Rugby finds temporary solution after cancellation

Last November an important and longstanding part of the Colby community was nearly lost. The Colby College Rugby Football Club, a presence on campus since the early 1970’s, was told suddenly and without warning that the Spring 2014 season would be their last. In a meeting with Dean of Faculty Lori Kletzer, players were informed that the costs of rugby would greatly exceed what the school was willing provide for a club team and as a result the administration decided to defund rugby. Many of the players were left stunned, wondering what they were going to do without the sport that they loved. They decided they refused to find out and joined forces with alumni, fellow students, and parents, to save their community.

The unified and mature response of the team surprised the administration. Maggie Burgos ’17 said that it was easier for the team to mobilize because they understood and agreed with the deans’ concerns about rugby safety. Over the past few years, the rugby team has transformed from a casual group of kids throwing a ball around to a highly competitive and devoted team, playing in tournaments all over New England. As the level of play increased there became a greater need for a training and medical staff. As Burgos stated, “The administration wanted to respond to our level of commitment to the game with an equal level of commitment to safety.” The team was able to express their feelings on the topic with the administration by demonstrating support for the sport both on and off campus. The day after the administration cut rugby, the team began tabling in Pulver, collecting upwards of 1,500 signatures (80% of the student population) on a paper petition and over 4,500 signatures on an online petition distributed to alumni. #SaveColbyRugby was created and the team had a phone-a-thon with alumni to garner extra support and gathered personal testimonials to show how impactful this sport was in their Colby careers.

The team ultimately came to a tentative cost sharing agreement with the administration. Each year the school will contribute $35,000 to the club. An additional $17,500 must come from alumni donations, and the remaining $13,000 will come from the players themselves. This $13,000 must come each year, regardless of how many players are on the team, which adds an additional hurdle to the increasingly difficult task of recruitment. Following the spring of 2017, the administration will conduct a review, studying the feasibility of continuing rugby under the comprehensive cost-sharing agreement.

“We’re still kind of in limbo right now because we don’t know where the money will come from,” said Tanya Kureshi ’17. “We can’t do anything but hope and work really hard over the next few years to establish a means of achieving these funds, but we are remaining positive and playing hard.”

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