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After setbacks, Columbia rugby team on the rise
By the end of the fall season, the Columbia Rugby Football Club was in shambles. After a posting a 1-8 league season with just a lone win over Brown and developing a bad reputation due to poor sideline behavior, trash talking, and dangerous play, the club recognized that change was necessary. When Josh Tobin, CC’13, was elected president in late November, he sat the team down for a talk.
“We talked about the fall, and what we valued as a team,” Tobin said. “It gave us leaders a basis to structure how we wanted to be as a team going forward. It was a really positive thing that brought us together.”
With its recent 75-0 thrashing of Yale and 20-12 win over Fordham on its 50th anniversary weekend, rugby is now a club sport on the rise at Columbia.
The team started 51 years ago when Bill Campbell, current chairman of Columbia’s Board of Trustees, and a number of other former Lions football players founded the club. The team has a storied history—in its first three years, the European Rugby Club team, which plays the European version of the game with seven men on the field, went to three division finals and came away with two championships. Since then, the program has existed in “various levels of seriousness,” according to Tobin.
Three years ago was one of the less serious periods for the club—until members of the executive board decided to join the Ivy Rugby Conference, which was formed in 2009. In their first season, the team went 1-6, good enough for seventh place. In the fall of 2010, the team finished second behind Dartmouth with a 5-2 record.
Tobin and the captains, Alex Plana, CC’13, and Ian Hillman, CC’13, break down the Ivy’s current teams into three tiers. The premier team in the league is Dartmouth, which treats rugby like a varsity sport—it has its own field house, a 70-man roster, five practices a week, and the ability to recruit talent to its campus. The second tier comprises teams with deep rosters: Brown, Harvard, and Princeton. Finally comes the third tier, made up of Yale, Penn, and Cornell.