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Central Connections Magazine

Rugby Now Part of Wildcat Sports

Rugby Now Part of Wildcat Sports

Rugby now part of wildcat sports

This year, men's and women's rugby teams are playing in the university's varsity sports programs.

Director of Rugby Tony Pacheco, a 2004 CWU graduate, said the move established Central as one of the only varsity programs at any public college or university in the nation offering both men's and women's rugby. "Becoming part of intercollegiate athletics puts us ahead of other programs and will allow us to recruit even more high-caliber student-athletes," he added.

Previously, rugby was a sport club program. Men's rugby established itself as a national powerhouse, qualifying for the USA Rugby Sevens National Championship every year since its inception in 2011. This past spring, the CWU men's 15-a-side team's only loss came in the semifinals of the post-season Varsity Cup, to the University of California, Berkeley. The Wildcats placed fourth in the nation in last fall's 7-a-side championships.

"I’m confident our men's program will continue to compete for national championships," said CWU Athletics Director Dennis Francois, "and our women's program will soon become one of the nation's premier varsity programs under Tony's leadership."

Pacheco is responsible for the continued development of both the men's and women's teams. The new women's head coach is Mel Denham, who led her American International College team from Springfield, Massachusetts to a third-place finish in the USA Rugby Division I national tournament last May.

Denham has been a member of USA Rugby's national team since 2007. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) now recognizes women's rugby as an emerging women's sport.

"It's important that more athletic programs move rugby into intercollegiate athletics so the 40 teams required for an NCAA national championship is reached," Denham said. "I'm hoping our success as a varsity program will inspire more teams to make the move."

CWU President James L. Gaudino, who played both football and rugby at the United States Air Force Academy, said CWU's rugby programs help attract top-quality student-athletes from around the world.

"While they come here for rugby, they receive the benefits of our student-athlete experience," said Gaudino, "and help expand the diversity of campus, which is good for all our students."

As the fall rugby season gets underway, the CWU men's team will look to continue a seven-year unbeaten string against Northwest opponents.

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