Club rugby team uses historic victory to realize it belongs

May 3, 2013
By Chris Saunders
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Photo courtesy of Abe Harman.

The NC State men’s rugby club team took on UNC’s club team a couple of weeks ago in what was supposed to be another close affair in what’s been a fairly even rivalry.

But  the contest ended up being something so much more. First off, the Wolfpackers beat the Tar Heels in historic fashion, downing them, 100-0. “It’s usually not like that,” says Abe Harman, NC State’s club president. “All credit to Carolina. They usually have a competitive side.”

And on top of hitting the century mark and securing a shutout, the club team saw in that game the culmination of its efforts to grow the last couple of years. Three years ago, the club team was competing against smaller club teams, like Duke and East Carolina, on the Division II level. But they finished eighth in the nation in 2010 and qualified to movie up to Division I. The Carolina game was validation that they now belong.

“We’ve been building as a club the last couple of years,” Harmon says. “We’re starting to get really competitive at the Division I level now.”

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Photo courtesy of Kyle O'Donnell.

NC State’s club rugby team has been building for a while, in fact. Dating back to 1965, they are one of the oldest teams in NC State’s club sports program, which is housed under University Recreation and welcomes student, faculty and staff from across campus to participate. Having such a rich heritage is very profitable for the current team. “We have a really big group of alumni,” Harman says. “We have a great index. They help us out as far as funding travel.”

Harman says several of the club’s alumni are still in the area, having gone on to play for the rugby club the Raleigh Vipers. One of those alumni, Jim Latham, serves as NC State’s club team’s head coach. While filling that slot was easy, Harman also says that its recruiting players that sometimes presents its challenges.

Photo courtesy of Kyle O'Donnell.

Photo courtesy of Kyle O'Donnell.

“We’ll get good athletes [coming] out,” he says. “They’re not rugby guys. They’re football guys and soccer guys. So that first year they play, there’s a lot of them getting the intricacies of the game.”

Currently, the team has its sights set on the Collegiate Rugby Championship that will be held in Philadelphia in June. And it’s the first collegiate rugby championship in the United States to be covered on television. It will air on NBC Sports.

Harman says it’s just another example of how far the club team has come. “We’re at a unique position where a lot of those things are coming to head,” he says.

For more on club sports at NC State, check out the Spring 2013 issue of NC State magazine. We profiled the rich program at the university and featured different club sports teams, some of which are the most successful and the best-kept secrets on campus.

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