USA Rugby (officially the United States of America Rugby Football Union, Ltd.) is the national governing body for the sport of rugby union in the United States. Its role is to serve as "the national governing body charged with achieving and maintaining high levels of quality in all aspects of rugby." USA Rugby is responsible for the promotion and development of the sport in the U.S. and promotion of U.S. international participation.
|World Rugby affiliation||1987|
USA Rugby was founded in 1975 as the United States of America Rugby Football Union, and it organized the first U.S. national team match in 1976. Today, USA Rugby has over 130,000 memberships, the largest segment being college rugby with over 32,000 members. USA Rugby oversees 1,200 high school teams, 900 college teams, 700 senior club teams, and 400 youth teams. USA Rugby administers all United States national teams: senior men's and women's teams, sevens teams for both men and women, and under-20 national teams for both sexes. The organization also sponsors college rugby for both sexes, although since the 2010–11 academic year the NCAA has designated women's rugby an emerging varsity sport.
USA Rugby is governed by a nine-member Board of Directors and a 43-member Congress, and is led by CEO Ross Young. It is a member of World Rugby through membership with Rugby Americas North, and a member of the United States Olympic Committee. The headquarters for USA Rugby is located in Lafayette, Colorado.
- In the 2009–10 Sevens World Series, the men's sevens team finished the season ranked 10th in the world, their highest ranking to date at that time.
- In 2010, USA Rugby became an Olympic Sport member of the United States Olympic Committee (USOC).
- In 2011, the International Rugby Board, now known as World Rugby, gave its Development Award to USA Rugby for its Rookie Rugby program that introduced over 100,000 new children to youth rugby.
• In 2014, the U.S. Women's Sevens finished 4th in the World Rugby Women's Sevens World Series, their highest finish to date.
- In 2014, the U.S. vs New Zealand match sold out Soldier Field in Chicago, drawing over 60,000 fans and setting a U.S. attendance record.
- In 2015, USA Rugby won the bid to host the 2018 Rugby World Cup Sevens in the San Francisco Bay Area.
- In 2015, the U.S. Men'Sevens team finished sixth in the 2014–15 Sevens World Series, including first at the 2015 London Sevens. The team also defeated Canada 21–5 to win the 2015 NACRA Sevens and qualify for the 2016 Summer Olympics.
• In 2017, the Women's U.S. National Team finished 4th at the Women's Rugby World Cup in Ireland. Their second highest finish since winning the 1991 tournament.
- In 2017, the U.S. Men's Sevens team finished fifth in the 2016-17 World Rugby Sevens Series, their highest ever finish.
- In 2018, The U.S. Men's National Team won the America's Rugby Championship (ARC) for the second consecutive year.
• In 2018, the United States hosted its first ever Rugby World Cup event with the Rugby World Cup Sevens 2018 in San Francisco at AT&T Park. The event welcomed more than 100,000 in attendance, setting the mark for highest attended Rugby World Cup Sevens to date.
Governance and leadership
USA Rugby is governed by its board of directors and its congress. The board is composed of 9 members: 6 independent directors, 2 international athletes, and 1 representative from USA Rugby's Congress. Board members are:
- Barbara O'Brien (Chairperson)
- Paul Santinelli (Vice Chair)
- Julie Lau
- Jim Brown
- Mike McKenna
- Agustín Pichot
- Jeremiah Johnson
- Phaidra Knight
- Todd Clever
Rob Cain was appointed as the Women's Eagles head coach in May 2018 earning his first victory again Ireland on November 18. Chris Brown is the head coach of the Women's Sevens team, who are currently ranked 2nd in the world through the 2018-19 Women's World Rugby Sevens Series.
USA Rugby became a member of the International Rugby Football Board in 1987. The worldwide body would become the International Rugby Board (IRB) in 1998 and World Rugby in 2014. USA Rugby does not hold a vote on WR's 28 member Executive Council—the majority of votes are held by the 8 founding nations—although NACRA members collectively hold one vote on the Executive Council. In December 2011, for the first time, USA Rugby placed a representative on the 10-man executive committee. Bob Latham, in his role as chair of Rugby Americas North (RAN; known as NACRA before 2016), represents RAN on the executive committee.
USA Rugby also has relationships with international multi-sport organizations. USA Rugby is a member of the U.S. Olympic Committee and interacts with the International Olympic Committee. USA Rugby also interacts with the Pan American Sport Organization, and rugby has been a sport at the Pan Am Games since 2011.
USA Rugby generally earns between $8 million to $16 million in annual revenues, with the majority of the revenue coming from (1) membership dues, (2) event revenue, (3) grants, and (4) sponsorship. Their principal expenses are (1) High Performance, (2) Men's National Team, and (3) Marketing and Fundraising. In 2010, USA Rugby paid over $200,000 each to its CEO Nigel Melville and its then head coach Eddie O'Sullivan. As of 2012, Nigel Melville's compensation was $250,000. USA Rugby experienced a financial crunch in 2016–2017, due to the bankruptcy of kit sponsor BLK and currency exchange rates that affect grants received from World Rugby.
- Grants come mainly from World Rugby and from the United States Olympic Committee.
Beginning in the 1960s and continuing through the 1970s, the sport of rugby union enjoyed a renaissance in the USA. This created the need for a national governing body to represent the United States. On 7 June 1975, four territorial organizations (Pacific Coast, West, Midwest and East) gathered in Chicago, Illinois and formed the United States of America Rugby Football Union (now known as USA Rugby). USA Rugby then fielded its first national team on 31 January 1976 in a match against Australia in Anaheim, California, which Australia won 24–12.
In 1993, the Southern California RFU, a local area union of the Pacific Coast RFU, applied to become a separate territory. This was an impetus for others around the country to do the same, changing the make-up of USA Rugby, which now has seven territories (Pacific, Southern California, West, Midwest, South, Northeastern, and Mid-Atlantic).
USA Rugby lobbied for several years for participation in the IRB Sevens World Series. It was finally was awarded the annual USA Sevens tournament, beginning in 2004 with Los Angeles as the venue for the initial USA Sevens tournaments. In the summer of 2006, the tournament was moved to Petco Park in San Diego. Since 2010, the tournament has been held every year at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas and has been broadcast live on NBC.
USA Rugby is a Founding Sports Partner of the Sports Museum of America, joining more than 50 other single-sport Halls of Fame, national governing bodies, museums and other organizations across North America, to richly celebrate the history, grandeur and significance of sports in American culture. Opened in New York City on 7 May 2008, the Sports Museum of America showcases USA Rugby in its Hall of Halls Gallery, in return for their support of the creation of the Nation's first all-sports museum experience.
Board performance issues and turnover
In a February 2017 assembly, the Board Chair Will Chang called for a vote of confidence in the Board from USA Rugby's Congress, which passed by a vote of 43–1. The sole Congress member, Steve Lewis, who voted no confidence in the Board, cited three issues — RIM's performance, the sanctioning of the PRO Rugby competition, and overspending by the high performance department. With RIM's financial performance continuing to deteriorate, in August 2017, Lewis proposed what was effectively a vote of no confidence in the Board, this time getting seven votes and a similar number of abstentions. RIM's product “The Rugby Channel” which was supposed to be a money maker for USA Rugby, finished 2017 with $4.2 million in losses for the year.
National Teams: The Eagles
USA Rugby is responsible for organizing the various US national teams:
- U.S. national rugby union team — (Men's Eagles) competes annually every February/March in the Americas Rugby Championship, hosts matches during the June internationals, and usually travels to Europe to play in the November internationals. The team also competes every four years at the Rugby World Cup.
- U.S. national rugby sevens team — (Men's Eagles Sevens) competes annually in the World Rugby Sevens Series, a 10-tournament series that runs from December through June each year. The U.S. sevens team has finished in the top six in each of the three seasons from 2014–15 to 2017–18. The national sevens team also competes every four years in the Pan American Games, the Rugby Sevens World Cup, and in qualifying for the Summer Olympics.
- U.S. national under-20 rugby union team — competes annually to qualify for either the World Rugby Under 20 Championship or the World Rugby Under 20 Trophy.
- U.S. women's national rugby union team — (Women's Eagles) competes every four years in the Women's Rugby World Cup. The national women's team had early success in the World Cup, reaching the finals in each of the first three tournaments (1991, 1994, 1998), but has not reached the semifinals since then.
- U.S. women's national rugby sevens team — (Women's Eagles Sevens) competes in the World Rugby Women's Sevens Series, and have finished in the top six each season since the inaugural series season in 2012-13.
- United States national under-20 rugby union team — competes annually, most notably with rival nation to the north, Canada in exhibition tournaments.
The Professional Rugby Organization, known as PRO Rugby, was a USA Rugby sanctioned American professional rugby union competition that began play in 2016. This was the first professional rugby competition in North America. PRO played only the 2016 season, before it ceased operations as of January 2017.
Major League Rugby, another professional competition, was founded in late 2017. It began play in 2018 with seven teams, all in the U.S., and expanded to nine teams for the 2019 season, with one of the new teams in Canada. 2020 is expected to see 12 teams with East and West divisions.
Rugby Super League, organized and sanctioned by USA Rugby, was the premier national level of men's club competition in the USA. It was founded in 1996, but ended play as of 2012 following the Great Recession. Following the demise of the Super League, the Pacific Rugby Premiership was formed in 2013, and began play in 2014 as the top level of men's club competition in the U.S.
The USA Rugby club structure sees the United States divided into two leagues: West and East. Within each league there are four conferences, with the winners of each conference's division advancing to the league semifinals, and the two league champions competing in the national championship.
East: Atlantic North, Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, Southern
West: Pacific North, Pacific South, Frontier, Red River
The Collegiate Rugby Championship is a rugby sevens competition that has been held every year in June since 2010. The tournament is the highest profile college rugby tournament in the U.S., and is broadcast live on NBC every year from PPL Park in Philadelphia. Every year, the number of spectators increase, and in 2015 the College Rugby Championship broke an attendance record at over 24,000 spectators, which shows how the popularity of the sport is expanding.
State Rugby Organizations
State Rugby Organizations are responsible for developing an administrative structure with the objective of promoting the development of youth rugby within their state. They are also responsible for day-to-day governance, including organizing league structures, collecting dues, implementing a state championship, and conducting rugby outreach. USA Rugby has 44 state rugby organizations.
Hall of Fame
World Rugby Hall of Fame
The following have been inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame:
|1920 U.S. Olympic rugby team||2012||Won the gold medal.|
|1924 U.S. Olympic rugby team||2012||Won the gold medal.|
|Patty Jervey||2014||Played in five Women's World Cups.|
|Daniel Carroll||2016||A member of the 1920 Olympic team|
|Phaidra Knight||2017||Won All-World Team honors in 2002, 2006|
U.S. Rugby Hall of Fame
The following have been inducted into the U.S. Rugby Hall of Fame:
|1920 U.S. Olympic rugby team||2011||Won the 1920 Olympic gold medal.|
|1924 U.S. Olympic rugby team||2011||Won the 1924 Olympic gold medal.|
|Patrick Vincent||2011||Co-founder of USA Rugby (1975). Governor of the U.S. Union (1975–1977).|
|Dennis Storer||2011||First head coach of the U.S. national team (1976).|
|Keith Seaber||2011||Served for 15 years on the U.S. Union's board of directors. |
Managed the first Eagles team in 1976.
|Miles "Doc" Hudson||2011||Head coach of the Cal Golden Bears for 36 seasons (1938–1974); |
339 wins, 84 losses and 23 ties; most wins by a coach in U.S. college rugby.
|Kevin Higgins||2012||Played in 28 test matches for the Eagles and was captain in three. |
Played for the United States in the 1987 and 1991 Rugby World Cups.
|Robinson Bordley||2012||Captained the United States in the first two tests they played in the 1970s.|
|Harry Langenberg||2012||Co-founded the Missouri Rugby Football Union in 1933; Secretary from 1933–1983.|
|Ed Lee||2012||Founding member of the USA Rugby Football Union (USA Rugby).|
|Colby "Babe" Slater||2012||Captain of the 1924 U.S. team than won Olympic gold.|
|Craig Sweeney||2012||Played in the first four tests for the United States Eagles. |
Captained the team in the third and fourth tests.
|Victor Hilarov||2013||Founding member and first President of U.S. Rugby Football Union (USA Rugby) in 1975.|
|Ray Cornbill||2013||Head coach for the USA Eagles for eight test matches during the 1970 and 1980s.|
|Edward Hagerty||2013||Editor in Chief of Rugby Magazine from 1977 to 2009.|
|Ian Nixon||2013||USARFU's 6th president from 1991–1995. Refereed several test matches.|
|Jon Prusmack||2013||Founded Rugby Magazine (originally known as Scrumdown) in 1968. |
Purchased the USA Sevens tournament in 2005.
Created the Collegiate Rugby Championship in 2010 in partnership with NBC.
|Dick Smith||2013||Founding member and Director of the U.S. Rugby Football Union (USA Rugby) in 1975.|
|Kevin R. Swords||2014|
|Richard Aldo Donelli||2014|
|Ed Schram Sr.||2017|
|1991 USA Women's Team||2017||1991 Women's Rugby World Cup Champions|
|Dr. Lyle Micheli||2017|
|Denis Shanagher Sr.||2018|
|Dr. John Chase||2018|
|J. Tyke Nollman||2019|
USA Rugby oversees the coaching of the game. USA Rugby requires coaches to register and complete a certification course.
USA Rugby organizes amateur registered rugby teams into thirteen geographical unions at the senior club level. High school and youth teams affiliate with State Rugby Organizations while college teams register with either Geographical Unions or College Conferences.
The current Geographical Unions are:
- Capital (Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C.)
- Eastern Penn (also covers Delaware and South Jersey)
- Empire (New York, southern Connecticut and northern New Jersey)
- Florida (excludes most of the Panhandle)
- Mid-America (Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and parts of Illinois)
- New England
- Northern California (also covers all of Nevada outside of the Las Vegas Valley)
- Pacific Northwest (Idaho, Oregon, Washington)
- Rocky Mountain (Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and western South Dakota)
- Southern California (also covers Arizona, New Mexico, and the Las Vegas Valley)
- Texas (also covers most of Arkansas and Louisiana)
- True South (Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, and the Florida Panhandle)
The following states are not currently covered by a geographic union:
- North Dakota
- West Virginia
- In addition, Western Pennsylvania is not covered by a geographic union.
Elected governance history
In June 1987, the position of Chairman of the Board was added to the executive committee, and Bob Watkins was named to that position. Effective June 1989, that position was retitled Post of Past President, and remained an appointed post until the position was dropped in 1996.
Effective January 1996, an executive vice president was added.
|Election Date||President||Executive Vice-President||Vice-President||Treasurer||Secretary|
|January 1996||Gene Roberts||Tony Skillbeck||Neal Brendel||Anne Barry||Reyn Kinzey|
|January 1998||Anne Barry||Neal Brendel||Tristan Lewis||Barbara Fugate||Pat O’Connor|
Effective March 2000, the Vice President was replaced with Athlete Vice President.
|Election Date||President||Executive Vice-President||Athlete Vice-President||Treasurer||Secretary|
|March 2000||Anne Barry||Neal Brendel||Mary Dixey||Fred Roedel III||Pat O’Connor|
|March 2002||Neal Brendel||Robert Latham||Jen Crawford||Fred Roedel III||Pat O’Connor|
Effective April 2004, the President title was replace with Chairman, and an USARRA Representative was added.
|Election Date||Chairman||Vice Chairman||Athlete Vice Chairman||Treasurer||Secretary||USARRA Rep|
|April 2004||Neal Brendel||Robert Latham||Don James||Fred Roedel III||David Pelton||Buzz McClain|
|March 2006||Robert Latham||Frank Merrill||Alex Magelby||Thomas Schmidt||David Pelton||John McConnell|
|Name||Title||Start Date||End Date|
|Kirk Miles||Executive Director||2 May 1988||20 December 1989|
|Roger Neppl||Executive Director||1 May 1995||6 September 1995|
|Paul Montville||Executive Director||24 November 1997||April 1999|
|Terry Fleener||Interim Director||April 1999||21 June 1999|
|Mark Rudolph||Executive Director||21 June 1999||9 November 2001|
|Dean Hahn||November 9, 2001|
|Doug Arnot||CEO||1 December 2002||14 July 2006|
|Nigel Melville||CEO and President of Rugby Operations||11 October 2006||25 June 2016|
|Jim Snyder||Interim CEO||27 June 2016||31 July 2016|
|Dan Payne||CEO||1 August 2016|
|Ross Young||CEO||30 April 2018|
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- International Rugby Board
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- Scottish Rugby, 2014 Annual Report
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- Scottish Rugby Annual Report 2011/12.
- "USA Rugby 2011 Financial Statements" (PDF). usarugby.org.
- Scottish Rugby 2011 Annual Report
- Scottish Rugby, 2009-10 Annual Report
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- 17 January 1988 AGM at Atlanta, GA as reported in Rugby Magazine Vol. 24 No. 1; 30 January 1998
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