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In the late 1960s, when rugby started to proliferate in the country, two entrepreneurs, one on either coast, decided that what the nascent sport needed was a dedicated, informative publication. First out of the media gate was Chuck Lyons from Santa Barbara (Peninsula Ramblers RFC) who, in 1966, printed “RUGBY USA.” A year later in 1967, New Yorker Jon Prusmack (WESTCHESTER RFC) began “SCRUMDOWN.”
Lyons charged $1.50 for a publication of six issues in an unsophisticated, typewritten then photocopied and stapled format. Prusmack, a graphic artist, created a magazine on glossy stock, charging $1.50 an issue.
Whereas “SCRUMDOWN” employed stringers to write articles, Lyons, in a true labor of rugby love, penned all the information himself. There was no aspect of the sport – games results, history, scheduling, personal information - that he did not cover, each issue chock full of data and statistics. Prusmack preferred more the sports magazine model of individual articles, including lots of international reporting.
By 1968, Lyons had gone from six issues a year, to a quarterly, and, in what seems to be its last iteration, an annual called “1968 United States RUGBY Log.” (See main photo of the cover. Cal vs Santa Clara at Golden Gate Park. Photo credit to Ron Ruby.) “SCRUMDOWN” halted publication in 1968, took a seven-year hiatus, returning in 1975 in a broadsheet newspaper format, and, finally, changing its name to “RUGBY MAGAZINE,” shepherded by Ed Hagerty.
That 1968 Log skewed heavily to west coast teams, listing their complete past performances, and club news in great detail. Lyons had been the first to write about the geographical disparity between west coast and eastern/Midwestern squads, the latter hampered by winter, and unable to start practice until the spring.
Finally, both Lyons and Prusmack ranked US college and clubs, a tradition that dates back to 1966, and carried over into “Rugby Magazine” for decades, continuing in “RugbyToday.com.” What’s interesting about Lyons’ 1968 ratings is that within the top 25, the St. Louis Bills at 12th were the highest rated non-west coast (and Hawaii) squads. The Old Blue of New York were 13th. The top five 1968 teams in order were: (1) BATS, (2) Stanford, (3) USC, (4) Piedmont RFC, and (5) UCLA.
We celebrate these early attempts to bring information, history, and rankings to the rugby community. Unfortunately, these were two publications whose time had not come.
(Does anyone know what happened to Chuck Lyons? Write [email protected]. Thanks.)