Harvard announced the hiring of Mel Denham as the head coach of women’s rugby in August of 2017. Denham joined the Crimson after a three-year tenure as the head coach at Central Washington.
In her first season with the Crimson, Denham helped lead Harvard women's rugby to a 4-3-1 record during the fall 15s season. Harvard competed in its second-straight Ivy Championship in the fall and concluded the season with a trip to the NIRA Semifinals against Dartmouth. In the spring, the Crimson reached the USA Rugby National Championship for the first time, and took second at the Ivy 7s tournament.
Harvard reached new heights in 2018-19, having the most successful season in program history. The Crimson won the Ivy 15s championship in the fall, and advanced to the national championship game where it finished as the nation's runner-up. The momentum carried over to the spring season, where Harvard won the Ivy 7s title and finished third at the USA Rugby National Championship. Six student-athletes earned All-America accolades.
The Crimson continued its success during the 15s season of 2019-20. The Crimson posted an overall record of 7-2 with two wins over Dartmouth; one in the regular season and the other coming in the NIRA Semifinal gaame. Harvard would go on to win its first NIRA National Championship as a varsity program with an 18-7 win over Army West Point.
“We are thrilled to announce Mel Denham as the head coach of women’s rugby,” said Bob Scalise, the John D. Nichols '53 Family Director of Athletics, upon her hiring in 2017. “Mel has been very successful as a head coach, and she was instrumental in helping the Harvard program’s elevation to varsity status as an assistant coach. We believe she will be a terrific leader and mentor for our student-athletes.”
Denham was the first varsity head coach in program history at Central Washington, and led the Wildcats to a 39-4 record over three seasons, which included appearances in national championships for both 7s and 15s. Additionally, Denham developed 14 All-Americans and two USA women’s national team development athletes, with one making senior team appearances in 15s and 7s.
Previous to her stop at Central Washington, Denham was the head coach at American International College from 2013-14, where she helped the squad to a 22-5 overall record with five collegiate All-Americans. Denham also spent three years as an assistant coach at Harvard from 2010-13, which included the program’s elevation to varsity status in 2013. While a club program in 2011, Denham helped lead Harvard to the 2011 Division Two National Championship.
Denham was a mainstay with the USA Women’s national team, and appeared in the 2010 World Cup player squad and the 2014 World Cup training squad. Denham tallied 21 appearances for the national team, while also earning a trio of national championships for Northeast Regional Select Side.
The second head coach in program history, Denham graduated from Bridgewater State in 2007.