PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Brown University will elevate its women’s rugby team from club level to full varsity status for the 2014-15 academic year. Women’s rugby will be the University’s 21st women’s varsity team, making Brown a national leader in varsity options for female athletes.
“Women have been playing rugby at Brown for more than 35 years and are strong competitors at the national level,” said Brown President Christina Paxson. “Elevation to varsity status celebrates the achievements of alumnae and current players, and I congratulate them all on a persistent and successful effort.”
The Brown Women’s Rugby Football Club was founded in 1977 and has grown to become one of the top-ranked teams in Division I. It has reached the USA Rugby National Championships round of 16 and has won the Ivy League Championship six years in a row. In 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2012, Brown competed in the semifinal national championship game, the highest level the club has ever reached. In 2013, Brown hired Kathy Flores as its first full-time women’s rugby coach.
“Women’s rugby is a rapidly developing sport in communities and high schools as well as at the college level,” said Jack Hayes, director of athletics at Brown. “Brown University has a great record as a leader in athletic opportunities for women and is among the first dozen Division I teams to reach the varsity level for women’s rugby.”
The NCAA currently classifies Division I women's rugby as an emerging sport, designation designed to encourage the growth of opportunity at the intercollegiate level. According to USA Rugby, the sport is growing rapidly at the high school and intercollegiate level, currently including more than 300 collegiate women’s rugby clubs. Women’s rugby has been an Olympic sport at four previous games and will return to the Olympics in 2016.
Brown is the second Ivy League institution to offer women’s rugby at the intercollegiate varsity level. There are 86 NCAA Division I institutions that offer women’s rugby. Next season, 10 of them will be at the full varsity level: Eastern Illinois (2002), West Chester (2004), Bowdoin (2004), Norwich (2008), Quinnipiac (2010), Davenport (2013), Harvard (2013), Brown (2014), Life University (2014) and Central Washington University (2014).
“It is an honor and a great opportunity to coach a nationally competitive team that is emerging as a full varsity program,” Flores said. “Rugby for women is growing rapidly and has a very bright future, and Brown University is going to remain a strong presence as the sport matures.”