Cambridge, Mass. – Continuing its rich history of broad-based educational opportunities through athletics, Harvard University will create a varsity women's rugby team to begin play in the 2013-14 academic year. Women's rugby will be the 21st varsity sport for women and 42nd varsity sport overall at Harvard making Harvard the nation's leader in both areas.
Harvard will be the first Ivy League institution to sponsor a varsity rugby program and continues to lead the field with its long tradition of supporting athletics for women. This tradition began in the 19th century when Radcliffe College, its sister school, offered tennis and basketball teams. In 1923, Radcliffe competed in the country's first intercollegiate swimming meet.
"As a former student athlete and competitive swimmer, I strongly support the important role that athletics plays in the lives of thousands of Harvard College students," said Michael D. Smith, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. "I'm proud of what the women's rugby club has already achieved in recent years and look forward to following their success as a varsity sport."
"The opportunity to excel in a host of different sports continues to be one of the hallmarks of a Harvard College education," stated Evelynn M. Hammonds, Dean of Harvard College. "The addition of women's rugby builds on that tradition and opens yet another opportunity for students to find their passion at Harvard."
"We are delighted to add women's rugby as our 21st varsity sport for women." said Bob Scalise, the Nichols Family Director of Athletics. "We are proud to be the largest intercollegiate athletic program in the country and to have the greatest number of intercollegiate athletic opportunities for women of any college or university nationwide.
"We have been impressed by our team's enthusiastic engagement in their sport as well as the explosive growth of rugby as a sport for women. We hope that our decision will be a catalyst for other schools to follow our lead and consider adding rugby as an intercollegiate sport for women. The program's impressive role as part of our club sport offerings and the longstanding level of commitment by these students has underlined the importance of athletics as an integral part of the educational process and experience."
The women's rugby club, which began in 1982, has won two national championships (1998, 2011) in the club ranks. "The women's rugby team has demonstrated the commitment and sustainability of interest that is consistent with a varsity level program." said Scalise. "We are committed to our mission of providing educational opportunities through athletics where competitive and recreational programs serve an integral part of the educational experience."
Division I women's rugby is currently classified as a National Collegiate Athletic Association emerging sport. This designation is used to encourage growth of opportunity at the intercollegiate level in these sports. According to USA Rugby, growth of the sport has increased exponentially at the High School and Intercollegiate level and currently there are over 300 collegiate women's rugby clubs. The sport of rugby also returns to the Olympics in 2016 after being recognized in four previous Games.