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Brown vs Harvard - First Varsity Contest

The recognition that universities give to their rugby clubs is often overshadowed by varsity NCAA sports that dominate the schools’ headlines.  Rarely, do rugby programs generate any notice beyond college newspaper game reports, and hardly ever the main topic of the alumni sports magazines.

Yet, in a pronounced signal of increased university acceptance, along with a modicum of pride, the latest issue of the Brown Bear, its sports quarterly magazine, not only features rugby on the cover, it also dedicated eight of the issue’s 36-pages to the sport. The prominent reasons were twofold, encompassing both the Men’s and Women’s rugby programs.

Men’s rugby began at Brown in 1960, when home games were played on a dustbowl of a local high school. The only, subtle promise of future success stemmed from the fact that the first points ever scored (penalty) were kicked by a graduate of Rugby School. The year after, in 1961, the Brown RFC tied powerhouse Dartmouth for the Eastern Rugby Championship.

Entering in the Class of 1965 was Linton “Jay” Fluck who starred on the wing for four years in an era of Brown rugby dominance. Fluck helped found and played for the Providence RFC, and returned to Brown as Head Coach from 1980 to 2008. He remains as Director or Rugby.

In 2015, Fluck became the third Brown alumnus to be inducted into the University’s Athletic Hall of Fame. A serendipitous surprise awaited him during the induction ceremony: Brown rugby alumni raised a $1.5 million to endow a Men’s head coaching chair in Fluck’s name, an indication of the club’s strategic aspirations for the future.

Also in the Brown Bear, women were featured in a two-page, photo essay by undergrad Oksana Goretaya ’17, reviewing the team’s first year after it’s converting to varsity status. The XV went undefeated (8-0) in the season, which included a 24-15 victory over Harvard in the first Ivy League rugby contest between two varsity programs.

Kathy Flores, former Eagles national team coach for eight years, heads up the Women’s program. She follows the successful coaching tenure of Kerri Heffernan, a past Eagle captain. The women’s experience clearly indicates that for Brown rugby to succeed, a professional, full-time coach is vital to the program, no different from any varsity activity.