2015-16 NCAA varsity women’s rugby programs include American International College, Bowdoin College, Brown University, Central Washington University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, Norwich University, Notre Dame College, Quinnipiac University, Sacred Heart University, the United States Military Academy and West Chester University. Additional schools and NCAA conferences are considering the prospect of an NCAA Women’s Rugby program which should result in continued growth and increase in the number of varsity programs.
Rugby is one of the few true full-contact sports and the only one offered by the NCAA for women. Physical contact occurs at virtually every phase of the game. A sport not solely defined by contact, a successful rugby team combines tackling, speed, strength, agility, passing, kicking, and driving for a multifaceted attack.
For schools not in compliance with Title IX, Women’s Rugby provides a low-cost option by adding a sport that can field a large roster with minimal equipment needs. For all institutions, it is an economical way to offer a popular women’s athletic activity for current and incoming students. To field a women’s rugby team, the basic needs include: 1) a pool of existing or incoming students that want to play, 2) a coach, 3) a soccer-sized field for practice and competition, and 4) developing a schedule with local, regional and national competitive opportunities.
Youth high school (varsity and club) rugby participation grew over 400 percent in the span of the past two years. Currently there are 38 state organizations tasked with providing infrastructure for and growing the youth and girls high school opportunities. “We’re starting to see more multi-sport athletes gravitate toward rugby,” says Jenn Heinrich, executive director of Rugby Oregon. “With more visible opportunities to play in college and on the national stage, rugby is starting to become a more viable option for the college-bound athlete.” The on-field success of the Girls High School All American 15s and 7s teams will further encourage growth and provide comprehensive opportunities for young, female rugby players. More and more middle and high schools are implementing rugby programs because of the low costs and high participation rates.
Among the world’s most popular sports, participation in rugby increased by 81% during 2008-2013 according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) in the organization’s latest U.S. Trends in Team Sports Report. By age group, rugby increased by 30.5% for youths between ages of 6-12, while there was a 6.9% increased in the 13-17 year-old bracket. A 2010 study by America’s Sporting Goods Manufacturers’ Association (SGMA), based on a survey of sporting participation in 120 different sports, reported rugby was the fastest growing team sport in the United States. With over two million youth playing as part of community sports programs, recreation leagues and grade school curriculum, the growth experienced in rugby was almost 2 points higher than the Lacrosse, which came in second.
Between 2007 and 2009, the number of people playing rugby grew from 750,000 to 1.13m with women making up a third of the total. As one of the largest and more popular club sports on college campuses, and with the recent addition of the 7s game into the 2016 Olympic Games, women’s rugby is poised for continued national growth.
NCAA Women’s Rugby Teams
Division I: Brown University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, Quinnipiac University, Sacred Heart University, United States Military Academy, Mount Saint Mary’s
Division II: American International College, Central Washington University, Long Island University-Post, Molloy College, Notre Dame College, Queen’s University, West Chester University.
Division III: Bowdoin College, Castleton University, Coby-Sawyer College, Norwich University, University of New England
NAIA Varsity Women’s Rugby Teams: Davenport University, Life University.
Please contact Johnathan Atkeison or Rich Cortez for more information.