ELLENSBURG, Wash. — Central Washington University has announced that its men's and women's rugby has now been added to the roster of varsity sports within the Central Washington University Department of Athletics.
This makes CWU one of the great rarities in college rugby, with varsity programs for both men and women.
"We are excited to welcome both the women's and men's rugby programs to the Department of Athletics," said CWU Athletic Director Dennis Francois. "We’re fortunate to have one of the nation’s best coaches, Tony Pacheco, as our Director of Rugby. I’m confident that our men’s program will continue to compete for national championships and our women’s program will soon become one of the nation's premier varsity programs under his leadership."
Pacheco, who also currently serves as head coach of the USA Rugby All-American Sevens team, will continue to serve as head coach for the men's team and be responsible for overseeing the continued development of both the men's and women's programs. A national search for the head women's coach will begin immediately.
"Becoming part of intercollegiate athletics puts us ahead of other programs and will allow us to recruit even more high-caliber student-athletes," said Pacheco.
Until now, rugby has been offered through the university’s sport club program, where the men's team has established itself as a national powerhouse, qualifying for the USA Rugby Sevens National Championship every year since its inception in 2011. The Wildcats placed fourth in last fall’s championship.
In addition, CWU won the 2011 Las Vegas Invitational, which qualified the program for the Collegiate Rugby Championships. Last spring, the Wildcats' 15-a-side program joined the Varsity Cup post-season championship, and finished third among the nation’s elite college programs. They are back in the Varsity Cup this season.
The women's program, which began in 1990, also has been a contender in national championship competitions.
"We’ll implement many of the things that we've done with the men to further build our successful women's program," said Pacheco. "They've produced a number of All-Americans and dedicated student athletes and I’m excited for the opportunity to assist in building this program."
The Wildcat men have already resumed competition in the Northwest Collegiate Rugby Conference, and this past weekend beat Oregon State University 27-0 in their preparation for the Varsity Cup post season. CWU will take to the competition a six-year unbeaten string against Northwest opponents.
CWU sophomore Korbin Lindell, from Wales, Wisc., is a member of the United States under-20 national team. Junior Tanner Barnes, Fresno, Calif., is training with the USA 7s team, as is 2013 graduate Patrick Blair.
Francois went on to say, "The support of our university administration, student government, the athletic department staff, the NCAA, and the rugby community throughout the process has been instrumental in our decision to make this transition. We are committed to creating a positive student-athlete experience for our rugby players that is consistent with that of our current varsity sport athletes."
CWU President James L. Gaudino, who played both football and rugby at the United States Air Force Academy, said rugby programs have attracted and will continue to attract top-quality student-athletes from all around the world.
"While they come here for rugby, they receive the benefits of our student-athlete experience," said Gaudino. "They also help expand the diversity of campus, which is good for all of our students."