50 years of UD rugby
At first glance, a mass of black and gold jerseys doesn’t exactly scream Flyer pride. Oh, but it does.
In the fall of 1969, more than 50 men sought to bring the sport of rugby to the University. They practiced on empty plots of land (often near Founders Hall or Woodland Cemetery), wore secondhand uniforms and established a club that evolved into an official campus organization. This year, the club sport celebrated a significant anniversary — a golden one — to match one of its first team uniforms.
The UD Rugby Club, comprising players from the last 50 years, holds frequent gatherings, but this milestone welcomed more alumni than usual. The weekend of Oct. 4-6 was a family affair.
“We are 15 years removed, and these are still some of my best friends,” said Shannon VandenHaute Lembach ’05. “We’ve been in each other’s weddings. We go on vacations … . We babysit each other’s children. We are each other’s godparents to our children.”
Lembach was a member of the 2003 team that won the Women’s Collegiate Rugby Division II national championship, the first and only national rugby title in UD history.
Bob Borgerding ’72, referred to as the “founding father” of the UD Rugby Club, decided to start the club after he was told he could no longer play football. For decades after, teams were coached, funded and organized by students, carrying on the same devotion Borgerding exhibited.
“As the original rugby player here at the University, I just feel so proud of everything that has gone on,” Borgerding said.
Former players share similar sentiments of gratitude and pride for the organization and the sport itself.
“Rugby has that camaraderie around it like no other sport … . There’s a magic about rugby,” said Virgil Renz ’01.
During the weekend, alumni watched the current UD men’s rugby team play. Many in attendance were already familiar with the players, saying they actively follow the team’s stats. Others donate to the University of Dayton Rugby Endowment Fund. The club aims to soon be able to provide scholarships for rugby student-athletes.
Renz said the leadership these alumni are providing in their communities and through the scholarship mirrors the dedication and leadership they showed on the pitch as students. It’s a tradition 50 years and counting.