Tiger spirit abounds at Clemson University in South Carolina. Ranked as the 21st best national public university by U.S.News & World Report, Clemson is a science- and engineering-oriented college dedicated to teaching, research and service. Clemson is known for its richness in school spirit.
Some of Clemson's accolades include: top tier of retention and graduation rates for public universities; ranked a “Best Value” by Kiplinger magazine in 2013; and SmartMoney in 2012 ranked the university No. 7 in student return on investment.
As a newly emerging high performance rugby program of the south, Clemson is sure to make a splash on the collegiate rugby scene, all the while providing top tier academics to boot … with a Southern flair.
Clemson’s approximate 16,500 undergraduate students have a plethora of options in the 85 majors offered on campus. Clemson is best served to those interested in studying the technical fields. The most well known and popular include a top notch engineering program, architecture, economics, genetics and business. Electrical engineering is Clemson’s largest department, and its computer engineering is among the nation’s best in research on large-scale integrated computer circuitry and robotics. The student-to-faculty ratio is a favorable 18:1, and students are happy with their experience as evidenced by its 91% sophomore retention rate.
Dylan Goulding is part of that 91%. A sophomore majoring in business, Goulding came all the way from Singapore, where he played for the U20 national team, and picked Clemson to further his education and rugby career.
“My favorite part has to be the college atmosphere – it is unparalleled," Goulding said. "You are shocked by the school spirit this place has. The students are happy and they are proud to be here part of the Tiger family. The teachers are committed to students and there are no boring lectures because the professors are adamant about what they teach.” The reason Goulding chose Clemson over all others is, “because I really wanted the college atmosphere; like what you see in the movies. It is so picturesque; I came one summer for an hour and that was all I needed.”
As any sports buff can attest, athletics is highly valued on campus. The school loves its sports and on any given weekend, pep rallies, cookouts, dances and parties are common on this active campus. The rugby team hopes to piggyback on the rich athletic history at Clemson and build its own niche.
Founded in 1967, the Clemson University rugby team has a rich history of success in intercollegiate competition. With strong performances throughout the 1990s, consistent top 15 national finishes from 2005-2007, and an Elite 8 finish in 2013, Clemson Rugby has been a symbol of excellence in American collegiate rugby. Through tremendous support from the university and the Clemson Rugby Foundation, the rugby team is making great strides to re-establish itself as an elite program in the United States.
Clemson competes in the Atlantic Coast Rugby League. Coach Justin Hickey is entering his third year with the program and has high hopes for its growth in the years to come. Prior to Hickey's arrival at Clemson, the Tigers struggled to a 1-5 record in the Carolinas League in 2010. In 2011, his first season, the Tigers showed immediate improvement, posting a 4-2 record in the newly formed Atlantic Coast Rugby League (ACRL). In 2012, the Tigers made a serious run at a league championship, narrowly missing out, posting a 6-1 ACRL record and a record of 9-1 overall. This past spring, the Tigers again posted a 6-1 ACRL record, losing only to Navy, and a 10-2 overall record. The second loss came in the USA Rugby Elite 8 to eventual national champion University of Central Florida.
Clemson is a new addition to the Varsity Cup competing with the likes of rugby stalwarts such as Cal and BYU. With a background as an educator in school counseling, Hickey explains his philosophy.
"With coaching as my trade, I consider it my platform to educate and positively influence the young men I coach, as well as hold extremely high the importance of building relationships with teammates and the team as whole," Hickey said. "Sports are a fertile training ground for personal development. In life, as in sport, we are faced with decisions, big and small on a daily basis. That's what it's all about: the decision-making process; understanding the best decision, communicating and executing it. I try to take advantage of every opportunity to teach lessons to individuals and to our team. Whether it's on and off the field, whether it's positive or negative, there are lessons learned through the understanding that every behavior or decision is met with consequences. Rugby is the ultimate sport in many ways, especially in terms of the parallels of life. Nearly every match, teams and players are faced with adversity, disappointment, pain, pressure, sacrifice, as well as satisfaction, unity, relief, pride, achievement. Valuable lessons are learned with both how to respond to adversity as well as remaining humble during success. Just as philosophies evolve, it is important as a team to grow, develop, mature and evolve and as our minds remain open, welcome new perspectives and learn from experiences.”
Already Hickey is seeing the fruits of his labor. This September, Hickey reported that an astounding 25 freshman student-athletes were joining the team, all possessing stellar high school rugby experience. The team takes their program serious, typically practicing four days per week, with a film or lighter training session once per week. Along with a team of rugby coaches supporting Hickey, the players benefit from a dedicated physio and strength-and-conditioning coach.
“I’m really impressed by the progress we have had," said Goulding, who plays inside center for Clemson. "The level of play continues to rise and continues to expand. There is a major amount of commitment among the team and a really tight bond between coach Hickey and the rest of the team. The success of this team is no accident. It’s due to his commitment and hard work.”
When asked where Hickey envisions his program in the near future, he says, “It's difficult to quantify where I see the team in five years as the collegiate rugby landscape seems to be changing year to year, and growing at a rapid rate. However, we have every intention to remain ahead of the curve and build toward competing with and operating at the level of the top rugby programs in the country. While it is a long-term goal to establish the program among America's elite college rugby teams, it is very much a short-term goal to arrive there as soon as we can. We are working hard to continue raising the standard within our program and striving toward becoming a fixture at the top level of US collegiate rugby.”
*Clemson has a women’s team as well, however, there was not enough information provided to the author to report in depth for this article.
Clemson admission is selective with an acceptance rate of 57%; 83% of accepted students had a GPA higher than 3.75, SAT scores of Critical Reading 560-660 and Math 590-680 or an ACT composite score between 26-31. Students can apply using the Clemson application (deadline for priority notification is Dec. 1; scholarship consideration is Dec. 31; and regular application is May 1). More info: www.clemson.edu/admissions/undergraduate/index.html. There is an optional essay requested and test scores are required. The rugby team currently does not have any official admission support for applicants, but encourages all interested players to apply and consider Clemson in their college search.
Total cost of attendance for a South Carolina resident who lives on campus (including tuition, room & board, books and other fees) is approximately $26,990/year. Out of state residents’ total cost is approximately $41,548/year.
If you are looking for a school spirit-driven, technically oriented public university combined with a highly competitive rugby program, as Goulding would say, “Take the leap. You won’t be sorry you did!”
Clemson University: www.clemson.edu
Clemson Men’s rugby team: www.clemsonrugby.com/
Clemson Rugby Recruiting Questionnaire: www.clemsonrugby.com/recruiting.html
Clemson Summer Camp: www.clemsonrugby.com/summer-camp.html
Clemson Women’s rugby team: people.clemson.edu/~wrugby/
Data and Facts pulled from Clemson University, Clemson Rugby’s website and The Fiske Guide to Colleges.
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