era to be invited on the Barbarians Easter Tour. He was also selected for the Teljoy World XV, playing with a group of international all-stars in South Africa.

Former United States National Team captain Kevin Higgins was born on November 8, 1962 in Buffalo, New York. He had established himself as a superior athlete and one of the fastest guys on his teams by the time he was in high school. He started making a name for himself as a junior tailback for California football powerhouse Mater Dei High School. In his senior year, Higgins carried the football 187 times for 1,100 yards and with no fumbles, an early sign of his sure handedness with a rugby ball. He also returned punts and kickoffs. In his senior year he was All Angeles League, All Orange County, and was selected as Mater Dei's Offensive Player of the Year.

He was also outstanding on the track, as he went undefeated in the 300 low hurdles in both his junior and senior years, won the Angeles League's 400 meters and was anchor on the league champion 400 meter and mile relay teams, all on the same day in his senior season. He was voted Mater Dei’s and the Angeles League’s Most Valuable Track Athlete.

Higgins was recruited by a number of universities but he decided on Cal Poly at San Luis Obispo. He was the leading rusher and scorer on the undefeated Cal Poly freshman football team. When the Cal Poly head coach and his staff left that first year for Arizona, Kevin and several of his football teammates left football and joined the SLO Rugby Team.

But one sport’s loss was another sport’s gain as Higgins touched a rugby ball for the first time in his sophomore year and fell in love with the sport immediately. His rise in rugby was meteoric. He played four seasons at Cal Poly and was chosen as a Collegiate All-American his last three years. His prowess on the rugby field soon caught the eyes of U.S. National Team selectors and Higgins played in his first of 28 test matches while a junior in college, in a victory over Japan in Tokyo on April 21, 1985.

Higgins went on to become a star for the USA in both XVs and 7s. He played for the USA at both center and wing and in both the 1987 and 1991 Rugby World Cups. Higgins was the first player in the USA to reach 25 caps, earning 7 at wing and 21 at centre, while scoring four tries for the Eagles. He also played for the USA 7s team 16 times. Higgins captained the USA during the 1989 tour to Argentina and Uruguay and against Argentina at home, also in 1989.  He appeared for the USA in the Hong Kong 7s in 1988, 1990, and 1991.   
 


“Higgy”, as he was known, was an inventive and exciting player.  His red hair making him easily identifiable on the field, Higgins redefined the position of center with his agile moves, speed, and ability to crash up the middle. He set the standard for both aspiring Eagles as well as competitive weekend players.

Off the field, Higgy was an inspiring leader and a true friend. He was always ready to lighten a moment with his quick wit and on most tours, he was charged with keeping the team loose. He did just that on one bus trip to a training session in Grenfell, Australia. Higgy sold Bingo cards to all the players and coaches on the bus and cleverly figured out how everyone on the bus would hit Bingo on the exact same number. The most difficult part of the whole ordeal was Higgy actually being able to get the “O 72” out of his mouth before he collapsed in laughter in the aisle.



In 1991, Higgins was the first Eagle of the modern era to be invited on the Barbarians Easter Tour. He was also selected for the Teljoy World XV, teaming with the likes of Alan and Gary Whetton, Grant Fox, Bernie Fraser, Stan Pilecki, Buck Shelford and fellow American, Mike Purcell.

Higgins played the majority of his club rugby for the Old Mission Beach Athletic Club (OMBAC) in San Diego, California. He helped lead OMBAC to two national championships in 1988 and 1989. He finished his club rugby with the Old Blues of Northern California.

While his records may no longer stand, Higgy's influence on USA rugby is still felt throughout the country. He defined larger than life for players, fans, coaches and friends with his aggressive play, exemplary leadership & off-field lust for life. He remains the player kids today hear about and aspire to emulate. Higgins left an indelible mark on USA Rugby before retiring for medical reasons immediately following the 1991 Rugby World Cup.

After Higgy retired from international play, he was an assistant coach with the National Champion University of California collegiate rugby team from 1993-96. Working with USA National Team Coach and Cal Head Coach Jack Clark, Higgins was primarily responsible for the backs. He molded several future USA Eagles including centre Ray Green and scrumhalf Andre Bachelet.

Green remembers Higgy’s passion for the game and life. “He would have given anything to lace up his boots again to have a run with us. You could always see the fire in his eyes and his enthusiasm was contagious. His pre-game pep talks were legendary - full of inspiration, sound advice and spittle shooting from his lips. He convinced us that we could beat anyone around the corner with a straight 'hands' call and made 'jinking and linking' part of our everyday vocabulary. Needless to say his after match hijinks lived up to the expectations all of us had for a world traveled, rugby legend. We knew he was the real deal and would have followed him anywhere.”

As a tribute to one of the greats of U.S. Rugby, the United States Rugby Football Foundation created the Kevin Higgins Scholarship Program in 2008. As of 2012, 41 deserving high school graduates received $1,000 to further their rugby and education at the collegiate level.

Kevin Higgins passed away on October 30, 1996.

Kevin Higgins played 28 tests for the United States and captained in three of those matches. He also played in 16 matches for the USA 7s team.

A. Jon Prusmack 1942-

A. Jon Prusmack

Founded Scrumdown in 1968. The publication's name was changed to Rugby Magazine in 1972. In 2010, the magazine went from print to digital format.

In 1974, wrote one of the first U.S. rugby coaching books, Rugby: A Guide for Players, Coaches and Spectators.

In 2005, purchased the North American stop on the IRB Sevens World Series circuit. The 2013 USA 7s Tournament in Las Vegas drew a three-day attendance of over 67,000.

In 2010, created the Collegiate Rugby Championships (CRC).

An accomplished artist, he has painted several rugby works.

Prior his introduction to rugby, Jon Prusmack was a gifted football player. Good enough, in fact, to attend the University of Notre Dame on a football scholarship from 1960 to 1962, where he also studied architecture and art. Apparently not finding this schedule demanding enough, he joined the United States Marine Corps Platoon Leaders Class program, completing basic training in 1961.

Prusmack transferred to the United States Naval Academy, and was a member of the varsity football team, switching between halfback and tailback, in 1964. While at the Academy, Prusmack was Art Editor of the LOG Magazine. He resigned from the USNA in the spring of 1965 and transferred to New York University for his senior year.

At NYU, Prusmack was the MVP on the varsity football team. He graduated in 1966 with a BA in Mathematics and Art. He also completed his military obligation as a Lance Corporal in the United States Marine Corps Reserves. He went on to get his MBA from CUNY Bernard Baruch College as well as an MS in Design/Industrial Engineering from NYU Polytechnic Institute. He truly is a man of many letters.

Prusmack was introduced to rugby while at NYU in 1965. He started playing out on the wing, but soon found himself at flanker and ultimately hooker, where he played for 10 years. As he drily notes, “As I lost speed I kept moving farther inside.”

Upon graduating from NYU, Prusmack began a 15 year career with the Westchester Rugby Club. He played for a combined Westchester RC/Old Blue All Star team that hosted the English touring side, Richmond RFC, in 1968. He was President of the Westchester RC from 1968 to 1974. He also played on and off for the New York Athletic Club from 1973 to 1978.

Other highlights of Prusmack’s career as a player were his selection at hooker for the Metropolitan New York All Star team, as well as tours to England in 1973 and Ireland in 1974, with Westchester, and with the Manhattan Rugby Club to France in 1975. He was named captain of the USA Owls team on their inaugural tour to England in 1977.

Prusmack retired as a player in 1980 due to a neck injury, but his involvement with the game was by no means over. He coached the New York AC from 1980 to 1984, and he was a C Level Met New York referee from 1994 to 2000.

It is off the pitch, however, that Prusmack’s impact on rugby has been most significant. One of his early contributions to U.S. rugby was the initial publication of “Scrumdown” which, in its earliest format, in 1968, was produced in newsprint. Prusmack teamed with Ed Hagerty on this project, which served as almost the only regular source of rugby news in America for decades. The publication’s name was changed to “Rugby Magazine” in 1972, and in a further evolution to suit the times, the magazine went from print to its current digital format, RUGBYMag.com, in 2010. Prusmack also wrote one of the first U.S. rugby coaching books, Rugby: A Guide for Players, Coaches and Spectators, in 1974.

In 2005, Prusmack formed American International Media LLC, through which he purchased, from USA Rugby, the U.S. stop on the IRB 7s World Series of tournaments. The tournament has since been renamed the USA 7s; the three-day event is the only North American stop for the Sevens World Series, and is the largest rugby tournament in North America. From its first venue in Carson, California, where the attendance was less than 5,000, the event moved first to San Diego, and has moved since to its current home in Las Vegas, where, in 2013, the three-day attendance total was over 67,000.

Building on a succesful model, Prusmack’s company then partnered with NBC in 2010 to start the 7s Collegiate Rugby Championship (CRC). The first CRC event took place at the Columbus Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio, but the tournament has since moved to PPL Park in Philadelphia. Attendance for the 2012 CRC was 20,000; attendance for the 2013 event is expected to be closer to 25,000. The tournament features 20 of the top college teams competing in 47 matches across two-days as they vie for the coveted Pete Dawkins trophy.

Prusmack’s work with NBC has also provided the sport much-needed national television exposure. Through partnerships with NBC Sports Group, the CRC, the USA Sevens Tournament and all nine HSBC Sevens World Series tournaments are broadcast nationally on NBC, NBC Sports Network or Universal Sports Network. In total, NBC Sports Group broadcasts nearly 60 hours of live rugby programming annually, by far the largest amount of live rugby coverage in the United States.

Beyond rugby, Prusmack is a professional artist, designer and inventor. Most notably, from an idea and a prototype built in his garage, Prusmack invented the DRASH, or Deployable Rapid Assembly Shelter, a quick erect/strike shelter system, serving medical, military, government and civilian needs. From its early days in 1984, his DHS Systems (now DHS Technologies LLC) has evolved to become recognized around the world as the leader in soft-walled shelter technology and support equipment.As of January 2009, more than 17,000 DRASH shelters and over 7,500 DRASH trailers were in service across the globe with the U.S. Military and NATO. Company sales have ranged from $100 million to well over $220 million over the last five years and DRASH employs approximately 400 men and women worldwide. Prusmack holds 22 patents for the shelter and multiple other products.

Both rugby and the military have been constants in his life; both have challenged him and given him great satisfaction. In recognition of that, Prusmack has given back generously to both the sport and to the military. He funded the U.S. Naval Academy Rugby Complex, called, fittingly, the Prusmack Rugby Complex. In addition, he helped fund the rugby pitch at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, known, also fittingly, as Warrior Field.

Prusmack was inducted into the New York Athletic Club Rugby Hall of Fame in 2011 and the U.S. Naval Academy Rugby Hall of Fame in 2012.

Jon Prusmack drawing with children looking on in Kathmandu, Nepal.

Ray Cornbill 1937-

Ray Cornbill

Ray Cornbill was an assistant coach for the U.S. Eagles in their first test match ever, against Australia in Anaheim, California on January 31, 1976.

Cornbill was the head coach for the Eagles for eight test matches.

Cornbill was the head coach of the U.S. Cougars on their tour to South Africa and Rhodesia in 1978.

He coached the U.S. Maccabiah team at the 1985, 1989 and 1993 World Maccabiah Games in Israel.

From 2000-2002 Cornbill coached the USA All-Marines Corps team at the U.S. Inter-Services Competition.

Through 2013, Cornbill has played or coached rugby for 60 consecutive years.

Ray Cornbill believes “simple things done well” make a good rugby player great. This philosophy, and a lifetime of efforts on behalf of U.S. rugby, has brought him to the U.S. Rugby Hall of Fame.

Cornbill was born in 1937 in Birmingham, England, the same city that Dennis Storer, one of the original inductees of the U.S. Rugby Hall of Fame, was born. His rugby career began at age 11, at the famous “Public School,” King Edwards School. At 13, Cornbill’s family left England for Toronto, Canada. There was no high school rugby at York Memorial, so when Cornbill was 16 he joined the Toronto Barbarians men’s team.

Small compared to the rest of the Barbarians, Cornbill started out on the wing. Eventually though, he grew in stature and returned to his favored position, open-side flanker. After high school, Cornbill enrolled at the University of Toronto and became a fixture on the rugby team, while continuing to play for the Barbarians. He earned Ontario Provincial honors in 1960 and played in the 7 jersey against a touring Yawata team from Japan. Coincidentally, Keith Seaber, another of the original U.S. Rugby Hall of Fame inductees, was a selector for this Ontario team.

Cornbill played a total of seven years with the Toronto Barbarians before moving to Quebec in 1962. He hooked up with another Barbarians team there, this time the Montreal Barbarians. He played with the Barbarians from 1962-65, captaining the team in 1964 and helping them win two Eastern Canada Championships. Cornbill also played for the Quebec Provincial All-Stars in matches against Scotland, the Eastern Rugby Union, and Ontario. While playing, he also served as Secretary of the Quebec Rugby Union.

Cornbill moved to New York in 1965 and soon became player/coach of the Manhattan Rugby Football Club. He was named captain of the team in 1967, a position he held through 1969. In addition to captaining the side in league matches, Cornbill led them on tours to the Bahamas, in 1967, and South America in 1968. In 1967, he was awarded an Honorary Life Vice President of the Manhattan RFC.

Cornbill began coaching representative rugby and in 1970 coached the New York Metropolitan Union All-Stars to a narrow win over Fiji. That same year he became the head coach of the Manhattan RFC. He continued to climb the coaching ranks and in 1971 became the head coach of the Eastern Rugby Union representative side. Cornbill also coached the Eastern RFU U23s to a territorial championship.

Cornbill made the jump up to the United States National Team program in 1976. He was on a panel of four national team selectors from 1976-83. Additionally, he was an assistant coach for the U. S. National Team, the Eagles, in 1976, for their historic first international match, against Australia, in Anaheim, California, and head coach against France, in Chicago, Illinois in the Eagles second test.

In 1978 Cornbill was the head coach of the U.S. Cougars, an invitational all-star team that toured South Africa and Rhodesia.

He was head coach of the Eagles in 1979 for their match against Canada in Toronto. In 1980 he coached the Eagles in matches vs. New Zealand in San Diego, California, Wales B in Long Beach, California, and Canada in Saranac Lake, New York. In 1981, Cornbill was in charge when the Eagles faced Canada and South Africa. His last two matches as head coach of the Eagles were in 1982 against Canada in Calgary, and England in Hartford, Connecticut.

Cornbill continued to coach and in 1985 was named head coach of the USA Maccabiah team for the World Maccabiah Games played in Israel. The USA enjoyed such a successful run in the tournament, coming away with a bronze medal, that Cornbill was asked to coach the team again at the 1989 and 1993 Maccabiah Games.

Cornbill was an assistant coach for New York Old Blue in 1986, and served as their head coach from 1988-90. In the late 1990s, he was, once again, working with the U.S. National Team program. He served a two year stint as Convenor of Selectors, and served as an assistant coach for several matches and tours to Asia, the Pacific Islands, Canada, and the U.K.

From 2000-2002 Cornbill coached the USA All-Marines Corps team at the U.S. Inter-Services Competition. In 2009, Cornbill became involved with the Columbia University rugby team, first as an assistant, and then as head coach in 2012. He was also an assistant coach for the Atlantis 7s teams that toured Cuba in 2011 and Laos in 2013.

In July 2012, the University of Toronto created the Ray Cornbill Award, awarded to the U of T player who contributes the most to the club, both on and off the field. The first recipient was Dave Balcomb.

As of 2013, Cornbill has spent 60 consecutive years playing or coaching rugby.

Ray Cornbill (front row middle) with his Montreal Barbarians teammates at the 1963 Quebec Sevens Tournament.

Dick Smith 1939-

Dick Smith

Founding member and Director of the United States of America Rugby Football Union (USARFU) in 1975.

Founding member and 7-term president of Chicago Lions in Chicago, Illinois.

Past president of the Midwest Rugby Football Union.

Two-term president of the Old Puget Sound Beach Rugby Club in Seattle, Washington.

Founding member and past president of the Pacific Northwest Union.

Past United States Eagles 15s and 7s Manager.

Dick Smith’s first exposure to rugby was on a famous football field - Stagg Field at the University of Chicago. It was March, 1964, and thanks to an ad in the Chicago Tribune sports section, inviting interested parties to check out the then-unfamiliar sport of rugby, Smith, a 25 year-old stockbroker recently relocated from the east coast, decided to spend that Saturday at a rugby match. It was to be the first of many.

Born in 1939 in Jersey City, NJ, Smith grew up in humble circumstances on the New Jersey shore. His father, “Big” Ed, was an ironworker, his mother Rita, a homemaker; Dick was the eldest of three siblings. Possessed of all-American good looks, he was poster boy for the Ocean County Boy Scouts, as well as a fine athlete who excelled in multiple sports in high school, including football and track.  A graduate at 17, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps; by the time he had served his three year commitment, he was husband to Madalenne, and father to a baby girl named Kim.

After four years commuting two hours each way to Wall Street during the week, and running his light hauling business every weekend, Smith moved the family to Chicago, where he would work on LaSalle Street for the next fourteen years. A second daughter, Paige, was born in 1964, around the same time that her father was being introduced to rugby. As Paige likes to tell it, two legends were born that year.

After that first fateful rugby match, during which he was pressed into service at halftime with the sage advice to “Follow that big guy, and tackle anyone with the ball,” Smith was smitten. The speed, the fluidity, the controlled violence, and the post-game cameraderie made rugby the ideal sport for him, and he would spend the next decade building one of the great clubs in American rugby, the Chicago Lions.

As one of the founders of the club, and as Player/President for seven years, Smith led the Lions to a dominant position in Midwest rugby. Many others would build on this foundation, most notably Tyke Nollman, Ed Kane, and Keith Brown, guiding the Lions to their current position as one of the premier clubs in the country, but no one loomed larger in the early history of the Chicago Lions than Dick Smith. Whether lining the fields, playing on the first XV, hosting their first international tourists, (Richmond RFC), or winging their way to Europe for their own first tour, he was a driving force, always working to make the Lions a first-class organization.

In 1970, he was the first recipient of the Club’s “Lowry Lion,” awarded annually to the team member selected by the Club as having made the greatest contribution both on and off the playing field. During his tenure as Lions President, Smith also made time to help organize the second Special Olympics, held in Chicago in 1970. Needless to say, many Lions were pressed into service for the event. Both the Lowry Lion, and a letter from Special Olympics founder, Eunice Shriver, thanking him for his service on behalf of Special Olympians, remain treasured posessions.

When his only son, Richard, was born in 1974, there was much jubilation, and the team joined Dick at Durkins Tavern to celebrate the occasion. Rumor has it that a future president of the club arrived to the party wearing a diaper and little else, but no photographic evidence has been presented to support this (admittedly delightful) tale.

Smith served two terms as President of the Midwest Union and, in that capacity, facilitated the formation of the United States Rugby Football Union (USARFU), now known as USA Rugby, proudly affixing his signature to the Union’s Charter on June 7th, 1975. A year later, he served as Manager for the second international played by the Eagles, against France, devoting countless hours to the planning and organization of the match. So many hours, in fact, that it became necessary to find new employment when all was said and done.  A small price to pay for a first-class test match, most ruggers would agree. Ten years later, he managed the Eagles 7’s team that won the Plate in the 1986 Hong Kong Sevens – the best showing by a North American team to that date.

After relocating to Seattle in 1977, Smith served two terms as President of the Old Puget Sound Beach RFC; he also helped form the Pacific Northwest Union, and was a selector for their representative side, the Loggers. As the glory days of his playing career faded into memory, he put together a touring side of old boys, the USA Owls; the team played social matches while supporting the US Eagles on their international tours. The first Owls tour, to London in ‘77, lives on in oral history and song (or at least it should) – future media mogul Jon Prusmack was captain of that Owls team, and several members of the squad made international news by rescuing a handful of Londoners from a restaurant fire. When the Owls played domestically, they called themselves the “Olde Peculiars,” a name that was perhaps more apt than one might imagine.

In 1985, Dick married Carolie, and became a father for a fourth time, welcoming daughter Callan in 1986. She would one day, quite fittingly, work for the USRFF, proving that the love of rugby runs deep in the Smith family.
As a US rugby supporter, few can rival Smith’s mileage and passport stamps. Be it the old Inter-Territorial Tournaments, Golden Oldies, Rugby World Cup, Hong Kong Sevens, USA Sevens, or the World Rugby Classic in Bermuda, he was, and is, a constant presence at the sport’s preeminent events. But time and energy were not the only things he contributed to the sport; he has made significant financial investments as well. A longtime sponsor of Team America (now the Classic Eagles), Smith also provided much of the seed money for the development of the IRB-sanctioned pitch in Seattle. He continues to contribute financially to both the Chicago Lions and Seattle/OPSB to assist in their continued growth and success, as well as to USA Rugby and the USRFF. He has personally hosted countless itinerant rugby players, providing food, shelter, employment, and the occasional libation.

While seemingly all rugby, all the time, Smith has, in fact, spent over fifty years in the securities industry, starting on Wall Street in 1959. He opened his own firm, R.W. Smith & Associates, in 1985, a municipal bond inter-dealer broker, now with 7 offices across the country. He currently serves as Chairman of the company now known simply as RW Smith.  Dick also has four grandchildren who bring him almost as much joy as rugby.

As is the case with so many of his co-inductees, this profile barely scratches the surface of his influence on US rugby.  Suffice it to say that to peruse the list of Dick Smith’s accomplishments is to know the story of US rugby in the latter half of the 20th century, but, as he would tell you, it was not for the accolades or recognition that he did what he did, but simply for love of the game. Rugby has been the great joy and passion of his life; the friendships formed and the memories made over a lifetime in the sport are his true rewards. As he is inducted into the Hall of Fame, he takes with him every one of those mates, “souls,” as Tennyson wrote, “That ever with a frolic welcome took the thunder and the sunshine,” whose fierceness on the pitch, and bonhomie off, made these last fifty years the best of times.

The Chicago Lions RFC 1966 team picture, taken in Chicago. Dick Smith founded the Chicago Lions in 1964 and was a 7-term president of the club.

Ian Nixon 1940-

Ian Nixon

Was the third U.S. based referee to referee a test match, making his debut in San Diego, California on October 8, 1980 when the United States hosted New Zealand.

He has been a guest referee of the New Zealand, England and Australia Rugby Football Unions.

He retired as the highest ranking U.S. referee, a ranking he held from 1980-1987.

Served in many capacities within the United States of America Rugby Football Union, including USARFU's 6th president from 1991-1995.

Ian Nixon was born in Hyde, England in 1940. He caught his first rugby pass when he was eight years old and it wasn’t long before he was an accomplished player. In addition to rugby, Ian excelled at cricket and lettered in both sports throughout his prep, junior and senior high school years at St. Joseph’s College in Blackpool. His skill in cricket earned him County Schoolboy Representative selection.

In 1959, he attended the University of Manchester in England, where he earned Full Maroon honors in rugby and cricket. After graduating in 1965, Nixon played with the Heaton Moor Rugby Football Club. He captained the side from his scrumhalf position during the successful 1967-68 season, when the first team won twenty-five and drew one of their thirty-four matches.

Nixon moved to the United States in 1972, and joined the Boston Rugby Football Club. He played there for two seasons before work transferred him to Dallas, Texas; he played for the Dallas Harlequins from 1974-76.

With his playing days behind him, Nixon turned to refereeing in 1976 as a member of the Society of Texas Referees. He made immediate strides with the whistle in hand, and in 1978 became a member of the Western Rugby Football Union Referee Territorial Panel. In 1980, Nixon was selected to the USA Rugby Referee Panel. That year saw Nixon in charge of the British Columbia vs. Wales match in Vancouver, and three weeks later he officiated the Pacific Coast vs. Italy match in Long Beach, CA. This banner year was topped off by Nixon’s first international test match, as he was in charge when the United States Eagles hosted the New Zealand All Blacks in San Diego, CA on October 8, 1980.

Nixon continued to be called upon for big games, calling the USA National Club Championship Finals in 1981 and 1982. Also in 1982, he refereed his second test, Canada vs. England in Vancouver on May 29. In 1983, he added the Canadian Provincial Final from Victoria to his resume. In addition, he was the man in charge of the Canada vs. Italy match in Vancouver. He topped off the year as a guest referee of the New Zealand Rugby Union for two weeks.

In 1984, Nixon once again called the US Club and Canadian Provincial Finals, and was a guest referee of the England RFU for two weeks. He received yet another international appointment in 1985 when he called the Canada vs. England U19 match in Vancouver.

Nixon’s busiest year with the whistle was perhaps 1986, as he was appointed to referee at the prestigious Hong Kong Sevens Tournament, after which he oversaw his usual fixture at the US Club Championships. He moved on to the USA East vs. Japan match in New York City, followed by Canada vs. Japan in Vancouver. The year ended with Nixon calling Canada’s match against Wales U19 from Victoria.

1987 was Nixon’s last year with the whistle in hand. He closed out his career calling the USA National Club Championship Final for the seventh straight year. He then spent two weeks sharing his experience and knowledge as a guest referee of the Australian RFU. He retired as the highest ranking U.S. referee, a ranking he held from 1980-1987.

Nixon continued to serve U.S. rugby as an East Representative on USA Rugby’s Board of Directors from 1987-1997, where he also functioned in the role of Secretary from 1987-1991. Nixon served as the sixth President of USA Rugby in a term lasting from 1991-1995.

Nixon has earned many accolades for his outstanding service and contributions to the sport. He accorded a Life Membership from the Dallas Harlequins RFC in 1981, and the Golden Eagle Award for services to USA Rugby in 1985. He was the Denis Shanagher Memorial Award winner for services to USA Rugby Refereeing in 1994, and he was also inducted into the University of Manchester XXI Club (their Hall of Fame) for services to rugby.

Today, Nixon is an esteemed cardiologist and resides in Richmond, Virginia where he teaches and practices at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine and the VCU Medical Center.
 

Ian Nixon was the top ranked U.S. referee from 1980-1987. After he retired from refereeing, he served USA Rugby in many capacities, including president from 1991-1995.

Edward F. Hagerty Jr. 1942-

Edward F. Hagerty Jr.

Began his career with Rugby Magazine on a part-time basis in 1975. Became Editor in Chief in 1977 and held that position for the next 32 years.

His roles were many with the magazine. He edited, wrote newsbriefs, tournament stories, match reports, feature articles player, coach and referee profiles.

His two most memorable subjects covered over the course of his 32 year Rugby Magazine career both involved South Africa.

He reported from four Rugby World Cups.

He has amassed thousands of rugby photographs over the course of his career.

A decent club-level player, self-described as having “more enthusiasm than talent”, Ed Hagerty began his 14-year rugby-playing career in 1962, during the fall of his junior year at Holy Cross College (Worcester, MA). Playing as a loose forward, he served as captain of the Holy Cross XV during his senior year.

Following graduation from Holy Cross (June-1964), Hagerty moved to New York City. Shortly thereafter, he fulfilled his military obligation by joining the Army National Guard, serving the first six months on active duty, with five year’s of weekend reserve duty to serve.

Returning to New York City after his six month active duty stint, Ed embarked upon a 12 year, post-college, rugby playing career. He played spirited but rather undisciplined first side rugby for the majority of his twelve year club tenure; first with the New York RFC (1964-67) and then, for a much longer period, with Old Blue (1967-75).

Career-wise, he spent his first two post-college years (1965-67) working as a media planner/analyst for Benton and Bowles, a major New York City ad agency.

His publishing career began in 1967 when he was hired as the Sales Development Manager for Ladies Home Journal, a large women’s service magazine.

Moving on to Times Mirror Magazines a year later (1968), Hagerty spent the next five years (1968-73) as Editorial and Marketing Research Director for Popular Science and Outdoor Life Magazines. He served as Publisher of Popular Science, a 100 year old publication with a circulation of 1,800,000, from October of 1973 until October of 1975.

Hagerty took a hiatus from the publishing business between November of 1975 and June of 1977. During this period he moved to Beverly Hills, California. There he went to work for Patrick Frawley, a friend and wealthy industrialist who, among other things, had started Schick Safety Razor, Schick Electric and Paper-Mate Pens.

During his two years in California, Hagerty served as an administrator for Schick Hospitals in Fort Worth and Seattle, did market research for Schick Smoking Centers and served as Director for the Twin Circle Publishing Company.

While his playing career had ended, Hagerty’s interest in rugby remained. During his tenure in California, he became involved, on a part-time basis (1975), in the publication of Rugby Magazine, which had been started by Jon Prusmack. Hagerty’s interest in Rugby Magazine, as a vehicle to grow the US game, increased as the months went by and in January of 1977 he was listed on the masthead as Editor in Chief.

Unburdening himself of his well-paying job with Schick, Hagerty returned from California to New York City at the end of June 1977. There, for many years in an office the size of a broom closet (but with a Madison Avenue address), he devoted his energies to writing, photographing, editing and publishing Rugby Magazine.

Ed Hagerty served as Editor in Chief of Rugby Magazine for a total of 32 years: from 1977 up to until June of 2009. He continued as Executive Editor until the summer of 2010, and remains a contributor and photographer today.

Hagerty edited, wrote newsbriefs, tournament stories, match reports, feature articles player, coach and referee profiles. In addition, he solicited copy for a variety of feature articles and regular departments from an eager, talented and well educated US rugby community.

He covered and photographed a large number of domestic and overseas tests, played by both the US Men’s and Women’s National 15s and 7s teams, from early 1976 until midway through 2010.

His test coverage began with the US Men’s first international test match: a 24-12 loss to Australia in Anaheim, California on January 31, 1976.

The two most memorable subjects that Ed Hagerty covered over the course of his 32 year Rugby Magazine career both involved South Africa. This was due to the racial policies that South Africa was involved in at the time.

The first was the highly controversial, seven match tour by the US Men’s National Team to South Africa and Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in August of 1978. On this tour the Eagles travelled as the US Cougars.
8/9  Natal 16, US Cougars 10
8/12 SA Country Districts, US Cougars 12
8/16 Combined Universities 16, US Cougars 7
8/19 US Cougars 18, N Transvaal 15
8/22 Griqualand 13, US Cougars 4
8/26 SA Gazelles 20, US Cougars 16
8/28 Rhodesia 32, US Cougars 15

A second memorable episode involved the equally controversial, three-match return tour of an integrated South African Springbok side to Wisconsin and Upstate New York in the fall of 1981.
9/19 Racine, WI  South Africa 46, Midwest RFU 12
9/22 Albany, NY  South Africa 41, Eastern RFU 0
9/25 Glenville, NY  South Africa 38, United States 7

In addition to providing coverage for numerous other domestic and overseas test matches, Hagerty also covered the following Rugby World Cups:
1987 Australia & New Zealand
1991 England
1999 Wales
2003 Australia

Rugby Magazine went from print to its current digital format, RugbyMag.com, in 2010 and Hagerty continues as a contributor.

Commenting on his tenure with Rugby, Hagerty noted: “It’s been a great ride!”

Left to Right: Ed Hagerty; Rhodesia Prime Minister Ian Smith; Cougars Captain, Jeff Hollings; Ed Lee; on 1978 Cougars Tour to South Africa and Rhodesia.

Robinson Bordley 1947-

Robinson Bordley

The first captain for the United States Eagles when they played their first test match ever, against Australia in Anaheim, California on January 31, 1976.

Captained the United States in the Eagles first two tests they played.

Played a total of five matches with the United States, including their first win ever, over Canada in Baltimore, Maryland on May 28, 1978.

Was invited to play for an international all-star team to open the newly renovated Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria, South Africa in 1977.

Was an All Ivy League football and lacrosse player at Princeton University.

Robinson “Rob” Bordley was a talented football and lacrosse player long before he played his first rugby match. Bordley was All Ivy League selection in both sports while attending Princeton University. In football, Bordley lined up as a wide receiver and also fielded punts and kickoffs.

It wasn’t until Thanksgiving time of his senior year at Princeton that Bordley got introduced to rugby. It was then that some of his friends from the University of Virginia convinced him to give rugby a try at the Washington Rugby Football Club’s 7s Tournament. His evasive skills learned from returning punts and kickoffs certainly helped as he scored a number of tries in his debut tournament.

After graduating from Princeton with a BA in political science, Bordley joined the one and only club team he ever played for, the Washington Rugby Football Club, where he would play from 1970 until the mid 1980s.

During his playing career with Washington, Bordley was selected to represent his local union side, the Potomac Rugby Union, and then made the Eastern Rugby Union select side on numerous occasions. He captained all three of these teams at different times throughout his career.

In 1976 Bordley toured South Africa with the ERU All Stars. He was so impressive on that tour that he was invited back a year later to play for an international all star team that would play in the newly renovated Loftus Versfeld. The team would play three matches on tour: against a South African XV in Pretoria; against Western Province in Cape Town; and against Northern Transvaal in Pretoria.

Bordley received the highest honor of not only being selected for the first international test match for the United States but he was also named captain of the Eagles. That first test was in Anaheim on January 31, 1976 against Australia and Bordley captained the side from his flyhalf position. Bordley also captained the Eagles in their second test, this time at fullback, against France in Chicago on June 12, 1976.

Bordley would go on to play for the Eagles in their next three matches. Back at flyhalf, the Eagles lost to Canada at Burnaby, British Columbia on May 21, 1977. Bordley, playing in the number 15 jersey, was part of the first Eagles tour abroad as they faced England at Twickenham on October 15, 1977. He finished his international career on a high note as he was part of the first victorious United States side as the Eagles defeated Canada 12-7 in Baltimore, Maryland on May 28, 1978.

While he was competing for a spot on the national team, Bordley was earning a Master’s degree in history from American University. He was hired on as a history teacher at the Landon School in Bethesda, Maryland in the fall of 1970, right after he graduated from Princeton, and 43 years later he continues to teach history at Landon.

He is the offensive coordinator on the varsity football team and the varsity lacrosse coach at Landon. Under Bordley, Landon’s lacrosse team has captured 28 league titles since 1981 and was recognized as the best team in the nation in 1999, 2001 and 2002. Bordley is a year or two away from registering his 600th win as Landon’s lacrosse coach. He is a member of the U.S. Lacrosse Hall of Fame (Potomac Chapter) and has been nominated the U.S. National Lacrosse Hall of Fame.

In his private life, Bordley has been married to Donna Bordley since 1977. The couple have three children: Austin, John and Claire. John won All-ACC honors in lacrosse for the University of Maryland while Claire was a first team All-American lacrosse player at the University of Virginia.

Rob Bordley scoring a try for the Washington Rugby Club, the only club team he ever played for.

Victor R. Hilarov 1932 -

Victor R. Hilarov

A founding member of the United States Rugby Football Union (USARFU) in 1975.

Served as USARFU's first president.

A founding member of the Midwest Rugby Football Union in 1964.

Served as the Midwest Rugby Union's first president.

Founded the University of Wisconsin Rugby Football Club in 1962.

Founded the Milwaukee Rugby Football Club in 1967.

Created the Inter-Territorial Tournament (ITTs) in 1976.

Vic Hilarov was born in Chicago, Illinois on February 26, 1932, to immigrant parents. He’s the son of a Costa Rican mother and a Russian father. He had a brother and sister, both of whom died in their 20s. Hilarov attended Evanston High School, just north of Chicago, where he played football, baseball, track and tennis. After high school, he attended the University of Wisconsin and graduated with advanced degrees. He then served as a medical liaison officer during the Korean Conflict. He was assigned to the Far East Command and was stationed in Tokyo, Japan, where he worked out of the Headquarters of General Douglas MacArthur, Commander of the Allied Forces during WW II. In Hilarov’s time in Japan, the building had become the 406th Medical General Laboratory.

By day he supervised an all-Japanese laboratory staff and by night he taught English to college students and business executives. During the weekends he divided his time between traveling with his Japanese friends and running for the Army track team in events throughout Japan.

Returning to the University of Wisconsin as an Instructor, Hilarov received a fellowship to attend the Université de Paris, to do research for his PhD in Comparative Literature. It was here that he was introduced to the sport of rugby, playing for the Paris University Club (le PUC). The introduction was fortuitous because the sport of rugby became an intrinsic part of his life.

Thanks to his new-found passion for rugby, Hilarov was determined to increase awareness of the sport in Wisconsin. In the spring of 1961, Hilarov and a team of University of Wisconsin athletes played the first game of rugby in the Midwest against a club from the University of Notre Dame. Wisconsin lost that first match when fullback, Jim Bakken, missed two penalty kicks from close range. This detail is significant only because Bakken went on to play a record 234 consecutive NFL games for the St. Louis Cardinals, making a record 7 field goals in one game in 1967.

The following fall of 1962 Hilarov founded the Wisconsin Rugby Club. He was president and captain of the team and with his English friend, Mike Frost, who played at Cambridge and the RAF, hunted out football players, track stars, and British ex-patriot rugby players on campus. He and Mike would travel on weekends to encourage other Big Ten Universities and city clubs to form teams and increase competition in the Midwest. Universities at Indiana, Illinois, Chicago and Chicago City (later the Chicago Lions) along with Notre Dame, Palmer College and Minnesota RFU would form the core of Wisconsin’s opponents.

In 1964 Hilarov founded the first Midwest Rugby Tournament in Chicago and in 1965 played with his Wisconsin team against Illinois at halftime of a Green Bay Packer game in Milwaukee.

Deciding that academics were too quiet, Hilarov moved on from the University of Wisconsin and started a series of successful travel companies. There was, however, always time for rugby. He founded the Milwaukee Rugby Football Club in 1967 and captained the side in their early years. The club would go on to be one of the top teams in the Midwest during the 70s and 80s and were crowned National Champions in 1985 and runners-up in 1988.

While Hilarov was respected off the playing field for his organizational skills and vision, he was also respected on the pitch for his powerful running, tackling prowess and a formidable right leg that could make conversions, penalties and drop goals from anywhere inside the halfway line.

Hilarov was a founding member and the first president of both the Midwest Rugby Football Union in 1964 and the United States of America Rugby Football Union (USARFU) in 1975. As USARFU President, Hilarov created the Inter-Territorial Tournament (ITTs) in 1976, which for years was used as the selection vehicle for the United States National Team, the Eagles. The Eagles would play their first four test matches during his term as President. With no money in the USARFU treasury, Hilarov was able to secure a six-figure sponsorship with Budweiser. This allowed the Union to pay for the ITTs and the first Eagle team to assemble in California to play against Australia.

On July 8, 1976, Hilarov represented the sport of rugby at a U.S. Bicentennial Dinner hosted by Queen Elizabeth II. Also in attendance were President and Betty Ford, Bob and Dolores Hope, Elizabeth Taylor and Secretary of the Navy, John Warner (later Taylor’s husband), Nelson and Happy Rockefeller, Muhammad Ali, along with diplomats, business leaders and other celebrities.

In 2006 the USA Rugby Board disbanded itself in order to create an independent Board of Directors made up of prominent business executives. There were 94 applicants from around the world and Hilarov was one of six chosen by a separate group of professional headhunters.

Hilarov’s professional life saw him travel the world as the head of several travel and management consulting companies. His clients were countries such as Japan, Canada and South Africa and major cities such as Cape Town, Vancouver, Philadelphia, Chicago and Minneapolis.

During his travel years Hilarov served as the Wisconsin President of American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA), and Midwest Chairman of ASTA’s ethics committee. In addition, he was a Congressional Committee Board Member in Washington DC, and a Board Member for New York City Performing Arts groups from 2000-2012.

From 1990 to 1993 Hilarov lived on and off in South Africa to create a national professional basketball league in a sport that was unknown in South Africa except for four private clubs in the country. Hilarov hired a "commissioner", sold franchises and built scores of outdoor basketball courts, from abandoned tennis courts, in the townships. Today, 20 years later, thousands of kids and adults play basketball and a basketball league flourishes.

Hilarov continues to work on projects as a management consultant but during the last 13 years he created a second job where he researches, plans and escorts business relevant “adventures” for an international organization of CEOs to countries such as Cuba (twice), South Africa, China, Australia/New Zealand, India/Nepal/Tibet, Egypt/Oman/Dubai/Qatar, Vietnam/Cambodia/South Korea, Brazil and in 2013, Eastern Europe to the Czech Republic/Poland/Hungary.

Hilarov’s wife, Michele, died of cancer in 2004. As a lasting tribute to her, Hilarov travels internationally with his two daughters, two sons-in-law and seven grandchildren for two weeks every June to Costa Rica, Russia, Germany, South Africa, China, Morocco, Italy, Switzerland, England and France. Hilarov continues to golf, lift weights and play racquetball. He has stopped his 35 years of running, 1,000 to 1,500 miles per year, because of a replaced right knee in 2013. Knee replacement requires that running is no longer an option, however, Hilarov vows he’ll run again.

Hilarov hasn’t played rugby since ‘77 but his memories of this great sport and of his band of brothers will never be forgotten.

Vic Hilarov founded the University of Wisconsin RFC in 1962 and the Milwaukee RFC in 1967. Milwaukee were crowned national champions in 1985.

Jack Clark 1955 -

Jack Clark

He accepted a football scholarship at the University of California, where he starred in football and rugby for the Golden Bears.

Was a starting lock on the World Overseas XV team that played the Welsh National Team during its centennial celebration in Cardiff in 1980.

Has won 24 national collegiate championships since becoming the head coach at Cal in 1984.

Has produced 126 All-Americans, 36 players who have played for the U.S. National Team, five players who have earned 10 Varsity Blues competing for Oxford University against Cambridge as graduate students.

Exited the 2014 spring season with an all-time collegiate coaching record, all with Cal, of 577-74-5 (.879) in 15s and 65-13 (.833) in 7s.

A sixth-generation Californian and three-sport standout in football, basketball and track & field at Edison High School in Huntington Beach, Jack Clark was an All-America tackle at Orange Coast Junior College before accepting a football scholarship at the University of California, where he starred in football and rugby for the Golden Bears. Clark was a lock on the U.S. National Team before embarking on a coaching career that has included more victories than any other head coach in the history of the USA Eagles in addition to 23 national collegiate championships since becoming the head coach at Cal in 1984.

Clark, who as of the end of summer 2014 has led the Bears to 22 national collegiate titles in 15s and two collegiate 7s titles, has produced 126 All-Americans, 36 players who have played for the U.S. National Team, five players who have earned 10 Varsity Blues competing for Oxford University against Cambridge as graduate students and three who have received residency contracts from the U.S. Olympic Committee. He exited the 2014 summer season with an all-time collegiate coaching record, all with Cal, of 577-74-5 (.879) in 15s and 65-13 (.833) in 7s.

Clark joined the Cal coaching staff in 1982 as an assistant to Ned Anderson and became the program’s sixth head coach in team history in 1984. Since that time, Clark’s Cal teams have achieved a 9-3 record against Brigham Young University, including five national collegiate championships vs. BYU since 2006; an impressive combined record of 34-1 against rugby powerhouses Army, Navy and Air Force in the 15-a-side game; and won 14 of the last 18 “World Cup” series, including eight of past 10, vs. University of British Columbia. The Bears under Clark went on a domestic winning streak of 98 games from 1990-96 and a 70-game tear that lasted until 2003. Cal then put together a winning streak over U.S. collegiate competition that lasted 115 matches between April 2004 and May 2009 and followed that with a streak in 15s of 63 straight matches that ran from opening day in 2010 through Feb. 18, 2012.

After his football and rugby career at Cal was followed in 1978 by a professional contract with the Philadelphia Eagles of the NFL, Clark continued his rugby playing career with post-collegiate campaigns for the senior club national champion Old Blues RFC and the U.S. National Team, earning Most Valuable Player honors at the 1979 U.S. National Team Trials and Territorial Championships. Clark’s play as a U.S. international earned him a starting spot as a lock on the World Overseas XV team that played the Welsh National Team during its centennial celebration in Cardiff in 1980. An off-the-field injury ended Clark’s athletic career and he joined the Cal coaching staff two years later.

Clark is recognized as the founder of the U.S. Collegiate All-American Team, which he coached from 1987-92 and managed from 2001-03. He was also head coach of the U.S. National Team from 1993-99, during which time the United States won 16 international test matches, the most victories ever by a U.S. national team coach.

As the General Manager of the national team while head coach and continuing in that role until 2003, Clark oversaw all aspects of USA Rugby’s flagship program. Throughout his entire tenure as GM he also handled the dual role of Business Development Director, successfully originating landmark broadcasting and sponsorship agreements which established the national team as a self-sufficient entity that contributed significantly to the national governing body, USA Rugby. Clark represented the U.S. in the founding of both the Pacific Rim Championships in 1996 and Super Power Cup in 2003, and successfully negotiated many incoming and outgoing international tours.

In a singular honor, Clark delivered the keynote address at the International Rugby Board’s Conference on the Game 1998. In 2000, he was chosen one of Cal’s Ten Most Influential Sports Figures of the 20th Century, joining legendary Cal Hall of Fame coaches Carrol “Ky” Ebright, Brutus Hamilton, Pete Newell and Lynn “Pappy” Waldorf on the honor roll. Clark was also the recipient in 2001 of the Craig Sweeney Award, which is bestowed to former U.S. internationals for their “significant contribution to the game.

An unprecedented series of events in 2002 saw Clark courted by the iconic English professional rugby club Bath to become its head coach and Director of Rugby. The Daily Telegraph and Western Daily Mail reported that “an offer was on the table,” followed by a report on erugbynews.com that quoted Bath general manager Bob Calleja stating, “Jack Clark is an impressive candidate for the director of rugby post and arguably, given his background, he may be a better prospect as a chief executive.” Clark ultimately declined Bath’s offer and recommitted to his University and American rugby.

“We are extremely happy and relieved to learn of Jack’s decision,” said Cal’s then-Director of Athletics Steve Gladstone in an April 2002 statement. “One of our highest priorities for Cal Athletics is to attract and retain the best coaches in the country, and Jack Clark certainly is a prime example.”

Two years earlier, another former Director of Athletics at Cal, John Kasser, was quoted in a campus article titled “Master Craftsman,” saying, “Jack Clark could coach any Cal team to a national championship, he just happens to coach rugby.”

Clark was centrally involved in rallying the Cal faithful to fund the construction of Witter Rugby Field and the Doc Hudson Rugby Fieldhouse in Strawberry Canyon. Most importantly, he has been instrumental in largely endowing the sport of rugby on campus at the University.

In addition to his national-team and Cal coaching, Clark has also served as head coach of the All-Marine rugby team, which he led to the silver medal in 2006 at the Armed Forces Rugby Championship at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C.

With his entry into the U.S Rugby Hall of Fame, Clark joins former Golden Bears coach Miles “Doc” Hudson, who led the program from 1938-74; Pat Vincent, the New Zealand All Black who played for the Blue and Gold in 1957; Colby “Babe” Slater, a two-time Olympic gold medalist; and seven other Cal players – Charles Tilden, James Winston, Matt Hazeltine, George Fish, Charles Meehan, George Dixon and Ed Graff – whose 1920 and 1924 USA Olympic gold-medal teams were previously inducted.

Exiting 2013-14, Jack Clark has coached Cal in 25 national collegiate championships in 15s, winning 22 times, including the 2011 title contest against BYU. (Photo Credit: Richard Ersted, GoldenBearSports.com)

Kevin R. Swords 1960 -

Kevin R. Swords

Was a member of the U.S. Eagles at lock for a decade, from 1985-1994, including appearances in the 1987 and 1991 Rugby World Cups.

He served as Eagles Captain from 1991-1994; and was the captain of the Eagles side vs. New Zealand and England in the 1991 RWC.

His performance in the 1991 RWC led to an invitation to play with the prestigious Barbarians XV in 1992.

At the time of his retirement from Eagles play in 2000, after a singular 21-year American rugby career, he was the most capped (36) player in his country’s history.

Kevin Swords has conducted his life in a manner that has been an exemplary credit to his family and to his country.  He served his country in the United States Air Force for a decade, from 1982 to 1992, attaining the rank of captain. And he especially has been a credit to the reputation and advancement of the sport of amateur rugby in the United States.

He represented his country in rugby as a member of the U.S. Eagles national team at lock for a decade, from 1985-1994, including tours of Japan (a 1985 victory over Japan in his inaugural Eagles match, and 1990), Wales (1987), USSR (1988), Uruguay and Argentina (1989 and 1994) and Australia (1990).

The highlight of Swords career included appearances for the United States in the 1987 and 1991 Rugby World Cups in, respectively, Australia and England. As testament to his character and leadership, Kevin was chosen and privileged to serve as the Eagles’ Captain from 1991-1994; and was the captain of the U.S.A. side vs. New Zealand and England in the 1991 RWC.

A renowned and respected American international, Kevin in the 1991 RWC was named Man of the Match vs the All Blacks by the Gloucester Journal; and his play vs RWC host England on the exalted pitch at Twickenham led one London newspaper to place him on their World XV. His performance at that 1991 RWC earned him an invitation to play with the prestigious Barbarians XV on their 1992 Easter tour of Wales, where he competed against the legendary Welsh sides of Cardiff and Swansea. He scored a try vs Swansea.

In a Fall 1993 issue, Sports Illustrated named Swords its Athlete of the Month, and noted, "… Kevin Swords is America's most accomplished rugby player, ever." At the time of his retirement from Eagles play, he was the most capped (36) player in his country’s history.

One of a family of rugby brothers (John (Holy Cross), Brendan (Holy Cross & Combined Services), Brian (Holy Cross, Beacon Hill & 3-time US Eagle), Kevin’s rugby career began with four years of collegiate rugby (1979-82) at Holy Cross, then club rugby with Washington RFC (1982-86) and Beacon Hill RFC (1987-94). He played for and captained the United States Combined Services (USCS) Select Rugby Side from 1984 to 1992, including their tours to England (1984 and 1986), Germany (1988), Australia (1990), and Wales (1992).

But it would be when he joined the Old Blue RFC in 1995 that he would embark upon the greatest success of his club rugby career, as he proved the precipitating force on the renowned New York City side that went on to a string of victories and men’s club D-I & Super League Finals over the remainder of the decade; and by which Swords was able to cap a singular 21-year American rugby career in 2000. He and his Old Blue teammates in that span of time reached the Elite Eight in 1996; both the Men’s D-I and Super League Finals in 1997 and again in 1998 (as the only side ever to reach both finals in the same year in consecutive years.); and the Men’s D-I Final Four in 1999.

Swords also played for the Eastern Rugby Union Territorial Select side (1984-1992), and won the U.S. All Star XVs Championship four times (1984, 1989-91).  At one time or another, he also served as captain of the ERU and Northeast Rugby Union Territorial XVs; the MARFU, NERFU, and Met NY LAU Select XVs; and Beacon Hill RFC.

Among his many additional rugby honors are induction into the Holy Cross Athletic Hall of Fame (Rugby, 2002); Old Blue Foundation Hall of Fame (2009); Harp Super League All-Star Select (1997 and 1998); Harp Super League Leading Try Scorer (1998); Old Blue Best Forward (Spring 1998).

A graduate of Holy Cross College (BA, 1982) and the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School (MS in Management, 1994), he has been a municipal bond trader at Merrill Lynch (1994 - present). In addition to developing his career at Merrill, Kevin continues to promote amateur rugby, consistent with the stated mission of the USRF itself. He and wife Pam stay involved in coaching and managing rugby; and all four of their children, Megan, Jack, Grace and Michael, have played the sport. He is a volunteer and coach of the Ridgewood Area Youth Association, a local youth rugby program in the northern New Jersey area. It offers developmental programs for boys and girls from kindergarten through the 9th grade, with four progressively more advanced levels of rugby development by age group.

Just prior to the 2011 Rugby World Cup, Swords was interviewed by Total Rugby on British TV to discuss the Eagle's 1991 RWC matches twenty years earlier. To view the entire interview of Kevin’s perspective as the American captain of that experience, please visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YOU0ko1XAuk

 

May 2, 2009 Old Blue Foundation 8th Hall of Fame Dinner Honorees, NY, NY. (L-R): Kevin Swords, Kennedy, Schwartz, Sprenkle, Russell, Johnson.

Jay Hanson 1952 -

Jay Hanson

Got his first actual taste of playing rugby in 1972 when he joined the Ft. Worth Rugby Club while attending Texas Christian University.

Was selected at flanker for the Eastern Rugby Union in the first match of France’s 1976 USA Tour, opposite the great Jean-Pierre Rives.

Was the hooker reserve in the U.S. Eagles second match of the modern era, against France in 1977, having never played hooker before.

Earned seven caps for the Eagles during his playing career and toured with the Eagles on their first three tours abroad to England (1977), Australia (1983) and Japan (1985).

Jay played with the San Francisco Rugby Club (now known as San Francisco Golden Gate Rugby Club) from 1976-1990.

Is a co-coach for the Sierra Foothills Collegiate rugby team and also served as an assistant coach for the Northern California Small College Select Side.

Jay Hanson was drawn to rugby while in high school at Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda, MD. Although Walter Johnson didn’t have a high school rugby program, neighboring high school Walt Whitman High School did. Jay was attracted to rugby by the "battle nature of the sport.” He liked the fact that “players stayed on the field all the time, no time outs, no squad changes for offense or defense. It was an Elegant Violence that called to me and I could see that the sport challenged an athlete's relentless pursuit for possession of the ball with the intent to score as a team from any place on the field.”

Jay finally got his first actual taste of playing rugby in 1972 when he joined the Ft. Worth Rugby Club while attending Texas Christian University. He enjoyed those early rugby days in Texas. “It was more of a cultural experience than just a sport when we traveled to play other teams in other cities and the social nature of the sport. Many of the teams, including Ft. Worth, had players from all over the world.”

By now, rugby was in Jay’s bloodstream. His goal was to find a job, but a job that allowed him the time to pursue his dream of being the best rugby player that he could be. He joined the Montgomery Rugby Club in Silver Spring, MD in the Spring of 1975. Later that year he joined the Washington Rugby Club in Washington, DC.
In 1976, France, fresh off a Five Nations Championship, toured the United States. Jay was selected at flanker for the Eastern Rugby Union in the first match of France’s USA Tour. Opposite him that day at the tail of the lineout was none other than Jean-Pierre Rives, one of the best flankers in the world and as Jay put it, “we played with open aggression from the opening whistle.”

Late in the first half, Jay snapped up a loose tap down from a French lineout, charged through a tackle attempt, and fed teammate Mike Sherlock. The loosehead prop charged down the blind side for the game’s first score. The score stood and at the halfway mark the scoreboard read ERU 6, France 0. Jay recalls the moment as if it happened yesterday.

“I clearly remember Ed Lee (Eastern Rugby Union Manager) running onto the field at the half with tears glistening in his eyes. He said, "This is the greatest day in American rugby I have ever seen. Do you know what you guys are doing? You are beating France! Simply amazing." 

France went ahead in the second half when they fed their tall, lanky, young winger, a guy named Serge Blanco, and ended up winning the game 12 to 6.  But Jay will never forget the look on Ed Lee's face that day...simply joyful.

While the ERU lost the game, that match earned Jay his first look with the U.S. National Team as they prepared for their first test of the modern era. “Even though I was not selected for the Eagles to play against Australia I stayed around the whole week prior to the game and met all the players and coaches. It was at that time that the Eagles coach, Dennis Storer, suggested that I switch over to hooker.” 

Soon after, Jay was asked to join the Eagles assembly in Chicago for the Eagles vs France game as reserve hooker behind Morris O'Donnell. “I had never played a game at hooker at that time. Undaunted, I was ready to go in if needed.”

Moving to hooker was not Jay’s only move in 1976. Motivated “to play rugby in the best rugby environment in America at that time, Northern California,” he moved to San Francisco and the San Francisco Rugby Club. There, he faced weekly “tough schoolings” playing against the BATS, Seahawks, Sacramento Capitals, Paxos, and of course, the Old Blues from Berkeley. “The Old Blues Jeff Hollings was a keen competitor at hooker and I had to learn and thrive in order to survive in the front row. I am thankful that I had such a skilled adversary in Jeff and we stayed respectful competitors for many years. Johnny Everett, who followed in his wake for the Old Blues, was just as talented and passionate. I was blessed with superior competitors.”

Jay played with the San Francisco Rugby Club (now known as San Francisco Golden Gate Rugby Club) from 1976-1990.

Jay earned seven caps for the Eagles during his playing career which went from 1976-1985. He toured with the Eagles on their first three tours abroad to England (1977), Australia (1983) and Japan (1985).

He played for the Northern California Pelicans select side from 1976 to 1985 and represented the Pacific Coast Grizzlies from 1977 to 1985.

While he continued to play club rugby until 1990, Jay retired from competitive select side rugby after the 1985 Eagles Tour to Japan.

Jay started coaching rugby while he was still an active player. He coached the Northern California High School champions, the Mission High School rugby team, from 1978 to 1980. In the early 1980s, Jay coached the newly formed San Francisco Women’s Rugby Club. He coached the San Francisco Rugby Club in 1986-87 and was the Pacific Coast Grizzlies assistant coach when they won the Inter-Territorial Tournament in 1988. Jay also coached the Northern California Pelicans in the late 1980s.

Jay most recently helped organize and coach various age-grade levels at the Sierra Foothills Rugby Club and is a co-coach for the Sierra Foothills Collegiate rugby team. This past year he also served as an assistant coach for the Northern California Small College Select Side.

He was the president of the Sacramento Valley Youth Rugby Organization from 2010-11 and sat on the Board of Directors of the Northern California Youth Rugby Association in 2010-11.

Jay has been in the Hearth Products industry (fireplaces, wood stoves, gas logs and Barbeques) since 1980. He created and operates his own sales agency and distribution company, Sierra Marketing Associates Inc., and has served on the Board of Directors for both the Western Regional Trade Association and the National Trade Association of the Hearth Products and Barbeque Association (HPBA) for over 30 years.

Northern California Poppies select side that played the Manawatu Provincial Selects from New Zealand, circa 1981/1982 at the Golden Gate Park Polo grounds. (Jay is standing, second from the left.)

Tom Selfridge 1947 -

Tom Selfridge

Was a three-sport star at the Gilmour Academy in Gates Mills, Ohio, excelling in football, basketball and track and was inducted into the school’s Sports Hall of Fame.

Played fullback for the University of Cincinnati Bearcats.

Played for the Eastern Rugby Union and later served as the ERU’s president.

Played in a total of five test matches for the Eagles, including the first three games the Eagles ever played, against Australia, France and Canada.

Founded the Windhover Rugby Football Club in 1982 and created Windhover Park in Rexford, NY, developing 110 acres with 10 full-size rugby fields.

Little did Tom Selfridge know that a trip to the hardware store to buy paint in the summer of 1969 would alter the rest of his life. It was there that Tom met George Stephenson, who was a member of the Cleveland Blues Rugby Club. Tom accepted George’s offer to come try out for the Blues, and over the course of the next 35 years, Tom became an integral part of rugby in America.

Tom was always athletic. He was a three-sport star at the Gilmour Academy in Gates Mills, Ohio, excelling in football, basketball and track and was inducted into the school’s Sports Hall of Fame. He graduated in 1968 from the University of Cincinnati where he also played fullback for the Bearcats football team.

Tom moved between wing and center on the very strong Cleveland Blues team of the late 1960s and early 70s, winning 95% of all their games. In 1971, Tom was elected president of the Blues, his first in a long line of administrative positions.

In 1973 Tom moved to Schenectady, New York, and played for the Schenectady Reds. With higher levels of competition from the Upstate New York, New England and Met New York Clubs, Tom’s game continued to improve. The Reds moved him to the #8 position and named him captain of a side that could compete with the best in the Northeast. Under Tom, the Reds went on a 24-game winning streak, capturing several tournament titles along the way.

With the formation of the Eastern Rugby Union in 1975, Tom not only soon found his way into the Colonials side but he was also elected to the ERU Board of Directors, helping organize the rapidly growing sport of rugby in Upstate New York. In 1980, he was elected president of the ERU and would oversee a continued growth of rugby in the East, with budgets going from under $20,000 for each of the 12 sub-unions of the ERU to over $200,000 annually. While president of the ERU, and amid much controversy, Tom also oversaw and organized the South Africa Springboks matches against the ERU and United States in 1981.

The United States of America Rugby Football Union (USARFU) was also formed in 1975 and along with it, the National Rugby Team, known as the Eagles, was also created. The following year, the first Inter-Territorial Tournament (ITT) was held, matching the best players from the four USARFU territories to compete for selections to the Eagles.

After a week of evaluations, the first USA team of the modern era was named and Tom was not only on the list but was named as the starting #8 against Australia. Tom was one of only three ERU players, the others being Rob Bordley and Gary Brackett, to break into the side dominated by the exceptional players from the Pacific Coast.

Tom would play in a total of five test matches for the Eagles, including the first three games the Eagles ever played, against Australia, France and Canada. He also won caps against Wales XV and a second against Canada.

He captained the Albany Knicks in 1979 before Founding the Windhover RFC in 1982, where he was also captain and coach. Tom created Windhover Park in Rexford, NY, developing 110 acres with 10 full-size rugby fields that played host to a number of major U.S. rugby events, including the U.S. National Club Championships, the ITTs, and ERU and Upstate Rugby Union Tournaments.

Tom was part of several U.S. Eagles, U.S. Cougars and ERU touring sides. When his distinguished and long playing career came to an end, his last match playing for the Albany Knicks vs Boston in an Over 40s match, he had played in 732 matches in 19 states and 10 countries.

 

Tom in action for the Cleveland Blues RFC vs Pittsburgh RFC at Frick Park in 1972.

Dr. Richard Aldo Donelli 1937 - 2011

Dr. Richard Aldo Donelli

Dick Donelli, at the time of his passing, age 73, had given more than half a century of his life to the advancement of the game. His was a profound influence, as a leader, innovator, coach and administrator. One of the greatest American rugby players of his era and arguably the best scrumhalf in the country, Donelli was the face of an Old Blue that developed an almost mythic reputation in the 1960s. Before there was a US Eagles, he was the scrumhalf in three matches in NYC vs international powers: the stunning 12-11 upset against Fiji (’70), against Australia (’71), and New Zealand (’72).

Dick Donelli, at the time of his passing on July 11, 2011 at the age of 73, had given more than half a century of his life to the advancement of the game. His was a profound influence, as one of America’s premier ruggers, and as a leader, innovator, coach and administrator.

A graduate of the College of Columbia University (’59) and of Columbia Dental School (’63), the worthy son of Aldo “Buff” Donelli (who coached Columbia University to its only Ivy football championship in 1961) would become acquainted with the members of that championship team as their senior quarterback in their freshman season, as a residence dorm counselor and subsequently as their backs coach. Their shared passion for winning and total commitment in football would come to define the unprecedented success of a newly founded Columbia University RFC (est. 1961). Donelli served as both the President and Captain of the CURFC (1962-63); and, as their scrumhalf, led the Lions to an undefeated 12-0 season in the Spring of 1963. He is unquestionably the greatest CURFC player of its first half-century.

Donelli, along with five other former Columbia football alumni, was a co-founder of the Old Blue RFC in the fall of 1963. A member of the Old Blue Hall of Fame, he was the club’s inaugural President (1963-64) and its second Captain (1964-65).

For the next 48 years, his identity and that of the renowned Old Blue were virtually indistinguishable. His was a personality larger than life. His character was such as to make him a force of nature. To the Old Blue family he seemed indestructible, immortal; and his loss thus all the more incomprehensible to all who knew him. Donelli was possessed of the greatest competitive spirit – he viscerally hated to lose, with a devotion to the sport that had almost religious overtones.

His supreme confidence, determination, psychological strength, physical ability, fitness, abandon and unrelenting aggressiveness on the pitch made him the immediate star and imperial leader of the OBRFC. One of the greatest American rugby players of his era and arguably the best scrumhalf in the country, Donelli was the face of an OBRFC that developed an almost mythic reputation in the 1960s. He personified the uniquely American and intense style of play that came to characterize the club and which placed it at the forefront of American rugby.

In 1963, there was no USA Rugby. There was no US Eagles national team. It was in this period that Donelli led his teammates in their unforgiving efforts on the pitch and defined the Old Blue tradition. In this period they established for the OBRFC a standard of exceptionalism informed by their combined Columbia-Old Blue experience in formal spring league competition. In the continuum of those early winning streaks from collegiate to club rugby (1962-65), Donelli and his co-Founders did not know loss. They were undefeated in 54 games, with a 52-0-2 record. In those 54 matches, Dick and his teammates shut out the opposition no less than 32 times, and yielded but a single score in 13 more.

In an era when there were no substitutions whatsoever, in a game that was brutally elemental, and no national club championships, Donelli’s Old Blue embraced the elegant violence like a breath of fresh air; and clubs focused on winning LAU titles and prestigious regional tournaments. After their extraordinary undefeated inaugural 1964 season and first ERU championship, Donelli led them to three more ERU Championships in six years, undefeated five times in 11 seasons, and won the Met NY Union LAU title six times, including the inaugural Met NY Union Championship in 1967.

In 1969 Dick scored the game’s only try in an epic Old Blue 11-6 upset victory over a touring London Saracens side; and his Old Blue beat foreign touring sides, including the Montreal Barbarians, Toronto Nomads, Clifton (Eng), Llandaff (Wales), when it was a rarity for an American club to do so.  They also won every prestigious Eastern tournament, five in all, as the decade came to a close.

Dick was an exceptional 7s player and a ferocious defender. In November 1963, in their inaugural competition as a club, he and Old Blue swept through the field to go 5-0 and win the New York 7s championship. They shut out all five opponents in a display of relentless defense, then went on to repeat the feat with five more shutouts to win the 1964 NY 7s a second straight time, an accomplishment of unthinkable proportions. Ultimately, with another title in 1966, Old Blue won three NY 7s championships in four years, with fourteen shutouts in fifteen matches, yielding a single try.

He was a big scrumhalf for his era and played defense more like a flanker. But it was his skills on offense and his method of passing that first gained him international recognition on the historic OBRFC 6-3 tour of Great Britain in 1966. Dick had developed a one-handed spin pass to put the ball into play faster, farther and more accurately, when it was gospel worldwide to use solely a two-handed flat or dive pass. He was able to get the ball out more quickly to the backline and to the centers, if he wished. Donelli was the star of the tour and every team that saw his pass and play recruited him to play for them. All Blacks coach Jack Sullivan coached the club for their tour, and on his suggestion, the All Blacks visited the Old Blue the next year on their way to the UK. Donelli displayed his pass for Kiwi coach Fred Allen and his famous scrumhalf, Chris Laidlaw, who switched to the spin pass subsequently, and it soon became universally employed worldwide.

On a club with no shortage of very tough men, over fifty years, he was the toughest. After a collegiate football career and nine years of rugby at the highest levels in the United States, he discovered in 1969 that he had been competing with a congenital heart condition: a hole between two chambers of his heart. Eight weeks later he was wearing a Teflon patch in his heart. He was playing rugby within four months of that diagnosis; and, just 18 months after open heart surgery, played for the NY Met Union All Stars in the stunning 12-11 upset against Fiji. The man ultimately played rugby with a pacemaker for over a decade.

Donelli subsequently played against the best teams in the world: He played for, and coached, an ERU side the next year against the Australian Wallabies, and in October 1972 played for and coached the NY Met Union side against the great New Zealand All Blacks, in a 9-41 result that compares favorably to the result of any US side to date. In the Rugby Magazine October 1984 issue, Kiwi coach Jack Sullivan was quoted by Bill Smith, NY Times Financial and Business writer, as saying: "If Dick Donelli had moved to New Zealand, he would have taken Chris Laidlaw's job in six months."  Laidlaw, the All Blacks scrumhalf at the time, was considered the best in the world. No American scrumhalf  - and no American player ever - has yet had such an endorsement; Donelli’s health challenges notwithstanding.

As an administrator, Donelli served as the Vice President of the NY Met Union (1976-77). He served as Chairman of the Old Blue Rugby Foundation, which was created to support the OBRFC and rugby, and when there was an organizational restructuring, became the first Chairman of the Board of the Old Blue. He made the club solvent through its Endowment and created the Foundation’s Annual Hall of Fame Dinner/Fundraiser. He insured financial support for the Columbia rugby program, and for youth rugby through Play Rugby USA.  It was his support that led to specific sponsorship of the E.A. Reynolds West Side High School, a last-chance school for students who dropped out of the system multiple times. Old Blue adopted the team; and the impact of their rugby experience and formal identification with Old Blue has been nothing short of life changing for these teens, according to PRUSA founder and former OB Eagle hooker Mark Griffin.

Dr. Donelli was preeminent in his profession, with over 3,000 hours of postgraduate education course time, and with innumerable certifications and dental association memberships. The passion Dr. Dick Donelli carried to all things he touched was evidenced in his practice: he was beloved by his devoted long-serving staff and his patients alike. For all of his larger than life and often intimidating expressiveness, he was in truth a most sensitive, considerate and loyal man, firstly to his family and then to the Old Blue RFC and his teammates.

Dr. Donelli fiercely opposed self promotion and always understated his achievements; and, in a private endeavor unknown to most of his rugby friends until after his passing, he provided pro bono professional services and financial support to the Blythedale Children's Hospital in Valhalla, NY, a specialty children’s hospital dedicated to improving the health and quality of life of children with complex medical illnesses. He absolutely loathed any talk of credit and attention to his efforts; and, as wife Kathleen noted, he played rugby and lived for the moment, not for such opinions. Dick is survived as well by his five children, Tiffani, Jacqueline, Kerry, Nicole and Charles.

To view a Memorial Tribute Video to Dr. Dick Donelli, please visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m-ucCCIwJ4c

September 10, 1988. Columbia U Chrystie Fieldhouse, NY, NY. Old Blue 25th Anniversary. Old Blue Foundation Chair Dick Donelli.

Terry Fleener 1939 -

Terry Fleener

Was part of a group that founded the Quad City Rugby Club in Davenport, Iowa in 1964 and another group that founded the Denver Barbarians RFC in 1967.

Was elected as the first president of the Eastern Rockies Rugby Football Union.

Was co-founder of the Aspen Ruggerfest in 1968 and served as the Tournament Chairman for the first 4 years.

Was elected to the first ever Board of Directors of the USARFU. He stayed on the Board until 1999 and while on the Board he served as Treasurer from 1983 to 1987 and as President from 1987 to 1989.

Terry Fleener was introduced to the sport of rugby in 1964 when he and a group of fellow aerospace engineers founded the Quad City Rugby Club in Davenport, IA. It was the need to stay fit and the social aspect of the game that initially drew Terry to rugby. There was plenty of local opposition for the Quad City club as Davenport is the home of Palmer College and they were the best in the Midwest at the time.

As a player, every away game in the Midwest was a tour. With the exception of Palmer College, Quad City’s nearest competition was Chicago (200 miles); Madison, WI (250 miles); St Louis, MO (300 miles).

Terry played with Quad City until he relocated to Colorado. The first thing he did upon setting foot on Colorado soil was to look for a rugby club. He hooked up with one of the only two rugby teams in the state, the University of Colorado rugby team.

He played a couple of rugby matches with the University of Colorado before some lacrosse players with the Denver Lacrosse Club, along with a few interested rugby players in the area, wanted to create a third Colorado rugby club. And seeing as they needed players, Terry started playing with them. In the Fall of 1967, the band of rugby players formally organized the club as the Denver Barbarians.

Terry had represented the Quad City Club at the Midwest Rugby Union Meeting in Chicago in 1967 so he had some knowledge of how rugby organizations were set up. That experience would come in handy for in December of 1967, a meeting was arranged to organize rugby in Colorado. 

Two significant things came about as a result of the meeting; the organization would be known as the Eastern Rockies Rugby Football Union and Terry Fleener was elected as the first president of the ERRFU, an office he held for four years.

In the winter of 1967-1968, Terry and another rugby fanatic, Al Osur, were on a ski trip in Aspen, CO. During a long week of skiing, the two determined that Aspen would be an ideal place to have a rugby tournament. The two, with the help of the Aspen Chamber of Commerce, set the date for the first Aspen Ruggerfest in October of 1968. Terry served as the Tournament Chairman for the first 4 years.

With Terry representing the Eastern Rockies, he and representatives from Texas, Utah, the Heart of America (Western Missouri and OK), the Ozarks, and the Missouri RFU met in Kansas City in early 1975 and formed the Western Rugby Union. Terry was on the first Board of Directors for the newly formed Western Rugby Union.

Later, in June of 1975, representatives of the four regional organizations (Eastern Rugby Union, Midwest Rugby Union, Western Rugby Union and the Pacific Coast Rugby Union) gathered in Chicago to form the USA Rugby Football Union. Terry represented the Western RFU and was elected to the first ever Board of Directors of the USARFU. He stayed on the Board until 1999. While on the Board he served as Treasurer from 1983 to 1987 and as President from 1987 to 1989.

Although he was no longer President of USARFU, Terry was still heavily involved with the game. In 1992, Terry was elected president of the newly formed Pan American Rugby Association. In 1996, Terry was appointed the USA Rugby representative to the Pacific Rim Championship and in 1999 he was on the founding Board of Directors for the North American West Indies Rugby Association.

In 2004, Terry joined the Board of Directors of the United States Rugby Foundation, a position he continues to hold today. Terry also continues to serve as a Trustee of the Green and White Rugby Trust, the non-profit arm of the Denver Barbarians Rugby Football Club. And he’s also been to every Rugby World Cup as a spectator.

Terry knows that the game he has been heavily involved in for 50 years will continue to grow.

“Seeing little kids playing the game from Hong Kong to the valleys of Wales and in the United States assures me the sport will carry on for many years. The lessons the sport teaches are very important, but the most unique thing about rugby is the people that are involved.  I have made many wonderful lifelong friends and those friendships transcend geography, nationality, race, age, gender, and all of the other characteristics that define a human.”

Outside of rugby, Terry is also a member of Engineers Without Borders and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

In 1999 Terry retired as Director of Marketing for Ball Aerospace, a company in Colorado developing products for the civilian and military Space Programs.

Terry was on the first Board of Directors of the USA Rugby Football Union formed in 1975.

Ron Mayes 1946 -

Ron Mayes

His playing career ended at the age of 22 when he damaged his knee and had both cartilages removed. That’s when he turned to coaching.

Came to the United States in 1972 on a Fulbright Scholarship.

Coached the Old Blues of Berkeley, California to the first five U.S. National Club Championship titles.

Was appointed head coach of the United States National Team, the Eagles, in 1982. He held that role thru the inaugural Rugby World Cup in 1987.

Was on USA Rugby’s first National Technical and Development Committee and the National Technical Panel.

Ron Mayes rugby playing career began with age group rugby (6 through12) with the Waitemata rugby club in Henderson, New Zealand. His high school rugby was with Kelston Boy’s High School culminating with two years on the 1st XV. He played three years for the University Engineering School team in the Counties competition in New Zealand with the last year playing for the 1st division team. His playing career ended at the end of that season at the age of 22 when he damaged his knee and had both cartilages removed.

Ron Mayes coached 2nd grade rugby for two years in the Auckland competition before coming to the United States in 1972 on a Fulbright Scholarship to perform post-doctoral research at the Earthquake Engineering Research Center at UC Berkeley.

In 1974, two years after the formation of the Berkeley Old Blues by Tom Trutner, Ned Anderson and John Hanson, Ron was asked to help coach the team with Steve Finau. In 1975, he was appointed the coach and held that position through 1983, working with Jeff Hollings as captain and co-coach. During that time the Old Blues gradually got better and won their first Northern California Club Championship in 1977 and their first Monterey tournament in 1978. They embarked on several Canadian trips beating James Bay, Canada’s top club team, twice in three years. In 1979 the first U.S. National Club Championship was held and the Old Blues were the inaugural champions after two overtime victories. The Old Blues went on to win five National Club Championships while Ron was their coach. In 1980 the Old Blues toured New Zealand playing the top club in each city on the tour. The only loss of the tour was to Takapuna during a cyclone that hit Auckland that day.

In 1976, Ron was appointed coach of the Northern California representative team, the Pelicans, and in 1978 was appointed the coach of Pacific Coast representative team, the Grizzlies, and held both positions through 1982. Ron’s assistant coach for both the Pelican’s and Grizzlies was Rod Sears. In late 1982, Ron was appointed head coach of the United States National Team, the Eagles, a position he held through the first Rugby World Cup in 1987. George Betzler was Ron’s assistant coach throughout his five year tenure as Eagles coach.

The Eagles had two overseas tours during Ron’s tenure, one to Australia in 1983 and the other to Japan in 1985. The Australian Tour was a success despite the large loss to Australia, who had just returned from an unbeaten Tour of the British Isles. The Eagles narrowly lost to both NSW (13-9) and Queensland (14-10) but won three other games (Western Australia, Victoria and NSW Country) before losing to Australia (49-3).

The Japan tour was also a success as the Eagles won all six of their matches on tour, including the Eagles first test match against Japan (16-15).

The first Rugby World Cup in Australia in 1987 had the Eagles grouped with England, Australia and Japan. The Eagles beat Japan (21-18) but lost to both Australia (47-12) and England (33-9). Ron was 12-9-1 as the Eagles head coach.

Ron was one of many that were involved in the technical development side of U.S.A. Rugby in two different time periods. The first was when he was appointed coach of the Eagles. He, along with Jim Perkins and 24 others, formed the first National Technical and Development Committee (NTDC). This included all four of the territorial coaches and selectors plus many others. It was responsible for the first U.S. coaching clinics and certifications, and player development programs. It included significant co-ordination between the four territorial teams and the Eagles with each going on an overseas tour every 2nd year. This effort lost steam in the late 1980s. 

Ian Nixon, became President of USARFU in 1992, and charged Ron with resurrecting the National Technical Panel (NTP) in 1993. Ron convinced many of the reluctant early pioneers of the NTDC committee to return and serve again. The NTP committee became quite active and productive from 1993 through 1999. It raised funds to employ George Hook as the first National Technical Director and later added Eddie O’Sullivan as an assistant to both George Hook and Jack Clark, the U.S. National Team head coach at the time.

The NTP organized over 120 Coaching Accreditation clinics with in excess of 1,375 attendees. The NTP also created several major player development programs that were ready to be launched in 2000 but Ron and most of the panel ended their involvement with the NTP in late 1999.

Ron’s involvement with U.S. Rugby (1974 – 1999) was throughout the amateur period of the sport. He believed it was a player’s game and the coaches, managers, selectors and administrators were there to let the players reach their potential and to make the playing experience as enjoyable as possible considering the sacrifices the players made in terms of time and financial commitments. To that end, there were many people that Ron had the pleasure of working with. These included his assistant coaches, Jeff Hollings – Old Blues; Rod Sears – Pelicans and Grizzlies; and George Betzler – Eagles. The team captains – Jeff Hollings and Whit Everett – Old Blues; Jeff Hollings, Ed Burlingham, Skip Neibauer, Whit Everett, Floyd McGaughy – Pelicans and Grizzlies; and Ed Burlingham,  Whit Everett and Brian Vizard – Eagles. The team managers included Tom Trutner – Old Blues; Dan Hickey – Pelicans and Grizzlies; Sid Batt, Bob Watkins – Grizzlies; Ken Wood, Bob Watkins and Jeff Lombard – Eagles. Selectors included the ever tireless and most organized Hutch Turner, Keith Seaber, Joe Reagan, Ross Turnbull, Rod Sears, Brad Andrews, Ron Nesbitt, Jim Perkins, Austin Brewin and many others. 

Off the rugby pitch, Ron has 40 years of management and technical expertise in earthquake and structural engineering. His technical experience includes working with many of the world’s leading authorities in earthquake and structural engineering and he is highly respected by his peers. He recently served as Secretary/Treasurer of the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute, Structural Engineers Association of Northern California and is a past Vice-President of The Masonry Society.

Prior to kick-off against England in the 1987 World Cup at Concord Oval.

Anne Barry 1957 -

Anne Barry

Played on the Minnesota Select Side from 1985-1993 and on the Midwest Selects from 1986-1992.

President of the Minnesota Rugby Union from 1990-2011. Has been the Minnesota Rugby Union treasurer from 2011 and a board member of Minnesota Youth Rugby since 1992, and the association’s president since 2012.

Member of the Midwest Rugby Board of Directors from 1990-2005 and was the Midwest Board Member to USA Rugby from 1992-2005. 
Served USA Rugby as its president from 1998-2002 and as treasurer from 1990-1998 and continued on the USA Rugby Board until 2005. 

On the Governing Council of the Women’s Premier League.

There are a variety of reasons that rugby players give as to what drew them to the sport in the beginning. For some, they liked the action that rugby provided. For others, friends got them involved, while others still got their first taste of rugby at their high school or college. But it was one of the most uncommon reasons that drew 2014 U.S. Rugby Hall of Fame inductee Anne Barry to rugby.

“My then husband was the coach of the Twin Cities Amazons when we first got married. He also played for one of the local club teams. So between his coaching and playing on the weekends the only way to see him was to start playing.”

Anne joined the Amazons in 1983 and was a key member of their club for the next 15 years. She has fond memories of those early years with the Amazons.

“We had very few images of the game. There were no games on video, nothing on TV. I’m still not certain to this day how we ever learned to play as individuals or as a team. One of our early teammates decided to move to London where she started playing and she would send us tapes that we would need to convert to watch how that game was supposed to be played. It was enlightening and made a huge difference in our game.”

Anne played most of her rugby at flanker but towards the end of her playing career she was moved to the back of the scrum to become “the shortest #8 that ever played for the Amazons.”

She was an accomplished flanker and just two years after picking up the game was selected for the Minnesota Select Side. She represented Minnesota from 1985-1993. She also caught the attention of the Midwest selectors and played for the Midwest from 1986-1992.

She went on one tour as a player, with the Amazons to England in 1990. She played her last competitive game of rugby in 1997 and finally hung up the boots for good after playing two matches in 2001, accomplishing her goal of “playing rugby in two centuries.”

As good a player as Anne was on the field, she made an even greater impact on the sport in the boardroom. She was the president of the Minnesota Rugby Union from 1990-2011. She was a member of the Midwest Rugby Board of Directors from 1990-2005 and was the Midwest Board Member to USA Rugby from 1992-2005. As a Board Member for USA Rugby, she was a part of the growth of rugby including the acceptance of the game as a recognized sport by the US Olympic Committee, the creation of the Club and Individual Participation Program (CIPP), the start of national youth rugby development program and the creation of the then North American Caribbean Rugby Association. 

She served USA Rugby as its president from 1998-2002 and as treasurer from 1990-1998 and continued on the USA Rugby Board until 2005. 

Anne continues to serve the sport wearing many hats. She has been the Minnesota Rugby Union treasurer from 2011. She has been a board member of Minnesota Youth Rugby since 1992 and the association’s president since 2012. She recently completed a four-year term as a Governor’s appointed board member of the Minnesota Amateur Sports Foundation. 

Since 2009, Anne has also been on the Governing Council of the Women’s Premier League, a league dedicated to the high performance and improvement of rugby for women in the United States.

Anne’s daughter plays high school rugby in the Minnesota Youth League.

Anne has many lasting memories of her involvement with rugby to date, but those etched in her mind include: the Amazons first Midwest title in 1986; meeting with the United States Olympic Committee along with Gene Roberts, Barb Fugate, Jack Clark and Bob Latham and gaining acceptance as an affiliate sport; paying off all outstanding USA Rugby debt when she took over the Treasurer position and started to build a reserve into the budget for future.

She also has fond memories of: traveling with the U.S. Men’s National Team to Wales and credits Jack Clark with allowing her to be first woman to sit with team at that after-match dinner; the first convention of the North American West Indies Rugby Association and approving the charter and constitution on behalf of USA Rugby; the Amazons winning the National Championship 2013; and being the First Commissioner appointed in Minnesota because she “could explain the game of rugby to the newly elected Governor.”

Outside of rugby, Anne’s professional accomplishments are equally impressive.

Anne has almost 30 years of state public service, with a career that includes gubernatorial appointment to high-level leadership positions in four separate administrations. She currently serves as the Deputy Commissioner for the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS), where she provides leadership and operational direction to all of the programs and divisions of the agency. 

Anne earned her Juris Doctorate from William Mitchell College of Law and her Master’s in Public Health Administration from the University of Minnesota. She also holds a Bachelor of Arts in Occupational Therapy from the College of St. Catherine. She is currently working to complete her work for a Ph.D. in Kinesiology at the University of Minnesota.

Pre-Match betting on USA with USA Rugby vice-president Neal Brendel prior to the USA vs Ireland match at the 1999 Rugby World Cup

Brad Andrews

Brad Andrews

Started playing rugby at St. Mary’s College under the guidance of the legendary Pat Vincent. 

Was part of one of the strongest clubs in America at that time, the Santa Monica Rugby Club, for nine years.

He represented the Los Angeles County select side, Southern California Griffins and the Pacific Coast Grizzlies.

Played for the United States National Team, the Eagles, in 1977, 1978, and in 1979 was the captain of the squad.

He was part of the first victorious Eagles’ team that defeated Canada 12-7 in Baltimore on May 28, 1978.

Brad Andrews started his rugby journey at St. Mary’s College under the guidance of the legendary Pat Vincent. He spent one year after school with the Olde Gaels RFC, then moved south to join the newly formed Santa Monica RFC. After nine years and many victories with one of the strongest clubs in America at that time, he retired from playing.

It was a very short-lived retirement however, as the Belmont Shore RFC asked him to coach and soon after, he started playing once again. 

Moving to Florida brought two more coaching and playing opportunities with the Iron Horse and Orlando RFCs.

He represented the Los Angeles County select side, Southern California Griffins and the Pacific Coast Grizzlies. Brad was selected to play for the United States National Team, the Eagles, in 1977, 1978, and in 1979 was the captain of the squad. He was part of the first victorious Eagles’ team that defeated Canada 12-7 in Baltimore on May 28, 1978.

Brad was a member of many overseas touring sides and was a Pacific Coast selector and Convenor of the National Team Selectors after his playing days were over.

John Jelaco

John Jelaco

Was voted the Monterey Rugby Tournament’s Most valuable Player in 1983.

Was a representative player in the second row before moving to tighthead prop on the recommendation from then U.S. head coach Dennis Storer.

John also represented the U.S. Cougars that faced England in 1982 and represented the combined USA side called “America’s Team,” who played against the club champions of the 5 Nations and South Africa (The Military Defense) in South Africa.

Played in two test matches for the United States Eagles. His debut was in a tie game against Canada in Albany, NY and his second cap coming against England the following week in Hartford, CT.

John Jelaco started his rugby career in 1973 for the Sacramento Capitols while playing semi-professional football for the then undefeated (11-0-1) Sacramento Statesman (1973-1978), the football club then later changed to the Sacramento Buffaloes of the California Football League. While playing rugby for the Capitols, John was later selected to play for the Valley representative side and then with the combined Northern California Pelicans representative side (1976-83).

In 1976, John joined the Bay Area Touring Side in San Francisco, more commonly known as the B.A.T.S rugby club. While playing for the BATS, he had the opportunity to play against several high level representative clubs throughout the world, traveling on the BATS tour to Russia, Italy, England and Wales in 1978. The BATS won numerous tournaments during John’s time with them, including two tournament titles at the prestigious Monterey Tournament with John being voted the tournament’s MVP when the BATS were victorious in 1983.

John went on the play for other select sides such as the California Poppies (1977-83) against Ponypool & Manawatu and was also selected as a US trialist for the Pacific Coast Grizzlies from 1978-1986.
John started out playing in the second row for the Grizzlies and Pelicans but in 1979, after the recommendation from then U.S. head coach Dennis Storer, he changed his position to that of tight head prop. While representing the Pacific Coast Grizzlies, John toured to New Zealand in 1984 and Argentina in 1986.

John also represented the U.S. Cougars that faced England in 1982 and represented the combined USA side called “America’s Team,” who played against the club champions of the 5 Nations and South Africa (The Military Defense) in South Africa.

In 1982, John played in two test matches for the United States Eagles. His debut was in a tie game against Canada in Albany, NY and his second cap coming against England the following week in Hartford, CT.

In 1984, John moved to Southern California where he joined a very strong Los Angeles Rugby Club team that made it to the United States Club Championship final in 1984, playing against the Dallas Harlequins led by former South African Springbok Naas Botha. John also played for the Southern California Griffins select side from 1984-86. John retired from Division I club rugby in 1986.

While at the 1987 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand John formed a mission statement and plan to build a Past-Eagles alumni group to develop and foster youth rugby throughout America. Shortly after his return from New Zealand, John founded the Eagles Alumni Players Association, known later as Team America, and today as the Classic Eagles.

The first tour was to the Mardi Gras tournament in Baton Rouge, LA in 1987. The following year, the Bermuda World Rugby Classic was created and John led as both the team captain (1986-94) and president (1986-2007) of the Team America/Classic Eagles to a successful start in Bermuda.

While continuing to play legends rugby, John was named manager of the U.S. 7s team in 1992 and held that role until the 1997 7s World Cup in Hong Kong, while winning its first ever placing in the World Cup as the Bowl Division winner.

In 1991 the Classic Eagles supported the first ever USA Woman’s Rugby World Cup event in Wales. The USA women won the title. The Classic Eagles then provided support for a combined collegiate all-star rugby team to Australia. The Classic Eagles also supported and organized the 1992 test match between the Eagles and Hong Kong, and Eagle evaluation camps. During this time, the Classic Eagles continued to provide support for developmental squads for both 15s and 7s to various tournaments to grow and foster younger players.

For his service to rugby and having been a capped player for the United States, John received the prestigious Craig Sweeney Award in 2007. He continues to support the game as first a Director and now a Trustee for the United States Rugby Foundation and provided support for the development of the U.S. Rugby Hall of Fame.

John is actively involved with his church and enjoys spending time with his beautiful wife, Denise, and his daughter Leah Jelaco.

Mickey Ording

Mickey Ording

Attended the University of Oregon on a football scholarship and finished his career there as a 1962 Second Team All-American guard. After graduating, he played for the Edmonton Eskimos in the Canadian Football League in 1962-63.

His long club rugby career saw him play with the Olympic Club rugby team (1963-72) and the XO Rugby Club (1973-82).

Played with the West Bay Select Side, Northern California Pelicans and Pacific Coast Grizzlies.

Started at tighthead prop in the Eagles first game of the modern era, against Australia, in Los Angeles, on January 31, 1976. He would go on to play in three of the next four Eagles matches, his last in a win against Canada in Baltimore. 

Robert Michael “Mickey” Ording was an All-Catholic pick in both baseball and football at St. Mary’s College High School in Berkeley, California. He was selected to the National All Catholic team, All Northern California and Wigwam Wisemen All-American team for the football season of 1958. He attended the University of Oregon on a football scholarship and finished his career there as a 1962 Second Team All-American guard. He was selected on the All Coast team 1960, 1961 and 1962. After graduating, he played for the Edmonton Eskimos in the Canadian Football League in 1962-63.

While at Oregon, Mickey was introduced to the sport of rugby. He played rugby for the Ducks from 1960-62. After his stint with the Eskimos, he moved to San Francisco to obtain a graduate degree and coach football at UCSF.  While in San Francisco, he joined the Olympic Club rugby team, playing with the O Club from 1963-72. He then played with the XO Rugby Club from 1973-82, touring with them to Ireland, Wales, England and France. He also toured with the California Poppies on their tour to the U.K.

In 1973, Mickey was selected for the Pacific Coast Grizzlies Select Side. He also played with the West Bay Select Side and with the Northern California Pelicans and the Pacific Coast Grizzlies from 1965 through 1978.

He was also garnering attention from the newly created U.S. National Team. Mickey was selected to start at the tight-head prop position in the United States’ first game of the modern era, against Australia, in Los Angeles on January 31, 1976. He would go on to play in three of the next four Eagles matches, his last in a win against Canada in Baltimore. His national career also included the U.S. Cougars tour of South Africa and Rhodesia in 1979 (an Eagles team which was not  recognized as a national team due to South Africa’s national apartheid policies).

Mickey was a high school and college teacher and football coach from 1965-2001. He married Molly in 1969. The couple has four children and 12 grandchildren. When not doting on them, Mickey enjoys coaching his grandsons’ baseball teams, traveling and playing golf.

Claraence Culpepper

Claraence Culpepper

Was a linebacker on the Virginia Tech football team before he turned to rugby.

With just one year of rugby experience under his belt, Clarence started the Conestoga High School Rugby Club in 1971.

Although having only played the sport a short while, he was selected for the Eastern Rugby Union (ERU) All-Star squad beginning in 1971.

Played two matches for the United States National Team, the Eagles, including captaining the Eagles in their first win of the modern era, over Canada 12-7.

Was the first Eagle player to go on to coach the United States National Team as he coached the Eagles against Japan B on the Eagles 1990 Japan Tour.

Clarence Culpepper was a linebacker on the Virginia Tech football team before he turned to rugby after graduating. Clarence struck up a conversation with a bartender at a Philadelphia watering hole. The barkeep, a member of the Philadelphia RFC, noticed the athletic build of his customer and convinced him that rugby would be the perfect sport for him. Clarence went out for the next training session and he and the bartender, George Betzler, who would go onto be a United States National Team head coach, would be teammates on the Philadelphia team for the next five years.

With just one year of rugby experience under his belt, Clarence started the Conestoga High School Rugby Club in 1971. He developed a number of talented players during his time at Conestoga, many joining the Philadelphia RFC. It was his first, but certainly not last, foray into coaching.

Although having only played the sport a short while, Clarence made the local Eastern Pennsylvania Rugby Union Select Side in 1971 and continued to be a member of the squad until 1974. He was also selected for the Eastern Rugby Union (ERU) All-Star squad beginning in 1971.

In 1974, he moved to Roanoke, VA and became player/coach for the Roanoke Rugby Club. Led by Clarence throughout the 1970s, the Roanoke RFC continually turned out representative players for the state, ERU and the U.S. National Team. Clarence continued to make representative sides, as he played for the Virginia Rugby Union Select Side from 1975-79 and was just about an automatic choice for the ERU until 1979.

Clarence played two matches for the United States National Team, the Eagles. He made his debut against an England XV at Twickenham in 1977. The following May he captained the United States to their first win of the modern era, as the Eagles defeated Canada 12-7 in Baltimore.

Clarence retired from playing altogether in the early 1980s. It was then that he devoted all his passion for rugby into coaching. He moved to New York in 1985 and coached both the Schenectady Reds and Albany Knicks during the 1985-86 seasons. He coached the Windhover RFC in 1987-88, then the Hartford Wanderers in 1989, before coaching the Chesapeake Rugby Club in Maryland in 1990.
On the representative level, Clarence coached the Virginia Rugby Union side in 1980-81, the North Carolina Rugby Union team and the ERU South in 1982-83, the ERU from 1983-89 and the Potomac Rugby Union in 1991.

In 1990, Clarence was also the first Eagle player to go on to coach the United States National Team as he coached the Eagles against Japan B on the Eagles 1990 Japan Tour.

For his long contributions to rugby in Virginia and the Philadelphia area, Clarence was enshrined as a member of both the Virginia Rugby Union and Philadelphia-Whitemarsh RFC’s Halls of Fame.

Jeff Lombard

Jeff Lombard

Played representative rugby for British Columbia, the Washington State Ravens, Pacific N.W. Loggers and Pacific Coast Grizzlies.

Played in three test matches for the Eagles, making his debut in the USA’s first international against Canada.

Started International Athletic, a sporting goods company serving the rugby market in both the United States and Canada.

In 1984 Jeff received the distinction of becoming the first U.S. Eagle player to manage the United States National Team. He was the team manager at the inaugural 1987 Rugby World Cup.

Managed Team America (today known as the Classic Eagles) for 20 years from 1988 to 2008. 

Jeff Lombard was born and raised in Wenatchee, WA. He played football at Wenatchee Jr. College before joining the Army National Guard. After serving the Guard for seven years, Jeff enrolled at Western Washington State College in 1969. It was at WWSC that Jeff was introduced to rugby.

Jeff joined the Chuckanut Bay Rugby Club (CBAA) in Bellingham, WA in 1974. CBAA competed in the Fraser Valley R.F.U. in British Columbia where he distinguished himself as a representative player, as well as representing the Washington State Ravens, Pacific N.W. Loggers and Pacific Coast Grizzlies.

In 1977, Jeff made his debut for the USA Eagles and represented the USARFU in its first international test match against Canada. Later that year, Jeff was a member of the USARFU’s first international tour as the Eagles, with Jeff in the lineup, faced an England XV at Twickenham to earn his second cap. In 1978, Jeff was part of a U.S. Cougars contingent that traveled to South Africa and Rhodesia on a USA development tour. He received his third and final cap against Canada in 1979 in Toronto.

In 1980, Jeff started International Athletic, a sporting goods company serving the rugby market in both the United States and Canada. It continues to be one of the major rugby and soccer goods suppliers to both countries.

In 1984 Jeff received the distinction of becoming the first U.S. Eagle player to manage the United States National Team. He took the first Eagle tour to Japan in 1985 as well as the first Jr. Eagles squad to Europe a few months later. He was appointed manager of the inaugural 1987 Rugby World Cup squad to Australia and New Zealand. He served on the USA Rugby board of directors from 1984-1987 and was honored with the Craig Sweeney Award in 1984. In 1988 he managed the Eagle 7's team to the Hong Kong 7's, where they won the plate competition. 

Following his career with the U.S. National Team program as a player, director and manager, he continued to contribute to his territorial, sub unions and club level in many capacities. He managed Team America (today known as the Classic Eagles) for 20 years from 1988 to 2008. He finds it an honor to serve the great sport of rugby whenever possible. Jeff currently coaches the men’s rugby program at Western Washington University.

Mike Purcell

Mike Purcell

Began his rugby playing career for the Bay Area Touring Side (BATS) in San Francisco.

Won his first United States Eagles’ cap and scored his first international try against the Welsh Centenary XV in Long Beach, CA in May of 1980.

Played on the first U.S. 7s team at the Hong Kong 7s Tournament and scored the first ever try for the USA at that historic event. 

Captained the U.S. 7s team to the plate championship title at the 1986 Hong Kong 7s. 

Played for the Eagles at the inaugural Rugby World Cup in Australia and New Zealand in 1987, scoring the Eagles first ever try in RWC play as the Eagles defeated Japan in their opener.

Mike Purcell began playing rugby for the Newport Beach Sharks while in junior college in Huntington Beach, CA. He was awarded a football scholarship to University of the Pacific in Stockton, CA and also began playing rugby for the Bay Area Touring Side (BATS) in San Francisco and continued playing with them through the 1988 season.

He rose rapidly through local representative rugby and won his first United States Eagles’ cap and scored his first international try against the Welsh Centenary XV in Long Beach, CA in May of 1980.

The following year, Mike played in the unusual match against South Africa on a farmer’s field in upstate New York. Also in 1981, he played on the first U.S. 7s team at the Hong Kong 7s Tournament and scored the first ever try for the USA at that historic event.  He captained the U.S. 7s team to the plate championship title at the 1986 Hong Kong 7s. 

Mike played for the Eagles at the inaugural Rugby World Cup in Australia and New Zealand in 1987. He played in the opening match victory against Japan and also scored the first try for the USA in a Rugby World Cup match. He also scored a try against England in the USA’s final game at the 1987 World Cup, which was also the last of Mike’s 14 international appearances for the U.S.

In 1986, along with U.S. Eagle teammate Kevin Higgins, Mike was selected to play for a World XV team in Johannesburg, South Africa and played against Transvaal at Ellis Park. He scored a long range try in the first half of that game and the World XV were victorious 24-17. 

Mike also played on several U.S. Cougars tours to Scotland and the U.K., and also played for and captained the Public School Wanders on a tour through the south of England.

Mike has coached several representative teams after retiring from playing. He coached the Davis High School team from 2002-2009 and both of Mike’s sons, Brendan and Jaime, played under him at Davis High School. Both were selected as U.S. Collegiate All-Americans at San Diego State University and are now playing for Old Mission Beach Athletic Club in San Diego.

Fred Khasigian

Fred Khasigian

Started as a flanker but injury forced his move to hooker on the Pacific Coast Grizzlies tour to New Zealand in 1972. He played hooker the rest of his career.

Played for the very successful and strong Santa Monica Rugby Club in the 1970s.

Two weeks after starting in the Eagles first game of the modern era, against Australia, Fred required knee surgery and putting an end to his international career.

Has coached the Jesuit High School Rugby team to seven National Championships, four California State Championships, and 10 NorCal Championships.

Harry Alfred (Fred) Khasigian’s rugby career began at USC in 1968 when several of the football players, including LA Rams tight end Bob Klein, encouraged him to play this new game suited for all-around football players.  They played a 10-man style of rugby and Fred was able to letter in rugby in 1968 and 1969. The team was disbanded in 1970 after one of the Trojan football running backs was hurt and Coach John Mackay decided no more rugby.

Having been bitten by the rugby bug, Fred then played club rugby for Cisco’s. He tried out for the California Grizzlies in 1972 and secured a spot on the Grizzlies team that toured New Zealand for six weeks in 1972.  He was a flanker up until then but when a tour ending injury claimed the regular hooker, Fred was asked to shift to the hooker position. He remained  there for the rest of his career.  That tour was very successful in creating a positive image of USA rugby and the Grizzlies defeated New Zealand Universities at Eden Park in their final match of the tour.

On his return to the States after that tour, Fred joined the newly formed Santa Monica Rugby Football Club and was fortunate to play with the inaugural teams that were very successful. Those years featured championships at the Monterey Tournament and ferocious battles with UCLA and their coach and the USA head coach, Dennis Storer. In 1973, Fred toured with Santa Monica to England and Wales.

Despite time constraints due to Medical School and Orthopedic Residency, Fred was selected to the USA Eagles team for the 1976 test against the visiting Australian Wallabies. The USA had a strong showing against a tour hardened Australian team. Two weeks after that game, Fred required knee surgery for an injury suffered against New Zealand Universities in a match played in San Francisco. He was given the ultimatum to choose between his orthopedic career or his rugby playing career. The injury put a close to Chapter 1 of his rugby life.

In 1989, Fred was asked to leave co-ed soccer because of his overly aggressive play. But that gave him the inspiration to try out for the Sacramento RFC, “just as a shot in the dark as I was 41 years old and was a total unknown to the team.” Fred played hooker and prop on the first and second team until 1996 and eventually became team president. He called an end to his rugby playing career “when I watched a video of a game and was appalled at the lack of speed I exhibited.”

In 1996, Fred became coach of Ashton RFC. He wanted a team for his youngest son to play on and therefore opted to continue the Ashton Club team, a combination of Rio, Jesuit, and El Camino High School players.  In 1997, he approached the Jesuit Athletic Director to form a Jesuit only team and the Jesuit Rugby program was formed.

Now in their 18th season, the Jesuit High School Rugby team has won seven National Championships, four California State Championships, and 10 NorCal Championships. In addition, many Jesuit graduates went on to contribute at their respective collegiate rugby programs. The team is very popular on the school’s campus and regularly involves over 150 players per season.
In addition to rugby, Fred attended USC on an academic/athletic scholarship from 1966 to 1970 graduating Magna Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa. He attended USC Medical School, graduating in 1974 and then finished his Orthopedic Surgery residency training in 1979.

He started private practice in Sacramento, CA in 1979 and still practices full time, with a specialization in complex total joints. He has been married 39 years to Lynda (coincidentally meeting after a UCLA- Santa Monica rugby game) and has three sons. Kirk played and captained the Cal Rugby team, won the Woodley Award, and won 38 caps for the USA playing for the Eagles from 1996-2003.  Kevin played varsity football for Brown University.  Kyle was an Under 19 Junior Eagle and won 3 National Championships with Cal.

Brian Vizard

Brian Vizard

Began playing rugby in 1978 with the Grand Rapids Gazelles Rugby Club. 

Played in the first two Rugby World Cups in XVs and the first Rugby World Cup in VIIs.

Represented the United States in 22 full internationals and 21 sevens internationals.

Played on five National Club Championship XVs teams and two National Club Championship VIIs teams with OMBAC.

Has been the on-air talent for over 700 rugby television broadcasts.

Was the Executive Director of the USA Rugby Super League from 1996-1999.

Brian Vizard began playing rugby in 1978 with the Grand Rapids Gazelles Rugby Club.  He played with the Gazelles for four years before attending Michigan State University for a year, playing with the MSU Rugby Club. While playing rugby in Michigan, Brian appeared for the Michigan Select Side on numerous occasions and was also a member of the Midwest Developmental Side in 1983.

In 1984, Brian moved to California where he joined the Monterey Rugby Club. In that same year he represented the Northern California Junior Pelicans and Pacific Coast Junior Grizzlies All-Star teams. In 1985, he traveled south to San Diego joining the Old Mission Beach Athletic Club (OMBAC) rugby team. In his first year he helped lead OMBAC to the first ever United States National Sevens Club Championship while also making the United States Junior National Team, the Pacific Coast Grizzlies and Southern California Griffins All-Star teams.

In 1986, Brian made his first of 22 appearances for the United States National Team. He also made his debut for the United States National Sevens Team of which he went on to appear in 21 international sevens matches. Brian continued his duties with OMBAC while also making repeated appearances for the Pacific Coast and Southern California All-Star teams.

In 1990, Brian was named captain of the United States National Team. He captained the National Team in eight internationals and on tours to Australia, Japan and the 1991 Rugby World Cup in England. He retired from full international play following the 1991 World Cup. After a six year absence from the United States National Sevens Team, Brian successfully came back to secure a spot on the 1993 United States National Sevens Team World Cup squad which toured Fiji, Australia, Hong Kong and Scotland. Brian’s last sevens international appearance was at the 1993 Sevens Rugby World Cup.

Brian retired from club rugby at OMBAC in 1995 at the age of 36. During his 11 years with OMBAC, the club won National Club Championship titles in 1988, ‘89, ‘91, ‘93 and ‘94, and National Sevens Championships in 1985 and 1995.

Brian retired as one of the most accomplished players in the history of the United States Rugby Football Union having played in three Rugby World Cups; representing the United States in 22 full internationals and 21 sevens internationals; participating in 15 representative tours abroad; and playing on seven National Club Championship teams with OMBAC.

Although retired from the playing field, Brian continues to be involved with the sport. For the past 10 years he has been the Executive Director of the United States Rugby Foundation, a non-profit 501 c 3 charitable organization, providing support to youth and high school rugby throughout the United States.

From 1995 to the present, he has been a color commentator for rugby matches throughout the world and was a co-host of The Rugby Club, a weekly two-hour broadcast airing on Fox Sports World from 1995-2005. In the nearly two decades as a color commentator, Brian has been the on-air talent for over 700 rugby television broadcasts, appearing on Fox Sports 1, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPN Classic, ESPN Deportes, FOX, FOX Soccer Channel, FOX Soccer Plus, all FOX Regional Affiliates, Versus, Oxygen, and Prime Ticket.

He was the Executive Director of USA Premier Rugby, Inc., owners and operators of the USA Rugby Super League, from 1996-1999.  He also served on the United States of America Rugby Football Union’s Board of Directors from 1996-1998.

1920 US Olympic Rugby Team

1. Played against France according to www.rugbyfootballhistory.com

 

2. Played against France according to Rudy Scholz correspondence.

1920 US Olympic Rugby Team Roster

DANIEL B. "DANNY" CARROLL (Playing Coach), Australia / Stanford University, Member of the gold medal 1908 Australia / New Zealand (combined) Olympic rugby team 1,2

GEORGE W. FISH, University of California 1,2

JAMES FITZPATRICK, Santa Clara University 2

JOHN MULDOON, Santa Clara University / Olympic Club 1,2

JOHN T. O'NEIL, Santa Clara University 1,2

JOHN C. "JACK" PATRICK, Stanford University 1,2

CORNELIUS E. "SWEDE" RIGHTER, Stanford University 1,2

RUDY SCHOLZ, Santa Clara University 1,2

ROBERT "DINK" TEMPLETON, Stanford University / Member US Track Team 1,2

CHARLES TILDEN, JR. (Captain), University of California 1,2

MORRIS KIRKSEY, Stanford University, Member US Track Team 1,2

CHARLES W. DOE, Stanford University 1,2

MATTHEW HAZELTINE, Stanford University / University of California, Played on the University of California 1912 and 1913 rugby teams, also played Stanford'also played Stanford's 1920-21 and 1921-22 rugby teams

JOSEPH GARVIN HUNTER, Beliston Club 1,2

WILLIAM S. MULDOON (older brother of John), Santa Clara University

COLBY "BABE" SLATER, UC Davis Farm / Olympic Club 1,2

HEATON WRENN, Stanford University 1

DAVIS M. "DAVE" WALLACE, Stanford University

CHARLES T. "RED" MEEHAN, University of California 1,2

JAMES DUARTE WINSTON, Santa Clara University / University of California

GEORGE E. W. DAVIS, Stanford University

HAROLD VON SCHMIDT, Barbarian Club

Compiled by David Scholz 2009, Ryan, Mark. Try for the Gold. White Plains, NY: American International Media, 2009. 241-2. Print

1920 US Olympic Rugby Team Story

It was 1920, less than two years had passed since the end of WWI. A team of Californians, some of who had only recently returned from the war, set sail for Europe. Their destination was Antwerp, Belgium; the host of the 1920 Olympic Games, picked because of the devastation it had experienced in the war. The team’s mission, though most considered it futile, was to return as Rugby Olympic champions and bring home a gold medal.

The US would have to beat one team, France, in the final 80-minute game, set for Sunday, September 5th, 5:00pm. The favor laid with France. One year earlier, at the Inter-Allied Cup, France had won over the US with a score of 8-3.

A crowd of 20,000 spectators filled the Antwerp Stadium despite the rain; weather that caused a soggy field and slippery ball. Both sides showed discipline and patience in the first half, with little advancement by either team. The play remained bogged down, resulting in a halftime score of 0-0. With the start of the second half, the French team began to fumble the wet ball while the US was able to maintain their disciplined play. Weather, in addition to the American forwards easily out weighing their opponents, turned the play against France.

Recounting the second half of that hard-fought game, US player Rudy Scholz said: “Our backfield didn’t have one passing rush, but our defense was superb and Templeton [the last line of that defense at fullback] did not have one tackle to make.” In the middle of the half, with the US forwards powering to gain ground, Dink Templeton made a drop-kick from fifty-five yards. Score: 3-0.

In order to maintain their lead, the US had to continue to stifle France’s play. Kicking to advance the ball was not only safer in the wet conditions, but also seemed to panic the French. In the latter part of the half, through a disciplined and steady increase of pressure by the Americans, France fumbled the ball on their five-yard line. Joseph Hunter was there to retrieve it and score the only try of the game. Dink Templeton converted from a difficult angle and brought the score to 8-0*. In the remaining minutes of the match, the US continued to shut down France, resulting in victory and Olympic gold for the Americans.

*Rugby has evolved throughout the years, and in 1920 the scoring system was different than it is today. Three points were awarded for a drop goal, three points for a try and two points for a conversion.

1924 US Olympic Rugby Team

1. Played in 1924 Games final vs France 

 

2. Member of the 1920 Olympic Rugby Team

1924 US Olympic Rugby Team Roster

CHARLES AUSTIN (COACH), Stanford University

COLBY "BABE" SLATER (CAPTAIN), UC Davis Farm / Olympic Club 1

CHARLES DOE (VICE CAPTAIN), Stanford University 1,2

JOHN T. O'NEILL, Santa Clara University 1,2

JOSEPH GARVIN HUNTER, San Mateo High School / Beliston Club 2

JOHN C. "JACK" PATRICK, Stanford University 1,2

WILLIAM S. MULDOON, Santa Clara University 2

RUDY SCHOLZ, Santa Clara University 1,2

NORMAN CLEAVELAND, Stanford University 1

DUDLEY DE GROOT, Stanford University 1

LINN FARISH, Stanford University 1

WILLIAM "LEFTY" ROGERS, Stanford University 1

RICHARD "DICK" HYLAND, Stanford University 1

ROBERT H. DEVEREUX, Stanford University 1

PHILLIP CLARK, Stanford University

J. CASHEL, Palo Alto Club

CAESAR MANELLI, Santa Clara University 1

H. CUNNINGHAM, Santa Clara University

ALAN WILLIAMS, Cornell University / Olympic Club

GEORGE DIXON, University of California 1

EDWARD GRAFF, University of California 1

NORMAN SLATER, Berkeley High School

EDWARD TURKINGTON, Lowell High School / Olympic Club

ALAN VALENTINE, Swarthmore College / Oxford 1

Compiled by David Scholz 2009, Ryan, Mark. Try for the Gold. White Plains, NY: American International Media, 2009. 243. Print.

1924 US Olympic Rugby Team Story

The France vs. Romania rugby match was the opening event for the 1924 Paris Olympic Games. France was by far the favorite to take the gold metal, and they easily exerted their superiority over Romania with a win of 61-3. The US then played and beat Romania, 37-0. Reminiscent of the 1920 Olympics, France and the US would again face-off for the gold medal.

On the 18th of May, the atmosphere in Colombes stadium was hostile and unsettled. Hot rainy weather must have only increased the crowd's sour attitude, not to mention making the field and ball slippery for the match. A fence to keep the crowd from the pitch had been doubled in height since the last time the US team had seen the field, a disconcerting alteration that saved them from an all out riot.

For the coin toss, both team captains joined the Welsh referee, Albert Freethy. Slater suggested the game's halves be increased to 45 minutes, instead of the traditional 40 minutes. This was a psychological play to tell the French that his US team was confident in their superior fitness. Despite the French Captain's objection, Freethy ruled to extend the halves.

From the first play, the French crowd was unsportsmanlike. They hissed and booed any progress made by the US, cheered when an American was down or bleeding and their behavior only continued to escalate. It wasn't long before they were throwing debris at US players who approached the perimeter and even beating the few American spectators bloody and unconscious. It ultimately became a riot and by the end of the match, the Americans feared for their lives.

The US team chose to respond on the field. They would play clean and hard. Early in the first half, the American's size advantage allowed them to dominate line-outs. If it weren't for the slippery conditions, the US would have scored very early. Instead they struck when a French player fumbled just yards from their try line, and Linn Farish was there to retrieve it and dive over the line. No conversion was made due to the tricky angle, and the underdogs were ahead early 3-0*.

There was a key difference in the way Frenchmen and Americans played rugby, and that was their style of tackling. The US came from a culture of gridiron football, where hard tackles were commonplace and desirable. Bringing such hard hits to rugby was in direct conflict with the French perspective, who “believed that the art of bringing an opponent down was something to be executed with fitness, a defensive necessity which ought to result in as little pain as possible for both parties. Tooth-rattling tackles were deemed to be against the spirit of the game.”

“Lefty” Rogers, against the French superstar Adolphe Jaureguy, made the first big hit of the game. Jaureguy was seen as untouchable in the French rugby community, and seeing him writhing on the field incensed the crowd and the rest of the French team. After a few minutes, he recovered, but the play took a turn at that point. US player, De Groot described it:

“They turned to downright dirty playing. In the scrum they kicked us while we were down; when they tackled us they added nasty twists and pulls after we were fairly down and rid of the ball. But worst of all, the very thing which their newspapers had ‘roasted' us about before the games they were now guilty of, time and again; and that was use of fists and feet…”

US hooker, John O'Neil, only weighed 156lbs. He was surrounded by giants in the scrum and he relied more on spirit than strength when France's dirty play caused him substantial injuries. Through rough play, his shoulder was dislocated. When he returned a Frenchman stomped on his ankle, and when he still continued, O'Neil took a deliberate kick to the stomach. He had recently undergone an appendectomy, and the kick easily ripped open his fresh scar, leaving a seeping stomach wound. He was vital to the team and, after being quickly bandaged, returned to the pitch. The French crowd's cheers at the sight of his blood only further enraged his fighting spirit.

Showing discipline and tremendous composure, the American team held back from retaliating, but they continued their style of hard tackling. Rogers again took down Jaureguy with a rattling hit, and again he stayed down for a while before returning to the game.

Ten minutes before halftime, Jaureguy was preparing for a fast break. He was known for his speed, and had he managed to reach his full stride, would have likely scored, but Valentine was able to make a diving tackle. Hit with such force, the Frenchman was knocked out and his upper lip was split. Carried off the field in a stretcher, the French superstar did not return for the rest of the game. His team was forced to play with only fourteen men.

At halftime the score was 3-0.

Second half play was initially dominated by the Americans, with nearly all of the action occurring in France's territory. Play was interrupted by a fistfight on the field, and when it resumed, there was a near try by France. A hard US tackle knocked the ball free, allowing Doe to kick it down field. Through heavy pressure, the US gained possession and Jack Patrick made the second try of the match, directly between the posts. The score became 8-0.

There were two more near US tries in quick succession. Both were disallowed, seen as a likely attempt to keep the unruly spectators for exploding into even greater violence. Then, with a forty-yard twisting run, Farrish scored again, making it 11-0.

In what may have been an American-football-like block, a French player dislocated his knee-cap. The French team was down another man, playing with just thirteen. Enraged, some French players chose to favor openly foul play. The US Captain, ‘Babe' Slater, was the target of blatant punches on several occasions. The referee threw the transgressing Frenchmen off the field, but in all three cases, due to Slater's pleas, they were allowed to return. Slater was trying to preserve France's numbers, otherwise they would have had just eleven men on the field.

US defense temporarily cracked, and France scored their only try without converting.

Rogers and Manelli each scored tries for the US, and when the last whistle was blown, the final score was 17-3. The US was again able to overcome the odds and win gold medals.
*Rugby has evolved throughout the years, and in 1924 the scoring system was different than it is today. Three points were awarded for a drop goal, three points for a try and two points for a conversion.

Craig Sweeney Award

Description

Craig Sweeney played in the first four test matches for the United States in the modern era, captaining the team in the third and fourth tests. Unfortunately, not too many months after returning from England where he earned his fourth cap, Craig was training on the track at Santa Monica and suffered a fatal heart attack.

Keith Seaber, who was the Chairman of the National Selectors at the time and is currently the Convenor of Selectors for the Sweeney Award, remembers Sweeney fondly. "While extremely talented, Craig was also modest and revered by his teammates. He was a great captain and a wonderful ambassador for the game, U.S. Rugby and the United States of America.

"After the initial shock, we, the Union, decided to have an award in his memory. The National Selectors were given the responsibility of selecting an individual who had played for the Eagles, who was respected by his peers and the rugby community, has made significant contributions back to the game following his playing career, and be a person of exemplary character."

There have been just nine recipients of the Sweeney Award to date. Former Eagle prop Mickey Ording was the first ever Sweeney Award winner, accepting the honor in 1979. He was followed by backrowers Tom Selfridge (1980), Clarence Culpepper (1982), Jeff Lombard (1984) and Brad Andrews (1985).

Former U.S. National Team head coach and current Cal head coach, Jack Clark, was presented the Sweeney Award in 2001. He was followed by Mike Purcell (2004), John Jelaco (2007) and Fred Khasigian (2009).

“It is with great gratitude that, I and the previous recipients of The Sweeney Award, accept the USRF invitation to have this prestigious award housed in their Hall of Fame," said Seaber. "We are extremely pleased that the Award and its history will now be available for all to see.

“We are also very proud that this award will be presented annually at the Hall of Fame Dinner. It will mean that these two awards that acknowledge the very significant dedication given by U.S. rugby people on and off the field, receive the recognition they deserve.”

Coming Soon

Recipients

Description

Coming Soon

Recipients

Description

Coming Soon

Recipients

Description

Previous Year
Next Year
Return to Lobby
Previous Year
Next Year
Return to Lobby
Previous Year
Next Year
Return to Lobby