Alumni donates money to create rugby complex

The Kansas Jayhawks rugby club once struggled to schedule games and practices, but University alumni and former members of the club alleviated these problems with a $350,000 donation for the creation of the Westwick rugby complex.

The rugby club has been playing at the Westwick Rubgy Complex since 1997. Before that they played at the Schenk Sports Complex on the corner of 23rd and Iowa Streets, but the team had problems scheduling games and practices there. These scheduling conflicts are what lead to the need for a rugby-specific complex.

“We had so many problems scheduling times to play games and practice,” said coaching coordinator Rick Renfro. “So we needed our own place to play, and plus we went overseas and saw how cool it was to have your own clubhouse and field.”

Renfro added that they used the donations from alumni to buy the field, which was $200,000, and another $150,000 for the lights and the sprinkler system. Renfro and many other volunteers  involved with the rugby club maintain the fields. Renfro himself has been apart of the rugby club since 1975  when he was a player. He has since filled numerous  roles with the club. In his words,he has done all of the 101 things that it takes to run a club.

Rugby is often thought of as football without pads, but Connor Taft, a senior from Chicago and captain of the university rugby club said if he had to sum rugby up that it would be more like full contact basketball.

“The rules between basketball and rugby are really similar,” Taft said . “When you have the ball you’re on offense and vice versa and there is continuous play until there is an infraction of the rules. It’s all about two on one.”

Since rugby is not as popular in America as football and basketball, knowledge of the rules is not as great, so Taft broke down the main points of rugby.

Taft noted that in rugby you can only pass the ball backwards or sideways, unlike football where you can throw it forward. There is tackling involved, so in that regard it is like football, but when you run the ball into the endzone or the tryzone as it is referred to in rugby, you have to touch the ball to the ground. There are also scrums, where the two teams are interlocked and fighting to roll the ball out with their feet. These scrums usually take place when there is a penalty or a dead ball.

The Kansas Jayhawks rugby club is made up of two different clubs: the actual university team and a men’s club team.

With both the clubs combined at the start of a season, there is usually about 50 to 60 guys who come out to play. Taft said that by the end of the season there are usually about 30 to 40 guys who stick around and  committ to the team.

The universtiy team plays five or six games that count toward its actual college record. They play other men’s teams on occasion, but those games do not count toward their record. The club participates in the Heart of America conference and if they win the conference, it competes in what is called westerns. If the team wins the westerns, there is a possibility they will compete for a national championship.

Rugby coach Dave Hamill said that the club has been decent over the last few years, but the main draw is the tradition of touring every year,. which is where the club goes all over the world and plays different rugby teams.

The team won its first two matches and lost the third this season.  Coach Hamill is looking to build off of their previous results.

“We just got back from Aspen and we won our first two matches,” Hamill said. “We beat the Aspen team which is one of the best clubs out there so that is really good for us.”

  • Updated Oct. 1, 2012 at 9:57 pm
  • Edited by Andrew Ruszczyk