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Fall 2006

Brown Rugby began the fall season with great expectations and a terrific pre-season, led by Captain Jeff Margulies ‘07 and President Simon Salgado ‘07. An enthusiastic and experienced group of returning seniors kept the team in line and motivated. A pre-season victory over our local nemesis Providence College, followed two weeks later by a victory over the University of New Hampshire gave Brown a 2-1 early season record. Even with the tough schedule ahead of us, the players and coaches could envision the potential of a winning season. However, the players failed to turn up against Harvard and lost to Dartmouth with Margulies and starting number 8 Rob Neville’08 injured and out for the season. In spite of these losses of skill and leadership, the team would have beaten Yale had the players not self destructed in critical moments of this match. The final squelch of the fall season was the cancellation of the Amherst match due to torrential rains; Brown’s last match of the fall and a chance to end the season on a winning note. Fall 2006 Team

Our two wins and five loss season is not dissimilar to most of the previous five or six fall seasons, and I know most Brown Rugby alums, parents and friends share the disappointment we all have endured over this span. In previous years, the playoff system has been kind to Brown, allowing us to remain in the First Division of New England Rugby when we have eked out a win on the last weekend of the season. This season, however, the First Division has been reorganized. Only the top eight teams of the 12 that competed this fall will be in the First Division in 2007. Subsequently, Brown, Amherst, UNH and the University of Massachusetts have all been relegated to the Second Division.

We are, of course, disappointed, but the reality is that we have neither the depth of rugby experience (enough players that have played high school rugby) nor the depth of athleticism (many of our opponents are just bigger, faster, and stronger). Certainly Brown in the 1960’s, 1970’s, 1980’s, and 1990’s had multiple seasons and years of extraordinary success. However, Brown’s lack of success over the first half of the current decade is not due to the team’s lack of interest or commitment. The core players of each year have been committed to doing well and we have had some great players, just not enough of them. In addition, the debilitating effects of losses by very large margins have eroded the players’ confidence, passion, commitment and enjoyment of the game.

The result of the re-alignment is that Brown will drop to the Second Division of the New England Rugby Union. The opponents
in this Division will be difficult but not as overwhelming as West Point, Harvard, Dartmouth, and Boston College currently are. Our fall league will include Providence College, University of Rhode Island and Coast Guard. Coast Guard won the Division II National Championships
last spring. This new opportunity will provide Brown with strong opposition but the opportunity for victory should be possible in every match. We hope to build confidence and bring more enjoyment with each game. We trust the greater opportunity for victories will enhance recruiting and player development.

Both Yale and Harvard were relegated to the Second Division over the last ten years and both have rebuilt their programs and are now back in the First Division. The key for these two schools is the number of foreign rugby players that matriculate in these institutions. Brown has become a “hot” school for foreign students, but the notion of accepting rugby players has been off Brown’s radar screen. Further, both Harvard and Yale are simply better known abroad and fewer foreign rugby players consider Brown. I would like to turn this perception around as well as recruit from American high school rugby programs.

Part of my commitment to excellence is to enhance the coaching at Brown. In terms of rugby knowledge, our staff does not take a back seat to anyone, however, the advanced skills of our opponents requires our players to work harder at their individual skills. A full time coach, that is one who can coach over the course of the day, will be much more effective than the current coaching staff which comes to the field only after work. We experimented this fall with a full time coach, Carter Croft. Carter, who played for Blackheath in the 1960’s but didn’t play against Brown on our 1970 Tour of England, came over for two months this fall. His full time availability made a big difference in skill development and practice and match organization. I have seen the light and Brown Rugby will proceed to move toward a full time coach.

As the eternal optimist, I prefer to look at our situation as a great opportunity for Brown Rugby. I have coached the Club for 27 years and will attempt to step aside for the fall 2007 season. I fully expect to fill some role and will be either a useful part of the Club or a bloody nuisance. You all know I cannot give it up. But I am excited about this chance to rebuild the Club and, I hope, with the support of our alumni, friends, parents and the athletic and administrative leadership of the University, to move this long standing athletic endeavor to a new level over the next five years.