While many EKU sports are at the top of their game this season, EKU’s club teams have been quietly dominating the club scene since they began.
The men’s rugby team is one of Eastern’s most exciting club teams. They are nearly fully self-sufficient in terms of funding, and have an official roster of over 40 players and three coaches.
The Eastern Progress sat down with President and Captain Jeremy Carter and Vice President Matthew Hamilton to discuss how the rugby team functions and it’s growth over the last three years.
Eastern Progress: So when do the seasons run for you guys?
Matthew Hamilton: We have a fall season which is normally league play, and that usually runs from early September to around now. Then we have a spring season, which is more of a social season, where we play teams like UK and clubs that are better than us just to get us ready for the fall.
Jeremy Carter: That’s usually late February or early March to late April.
EP: So how’s the season gone this year?
Hamilton: We’re 3-3, I think.
EP: Do you guys normally play that few of games?
Carter: Well, this season was a little bit different because our conference got disbanded, so we had to go independent and just play whoever needed spots filled or teams in the same position as us because the conference disbanded late summer. So, we didn’t have a lot of time and if we had stayed Division Two, all of our game would have been in Michigan.
EP: Do the fees and dues pretty much fund everything?
Hamilton: We get funding from the Rec Center, and we got funding from SGA this year, but mostly it comes from our dues. We try and be a self sufficient organization, but we wanted to try and ask for money so we could get practice jerseys, reimburse some players for travel, and [buy] a tent so that way it could be team owned, and not player owned.
Carter: We have one off-campus sponsor and they put their money in our t-shirts, so they get what they wanted and we can sell those t-shirts— but thats about the only fundraising thing we do.
EP: So how long have you guys been on the team?
Hamilton: Since our first semester, so 2014. And back then we had, like, 12 guys. Maybe six would show up to practice and be a player, but it takes 15 to play rugby. Now, we have an official roster of about 42 guys and 30 or so show up to practice. We also have two-to-three coaches that show up based on availability.
EP: Wow, so why do you think it grew so fast?
Hamilton: Well, we put a lot into the program. We knew we had to recruit, or we would basically die as a club, so we’ve set up tents and booths at the start of every semester. We try and target guys who either played football or some kind of field sport, and our biggest pitch is “Hey, I really miss being part of a team, or hitting people, running around and just being a part of something.” So, that’s what we try and cater to.
Carter: Yeah, we have a lot of guys who played either lacrosse or football, or any kind of sport. When we first started, I think Hami [Hamilton] was the only guy who had actually played high school rugby, and this year we were fortunate to get a couple freshman that had that experience as well.
Hamilton: Yeah, and the big thing is experience. Most of the people you play against have just started playing in college so having that extra year is huge. I remember when we were freshmen, I scored a try, which is a score in Rugby, doing something that our entire team didn’t know you could do. So having that experience really helps when you’re trying to teach other people.
EP: Do you guys have anything big coming up?
Carter: We are actually hosting the Division 1-AA tournament November 19-20 over at the Intramural Fields. And we’re not even 1-AA, so we won’t be competing in it.
Hamilton: We’re hosting some really good schools and talent. We were selected for it, I think, so thats a good opportunity for our guys to see some good rugby and give our club some recognition.
Carter: Hopefully, the university will try and get some people out there and show that we care about rugby, and it definitely looks good on our organization to host something like that.
EP: You guys have one game left?
Carter: Yeah, our last game is this Saturday at 6:00 p.m. against Bellarmine over at the Intramural Fields.
The team often spends a lot of their own money and time to put together the seasons they have. Fans are welcomed to support EKU Rugby at their last game of the season.