The NCAA named rugby as an emerging collegiate sport (aka varsity) a few years ago and more schools are starting to use women’s rugby teams to satisfy their Title IX requirements for equal numbers/opportunities in collegiate athletic departments.
West Chester (PA) University’s Women’s RFC, coached for the past seven years by Tony DeRemer, made the transition from Club to Varsity status in September of 2004. The Rams had a successful first season as a varsity sport, advancing to
the Division I Sweet 16 in the Spring of 2005. Rugby Magazine’s Managing Editor Jackie Finlan travelled down to West Chester to see the Rams play Penn State and learned the following about the school’s first year as a varsity sport.
RUGBY: What motivated West Chester University to designate women’s rugby a varsity sport?
DeRemer: Women’s rugby was elevated to varsity status to satisfy the NCAA’s Title IX, which refers to a university’s gender equity ratio. West Chester felt that due to the increased popularity of women’s collegiate rugby over the past decade, rugby would be a viable candidate to bring our gender equity ratio to a more acceptable level.
Eastern Illinois was the first varsity program in the nation, now West Chester and a few others have followed suit. Hopefully there will be more and at bigger schools and more prominent athletic conferences like the Big Ten, ACC, Pac-10, etc.
RUGBY: Anne Barry, General Manager for USA Rugby’s Women’s Program, stated that varsity programs are a top priority for the organization. Has USA Rugby’s National Office been in contact with you regarding your varsity program?
DeRemer: Yes, USA Rugby has a task force that is working diligently to put together a package that details the advantages of varsity rugby on college campuses. The task force has developed packages for collegiate clubs that outline how to approach university officials about becoming a varsity sport. The package also includes data on local high school teams, sample budgets, administrative ideas and information on what equipment might be needed to start a varsity team.
There are also packages available for colleges that may be interested in elevating their rugby club to varsity status.
There was also major shout outs for the hard work of the sports information department (one of my past careers). HAYO!