The University of Kentucky Rugby Club was founded in Fall of 1970. The club was originally organized by an engineering professor Dr. Roy Elmore and two of his students Larry Sonnifield and Rick Wunderlich.
The newly formed team picked up the game very quickly and in the fall of 1971 began competing and winning games against more experienced teams all across the south and quickly become a power in the newly formed SEC Conference. Since its inception the size and success of the club has grown dramatically with the annual Alumni Game being a staple of the historic program.
Playing in one of the toughest conferences in the nation Kentucky has been named SEC champion three times, first in 1979 then again in 1986 and 1987 along with numerous runner-up honors.
While the club has a much storied history of success on the field its alumni have enjoyed even more success off the field. While the program has been a hot bed for engineers over the years, it also boasts numerous doctors, lawyers and even a few CEO’s. This odd collection of individuals has made rugby one of the most popular and entertaining programs on campus since its inception in 1970.
Over the last 40 plus years the program has had some unbelievable accomplishments, most recently with their rise back to the Division 1 Level. As of 2011 they are part of the Division I SCRS (Southeastern Collegiate Rugby Conference). This conference is made up of the traditional SEC teams, and divided into East and West. Their schedule this year includes some of the best college sides in the nation including; South Carolina, Florida, Tennessee and Georgia. The Program has three full time coaches, a forward’s coach(Gary Anderson), a back’s and seven’s coach(Vince Gross), along with an internationally experienced head coach(Tony Vince). The staff sets a strict standard for not only UK’s play on the field but their off the field achievements in and out of the class room. The program has a ton of young talent with high school rugby experience which bodes well for the them over the next 4 years as they look to compete for a top 25 ranking at the Division 1 level
In an effort to compete at the Division 1 Level in one of the best conferences in the country the UK staff spends a lot of their time in the summer and in the fall recruiting at the high school level. Just like other college sports UK Rugby invites kids down for visits to see the school and meet the players and coaches. While high school rugby is new to Kentucky both Ohio and Indiana have some of the best high school teams in the country with Cathedral High School in Indianapolis most recently winning the high school national championship. While rugby at UK is not considered a varsity sport and does not have the budget of football or basketball they by no means are small time. With thee full time coaches, travel throughout the SEC, recruiting and recent scholarship funding the program runs a bigger budget then some small businesses.
The program is able to fund itself with the support of a huge Alumni base that puts together many events throughout the year often through their companies and businesses. This is capped off each year with an Alumni Game where the old boys are able to kit up and try to re-live their glory days against the present UK squad. This also gives the present UK players an opportunity to meet the Alumni and line themselves up with internships or jobs upon graduation.
The University of Kentucky’s first season back at the Division 1 Level in the SEC is officially all wrapped up. I would call the season an overall success, while we finished with an official record of 1-6 we were able to establish a foundation that the team has not had in place since I played in the late 90’s. We now have 3 full time coaches; we have established an ever growing relationship with the high school teams in both Louisville and Cincinnati. Additionally our relationship with the University itself is on the up and up and more importantly our relationship with you the Alumni is as strong as I have ever seen. All these steps put us in the right direction to be a top 25 program within the next 5 years.
I think it is safe to say that UK had one of the toughest schedules in the country playing 4 Top 25 ranked teams Florida, Tennessee, Georgia and South Carolina this was made more difficult by a very young team dominated by freshman and sophomores. While this made for a tough inaugural year in the SEC it speaks worlds for our potential and our expectations in the years ahead.
The highlight of the season was the 5th annual Alumni Game which of course the Alumni won 44-12. The real key to the event was the fund raising, I am proud to say that the Alumni donated just over $8,000, by far the biggest single fund raising event that I have seen in my rugby career! Now with that being said we are always looking for more opportunities to raise money for the Club. We have reached out to Billy Campbell and Mike Andreoni of Phase IV as well as Dudley Burke, both have offered up some demolition work over the summer to help the cause. I would also like to issue a challenge to all Alumni to find ways to help the team with fund raising so we can purchase a new kit of jerseys and warm-ups, remember all your contributions help enhance your resume for the Hall of Fame!
The season came to a close this Saturday at our banquet where several players received some well earned awards and accolades First, Shane Kelley(Jr, Fullback) and Andy Huber(Sr, 2nd Row) were honored as 3rd team all SEC. Arti Vula (Fr,2nd Row) received most improved player while John Calhoun (Sr, Hooker) received the MVP Award. Also honored at the event where our 5 seniors Seth Brown(8 Man) Robert William(Prop) Andy Huber(2nd Row) Paul Marks(Scum Half) and John Calhoun(Hooker).
This summer the team will be busy working on their 7’s skills as the SEC Sevens is scheduled for October 13th. We look to have a very solid 7’s squad and have every intention to be in the running for the SEC title come October. We look forward to continued support from the alumni as our success is directly tied to your guidance and support.