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Notre Dame College of South Euclid, Ohio (suburban Cleveland) announced earlier this month it will add women’s and men’s rugby as intercollegiate club team sports, starting with the 2012/13 academic year, and offer scholarships.

“Rugby is played by nearly 400,000 youths each year,” said Notre Dame’s Dean of Students Brian Emerson in a release announcing the new programs.

“At the collegiate level it’s a highly competitive club sport, and at NDC we want to provide the resources for student-athletes to play a part of a comprehensive and diverse collegiate culture. We feel that student life sports opportunities enhance what the NDC experience is all about and that student-athletes are more well-rounded students.”

The rugby teams will be overseen by the College's Student Life department, as the men's and women's teams are at Lindenwood.

The release also included reasoning consistent with other schools who've started similarly funded teams in recent years, like Life, Lindenwood, Davenport and Wheeling Jesuit:

"The nationwide attraction of club sports has grown dramatically over the past few years, and the influence of these sports in attracting and retaining students with a shared interest is powerful," it read. "Club teams build camaraderie and offer alternative sports that other schools do not provide. They offer student-athletes a chance to play varsity sports. To date, NDC has implemented co-ed tennis, men’s soccer, competitive fishing, and men’s and women’s bowling at the club level.

"Offering a greater variety of extracurricular activities is a low-cost way to boost retention and engage current students looking to connect with the school and their peers in a way that fosters teamwork, competitiveness and a chance to be a part of an established group."

Notre Dame College is a Catholic Liberal Arts college with an enrollment hovering around 2,000. It is in the midst of transitioning from NAIA to the NCAA's DII. The Falcons are on schedule to compete in the NCAA's DII this coming academic year. 

In an interview with a local radio station, Notre Dame College vice president of development Dave Armstrong said a rugby coach will be announced soon. He also hinted NDC is interested in potentially pushing the women's program under the athletic department's banner in the future.

"As we’re moving into NCAA DII, we will be looking at women’s rugby as a potential intercollegiate sport under the NCAA, eventually," Armstrong said.