Colgate Men’s Rugby: A Proud Tradition Since 1966

Heath Newman, Contributing Writer

From their arrival as first-years up the hill, Colgate students are made aware of the aura that surrounds the Colgate University Rugby Football Club. With their field set alongside Oak Drive, Colgate Rugby is firmly cemented in the culture of the school. Though it is just one of the 27 club sports at Colgate, the rugby team has a long-standing tradition of excellence both for the men’s and women’s programs, with their respective A teams competing in Division I play. The men’s team was first formed in the winter of 1966. Unlike other club sports at Colgate, the Men’s Rugby Team actively recruits athletes out of high school, who come to their August preseason with returning players each year. Sophomore Robbie Wolf is one such player, positioned at scrum half for the team. 

“Preseason starts around August 11 with all returning players and recruited freshmen who played in high school. We then open up recruiting efforts to the whole campus once classes start … I was recruited to play out of high school. Most members picked up rugby after playing football or lacrosse in high school. This is going to change in the coming years with a higher emphasis on recruiting,” Wolf said.

Rugby is among the most competitive club sports. Boasting 45 members and both men’s and women’s teams, Colgate Rugby has enough depth to field both a championship-caliber squad and a reserve group. They have enough players to field a team for 15 vs. 15 matches (15s), as well as ones for 7 vs. 7 (7s). With a fall and spring season, Colgate Rugby players dedicate much of their time to carrying on the legacy built over a half century ago. Senior Ethan Gruber commented on that competitive nature. 

“The team is divided into an A side and a B side, with A competing for a conference and national championship, and the B side acting as a developmental team. We’re in the I-95 Division of the Liberty Conference which consists of Colgate, Fordham, Stonybrook, Albany and Iona,” Gruber said. “Our 15s season for both sides runs in the fall, the spring is our 7s season for the most experienced players. We recently implemented a 15s season in the spring for the newer players to have a chance to develop for the upcoming fall season.”

With recent trips to national championship games, the 2021-2022 team looked to continue the program’s success. In their first season back from the pandemic, the men’s team finished the fall season with admirable results. 

“We typically play about 10 matches in the fall. We went 3-4 last semester and 2-2 in conference play, as we had a few cancellations due to COVID-19,” sophomore flanker Mike Gannon said. 

However, according to Wolf, participating on the rugby team at Colgate has immense value beyond just wins and losses. It is a brotherhood, a commitment to tradition and a distinguished group predicated on its long and colorful history. In this way, participating on the team is both a great opportunity to become a member of the community here at Colgate and to meet new people. 

“The best part of being on the team is becoming friends with a group of people that you might not usually cross paths with. The team has a lot of diverse members with different interests, and rugby allows us to make close friends from all spectrums of campus,” Wolf said. 

There is also some exciting news for the future of the team. Announced at the annual Rugby Celebration Conference in New York City in March, the approval of a five million dollar pledge over the next few years was granted to the program. Of this pledge, two million dollars have already been endowed to support the advancement of plans for a club house, among other needs moving forward.

With an influx of money headed towards the already budding program, Colgate Rugby is poised for a bright future.