A Brief History
The Truman State University Rugby Club was originally founded in the late 1970’s as a combined college and Kirksville city club. After some moderate success in the early 80’s, the team eventually faded away. The rugby program was revived in spring 1989 under current coach Bill Sexton, a professor at the Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine (KCOM). The purpose/focus of the newly revived rugby club was to develop a nationally-competitive collegiate rugby program at Truman State University (then Northeast Missouri State University). Interested players are always welcome to join and participate, but the emphasis remains on the training and development of collegiate-eligible players. Initially, the club was satisfied to gain community support, to recruit new players, to educate these new players about rugby, and to win an occasional match. This early plan has since been expanded and revised numerous times as old goals are realized and new goals are established.After a couple of lean years on the playing field, wins started coming more often, and soon Truman Rugby developed into the ultimate “bridesmaid” with a fine collection of second place trophies. During this time, the players were gaining valuable experience and learning what it takes to win at the next level. After taking second in the Heart of America Rugby Union Collegiate Championships in 1992 and 1993, they won their first union Collegiate Championship in 1994. Later that spring, Truman Rugby made their first trip to the Western Territorial Collegiate Championships. This no-name team fromKirksville, Missouri surprised the field by making it to the finals with wins over University of Colorado and University of Arkansas. The boys lost in the finals to the Air Force Academy, but were pleased with their performance. After all, no one expected us to even be competitive. In 1995, we repeated as Heart of America Collegiate Champions, and eventually lost a close one to the Air Force Academy in the Western Collegiate Finals (…that old bridesmaid thing again?).
After clinching the Heart of America Championship for the 3rd consecutive time in 1996, Truman returned to the Western Championships. The guys from Truman were no longer a secret – some people even knew where Kirksville was! Truman State University Rugby Club lived-up to their advance billing by defeating their arch-rivals, the Air Force Academy in a heart-stopping final 19-18. This opened a new chapter in Truman Rugby history – we were going to the USA Rugby National Collegiate Championship “Sweet 16” at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California! Truman drew a solid Univerity of California-Davis team (note, UC-Davis was coach, Bill Sexton’s first rugby club) and lost a hard-fought and emotional match. The boys regrouped for Sunday’s consolation game to defeat theUniversity of California-Santa Barbara, to finish in the National Top 10.
In 1997 the Truman team repeated as Western Champs, this time beating Rice University in the finals (who had defeated Air Force in the semifinals). It was back to the “Sweet 16” – this time at the US Military Academy at West Point, NY. We had to play Army in the first round at their home pitch! In another heart-stopping game, the boys fought back from a first-half 5-19 deficit. Like the 1996 Western Championships against Air Force, Jim Rohr had the go ahead kick – this time a conversion just before the final whistle – to defeat Army 31-30. We advanced to the quarterfinals, but lost to a superior Stanford University team. However, like past years, Truman Rugby looks to move on to the next level and continue the tradition.
Truman lost a very tight 1998 Western Collegiate Championship match to the Air Force Academy, to finish second. Truman traveled to Penn State (State College, PA) where we defeated Central Washington University in the first round 29-22. We played Indiana University in the rain and mud on Sunday, but came out on the losing end of a 22-29 score. This game was a heart-breaker, and it was one that could’ve been ours. There were eight lead changes before Indiana closed it out with just minutes to go. Final USA standing – #6.
In 1999, the format of the Western Collegiate Championships was changed to the “Round of 12” and “Final Four” format. In the opening round of 12, Truman hosted South Dakota State University and St. Louis University. Truman defeated SDSU 47-7 in the pool final to advance to the Final Four. Truman faced a potent Colorado University side in the first round at Rice University in Houston, TX. After being down 0-15 at the half and falling to 7-20 after 5 min of the 2nd half, Truman reeled off 31 unanswered points to win 38-32. Truman defeated the University of Wyoming in the finals on Sunday 31-18 to earn their 3rd Western RFU Collegiate Championship in four years. At the Sweet 16 at Ohio State University, Truman came from behind to defeat University of Connecticut 23-22 in the first round. Truman could not get on track in the pool final, and suffered a lopsided 7-71 loss to Naval Academy (who went on to finish 3rd in the Final Four). We ended up ranked #7 in the US.
In spring 2000, we defeated the University of Nebraska 51-3 in the round of 12 final to return to the WRFU Final Four. However, with the graduation of many players, we lacked the same experience and athletic ability and dropped a humbling 7-47 lost to a very strong Rice University team in the semi-finals. We re-grouped and played very well in the consolation finals, but lost a close 31-33 decision. Spring of 2001 was the most heart-breaking. We lacked killer instinct and team cohesion, and slipped-up against LSU in the round of 12 finals. This meant no WRFU Collegiate Finals for the first time since 1994. It was a hard knock, but sometimes that helps.
The fall season 2001 was critical – how you rebound from a disappointing season says a lot about who you are and what your future looks like. Well, things went very well. The team came together as never before and our game came around with it. We had a great fall recruiting season, and improved not only our on-field play, but our team mentality. In spring 2002, we traveled to Texas A&M in College Station, TX for the round of 12. We got behind early against a potent running Oklahoma team, but we hung tough and managed a late surge to defeat OU 19-15. We lost to OU earlier in the season, so this was even better. Unfortunately, our flyhalf was concussed in the OU match, and was not available for the finals. We got out to a 10-5 half-time lead against Texas A&M. However, they had the wind in the second half, and went up 10-12 early. We held tough, but were unable to put more points up, and TAMU scored a couple of very late tries to close out at 10-24. The guys were discouraged, but knew that as a young team with five starting freshman, they had played well and would only get better.
Where are we now? The fall 2003 season was one of the best in recent years. We played an extensive collegiate schedule en route to a 7-1 season. We defeated Kansas University in our merit table match. Several young players stepped-up to fill-in big holes left by the graduation of several starters. In addition, we added several new players who showed they can complete at the highest level. The team has great aspirations for spring 2003.
Recruiting and fund-raising are top priorities in this effort, and we sincerely appreciate you’re support in visiting our home page. We will see you around the pitch!