Central Washington University's men's and women's ruby teams have been added to the school's varsity sports roster, according to athletic director Dennis Francois. Central is one of the few varsity programs at any public college or university in the nation to offer both men’s and women’s rugby.
“We’re fortunate to have one of the nation’s best coaches, Tony Pacheco, as our director of rugby," Francois said. "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,” Pacheco said.
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.
Central 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 postseason championship, and finished third among the nation’s elite college programs.
The women’s program, which began in 1990, also has been a national contender. The NCAA now recognizes women’s rugby as an "emerging" women’s sport.
“We’ll implement many of the things that we’ve done with the men to further build our successful women’s program,” Pacheco said. “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 men's team has already resumed competition in the Northwest Collegiate Rugby Conference last weekend, beating Oregon State University 27-0 and will continue its preparation for the Varsity Cup postseason. Central will take to the competition a six-year unbeaten string against Northwest opponents.
Central sophomore Korbin Lindell is a member of the United States under-20 national team. Junior Tanner Barnes is on the roster of the Men’s Sevens National team, as is 2013 graduate Patrick Blair.
“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," Francois said. "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.”
Central President James 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,” Gaudino said. “They also help expand the diversity of campus, which is good for all of our students.”