Rugby Game Is More Than A Grudge Match

This Saturday, fans and alumni will flock to the rugby field to watch Colgate square off against Cornell in a game of speed, strength and more than a few hard hits. The victor will bring home bragging rights and some hardware until next year’s match. The tradition of a Colgate – Cornell rugby match started in September 2002, when the Colgate squad invited Cornell here to play a match. Cornell has a Division I Rugby program, while Colgate’s is Division III. Thus, it was both a thrill and a surprise when Colgate proved victorious at that first match. Even in defeat, though, the Cornell players were so impressed with the facilities, pitch and hospitality of the Colgate club that they asked if they could return the following year. Colgate accepted the challenge; after all, what Division III school would not want a nearby Division I program begging to play against them? It would provide a demanding opportunity for the Colgate players to test their skills without affecting their record. The Cornell team won the match the next year, and a full-blooded rivalry was born. The teams agreed to play the game annually in early September and even had a trophy – the Clarett Mug – made to be given to the victor and held onto until the following year. With the series tied 1-1, this is also the last chance for the seniors on both teams to go out on top. “It’s a huge rivalry,” senior tri-captain Sean Meehan said. “This is a big match for the seniors. We want to go out with the lead.”This year’s game is more than just another annual grudge match. The game falls on September 11, marking the anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.”It was serendipitous with the game falling on September 11,” head coach Timothy Burdick said. “We felt we couldn’t play the game without having some kind of remembrance.” To that end, the team invited the University Chaplain Nancy De Vries Devries to the game in order to offer a prayer and a moment of silence before kick-off, along with a bag piper to perform “Amazing Grace”. University President Rebecca Chopp will also offer opening remarks prior to the game. “I am honored to speak before the kickoff of the game,” Chopp said. “I want to thank the Rugby team for planning this event and helping us to remember September 11.”Chopp’s remarks will deal with the importance of memory and hope on September 11, and the importance of democracy and education. Dean of the Faculty Lyle Roelofs is also expected to be in attendance. The Rugby team sent out invitations to over 500 alumni in the hopes that they will come to the game to support their former team and to remember the events of September 11. “The Rugby club has a vibrant alumni base,” Burdick, who expects a fairly strong turnout for the event, said. The team also had t-shirts made to sell at the game, the proceeds from which will be donated to charities in Madison County. The International Order of Oddfellows will also have a catering truck at the event, and will be serving such items as hot dogs, hamburgers, chips and soda. Again, the proceeds will benefit charities in Madison County.The players, having helped organize the event, realize the magnitude of what the game is remembering. “It’s an important symbolic event,” senior tri-captain Lucas Batzer said.However that does not mean that the intensity of the rivalry is taking a backseat.”We want a good show on both sides,” Batzer said. Meehan feels similarly. “We’ve gotten to know a bunch of the guys; they are a great club and that’s what makes it a great rivalry,” he said. “We want to go out there and have fun.” “Winning,” Meehan was quick to add, “is fun.” No matter how intense the competition gets – and it can be expected to get very intense – the players hope to put on a good, clean show that will be fun both for the players and the fans.Saturday’s events begin on Academy Field with a women’s game at 11 am. Following the women’s game will be the men’s pre-game ceremony at 12:30, with the kickoff at 1:00 pm.