The Colgate University Rugby Football Club was born out of the cold depths of the Hamilton winter in 1966, as a part of Colgate’s January Plan. Stephen Wright ’67 completed his work in the form of a report entitled “Why and How Rugby Should Be Developed at Colgate”. A group of visionary young men headed by Mr. Wright and Pete Stackhouse ’66 organized Colgate’s first athletic club, composed partially of varsity football players, and students from other walks of life. As the modern college leagues would not come into existence for many years, original opponents included other colleges around the East Coast such as University of Pennsylvania (Colgate’s first-ever match), and at times men’s clubs from central New York. Colgate played its first full season in 1966-67, and had our first All-American (Gene Detwiler ’69), who was named an East All-American in 1968.
Originally, games were played on Whitnall Field in front of the James B. Colgate Student Union, as they were occasionally throughout the years. In spring 1970, the Colgate Rugby Club began using Academy Field, a scenic pitch running along Oak Drive, playing their first home game against Boston College. Today, both the men’s and women’s clubs (founded in the late 1970’s by Betsy Zimmerman) call Academy Field home.
Rise to Prominence
In 1975, Colgate played in LSU’s Mardi Gras Invitational, which was the national college championship at the time, placing 10th overall. Later that year, Colgate hosted the Upstate Rugby Union tournament, including 24 teams and 440 players. In 1979, Colgate hosted one of several invitational tournaments on-campus
The early 1980’s were especially successful years for Colgate’s rugby club, in particular the 1981-82 team, whose undefeated fall season earned them a #15 national ranking from the US Rugby Association, and a number of players named to All-American teams including George Stewart ’82, Doug Sachs ’83 (Captain) – All-American 3rd XV; Jon Kim ’81, Joe Ansaldi ’81 – All American Honorable Mention; and Matthew Morris ’82, Neil Torpey ’82, Mike Hayden ’81 (Captain) – All-American 1st XV. Colgate has been represented at the international rugby levels by several alumni – Jack Donnelly ’80 (made USA vs. Canada match roster), Mike Hayden ’81, and more recently Will Haydock ’09. Carter Mann ’84 played USA Sevens and USA Rugby League. Ian Elliott ’08 played College All-American Sevens, though the squads were loosely organized as Sevens hadn’t quite taken off yet, and has so far earned five caps from the USA Tomahawks Rugby League team, including playing in the 2009 RL World Cup. He’s qualified for the 2013 Rugby League World Cup as well.
After a surprisingly successful 2003 fall season in Division II, the men of Colgate embarked in Spring, 2004 on their first international tour in recent memory, with 24 young Raiders touring the emerald isle of Ireland, touching down in Shannon. It was a successful tour, by anyone’s terms. The club racked up a win against the University of Limerick Bohemians and a close defeat to the boys of Dublin City College. The elder statesmen of Connacht Rugby, members of the Galway Corinthians, put on a fine show to the Colgate tourists under the setting Irish sun.
In 2006, the club embarked on its second second international tour, playing two matches in England and one match in Wales. Colgate was skippered by junior scrum half Ryan Colameo ’07 and traveled with 24 players (including 13 first-years) plus Coach Burdick. The club played matches against Vauxhaull Motors RFC, Trinity College Carmarthen RFC, and Malvern RFC. While finishing with an 0-3 record, the club still enjoyed the sights, with visits to Millennium Stadium and Cardiff Castle in Wales, and plenty of time to tour London.
In 2008, the men toured Ireland again, playing Limerick Institute of Technology and Trinity College in Dublin, among others. The men were put through their paces by Tony Smeeth at Trinity as well.
The 2012 rugby tour was an amazing opportunity for the growth of the program as a whole. A total of 50 of the men’s and women’s players spent one week in the UK gaining both a respect for the game and its history, as well as useful skills through training sessions with high level coaches. The trip culminated with three games against local Scottish and English opponents, setting the stage for the men’s playoff run into the National Elite 8.
In 2014, the men and women again toured Ireland jointly with a guide from Irish Rugby Tours. Each team played three games, and were coached by former USA Attack coach Tony Smeeth at Trinity in Dublin.
In addition, Colgate have played host to several international touring sides over the years, including the forebears of the British professional club Saracens, in 1968, and a Dutch college international side in the 1980’s or early 90’s for an invitational tournament hosted for several years on Academy Field.
In 1996, Colgate’s Academy Field and several local alumni played a bit role in the Broken Lizard comedy group’s movie Puddle Cruiser. Broken Lizard is a comedy group more famous for movies such as Super Troopers, which was formed by Colgate alumni one of whom is rugby player Kevin Heffernan ’90.
The club has enjoyed the efforts of various coaches over the years, from student coach/captains to school administrators (including current professor Hugh Pinchin), other locals, and even alumni who have put their talents to bear. Recent years however have continued to bring dedicated young men to the ranks of Colgate Rugby, including former Chicago Lion Timothy Burdick, who took over as Director of Rugby from 2003 through 2013, assisted in the middle of the decade by Joe Martin ’04, who also helped Ithaca College launch their program. The team went through a rebuilding process, starting from the ground up, adopting Coach Burdick’s professional attitude and the ethos that only by treating rugby as if it deserved the respect of a legitimate, successful club would rugby earn commensurate respect from others.
The fall of 2002 brought with it the goal of promotion from USA Rugby Division III to Division II. Colgate Rugby rose to the Empire East (Division II) after completing a tough yet successful season.
Division II Success
Recent years have brought continued success for the club, with the team, skippered by Jack Henley ’12 and Marc Foto ’12, playing an undefeated fall 2011 season (13-0) to earn a berth in the national tournament in spring of 2012, where at Dartmouth’s Brophy Field in front of many spectators the boys beat Bentley College and lost to Towson University in the 2012 national DII round of 8.
Colgate’s men reached a similar level of success in 2012-2013, as Coach Burdick and captains Graham Reiser ’13 and Alex Heller ’13 brought Colgate back to the national Division II round of 16, beating Coast Guard Academy in the first round to lose ultimately to IUPUI in the round of 8.
The Future is Now: ACRC Division I
In 2013, Coach David Chapman (former star rugby player and later coach of the University of Mississippi) relocated to Hamilton, and took the helm of a club headed in the right direction, with a roster of over sixty players and tremendous support from Colgate.
In 2013/14, the men played an all-fall DII schedule, losing narrowly to a solid Niagara University side in the round of 32. That winter, the Empire Rugby Conference (ACRC Division I) accepted Colgate’s bid to join, beginning with the Spring 2014 Sevens series. As of Fall 2014, Colgate Men compete in Empire Rugby Conference’s DI Fifteens and Sevens competitions, which will provide elite competition and a mandatory D-League, ensuring a full season of B-Side games.
In Spring 2015, in our second 7s season as a D1 program, a cohesive Colgate team earned a #14 ranking in ACRC 7s.
While many Raiders have passed on, Colgate RFC remembers vividly Vic Krivitzky, Class of 2012 and 1819 Award winner emeritus. Vic passed away in 2011 after a battle with leukemia, and Colgate men’s rugby’s run to the national DII Round of Eight was dedicated in his honor. The club’s uniforms now bear the mark “4VIC” in Krivitzky’s name as well, and the boys wear new uniforms during this 2012-2013 season donated by Vic’s family. Other recent players have included Konosioni, and other standout young men who proudly carry on the tradition of excellence established many decades before.
The Colgate Rugby Alumni Association are proud to work to support Coach Chapman, to support the students currently playing rugby on Academy Field, to engender continued support from and fruitful collaboration with Colgate’s administration, and to see that the proud legacy of rugby at Colgate is carried on. We welcome any contribution of knowledge, stories, memorabilia, or any other piece of the club’s history for documentation here and on the club’s facebook page.
Colgate men’s rugby club is a prominent club on campus, with generous alumni and parent support which helps ensure that our men can compete at the highest level. The Colgate Rugby Alumni Association has established short- and long-term goals to further support rugby at Colgate. Please see the Alumni Association and Support CURFC sections of our site for more information.
Any additions, comments, corrections, or other pieces of information would be appreciated to further bolster our history! Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any comments or other items.
Did you know?
– Bill Freeborn ’76 helped create the Canterbury Three Kiwis logo during his time working for Canterbury USA after graduation.
– Mike Hayden ’81 started one of the original Pro Rugby leagues in the US in 1993 – the WRFL (video HERE)
– Genesee Cream Ale, a central New York brew, was reportedly debuted at the Upstate Rugby Union tournament at Colgate in the mid-70’s.
– The “Rugby Bar” for many years was Hickey’s, which stood where Peabody’s Bar subsequently sat, and is now home to a hair salon.
– George Barton Cutten, university president from 1942 and the man responsible for the Colgate Plan, played rugby at Acadia University in Nova Scotia during his college career in the late 1890’s.
– Christopher “Chip” Mayer ’77, who starred as Vance Duke in the TV show Dukes of Hazzard, and Kevin Heffernan ’90 of Broken Lizard were known to play rugby during their time in Hamilton.
– Dr. Ivan Gowan ’74 founded Hamilton Orthopedics in 1985, serving Colgate and the surrounding community with top-notch orthopedic care. For his work supporting Colgate and as an outstanding alumnus, Dr. Gowan was awarded a Maroon Citation in 2014 and was the Silver Puck recipient for 2013. He and his wife Carolyn also received the Hamilton Central School Sports Booster of the Year award in 2003.
– Richard Oleksiak ’66 (Nichols School, Buffalo NY) and Mike Gallup ’67 (Sidney, Sidney NY) have been elected to their high school Sports Halls of Fame.
– Professor Emeritus Hugh Pinchin, a Brit who join the Economics department in 1965, was the club’s first faculty sponsor and coach. He was also a part of the 2007 40th Anniversary event, which included raising money for new uprights on Academy Field.
– In the late 1970’s, Colgate Rugby played in a Men’s league because college rugby wasn’t firmly established and thus welcomed locals to the pitch. A.C. Kuda, an active player who only wore blue jeans on the field, was the director of a mental hospital in Rome, NY. Colgate once played a benefit match on the grounds of the hospital for the residents.
List of Colgate Rugby Captains
2015-2016 – Charlie Murphy ’16 & Zachary Herzog ’16
2014-2015 – Daniel Miller ’15 & Peter Swiggett ’15
2013-2014 – Cameron Borriello ’14 & JT Colucci ’14
2012-2013 – Alex Heller ’13 & Graham Rieser ’13
2011-2012 – Marc Foto ’12 & Jack Henley ’12
2010-2011 – Mike Danahy ’11 & Julian Michaels ’11
2009-2010 – Mike Danahy ’11 & Cam Mahjoubi ’10
2008-2009 – Ben Kuhns ’09
2007-2008 – Ian Savage Elliott ’08
2006-2007 – JD Powers ’07 & Ryan Colameo ’07 & Jon Slefinger ’07
2005-2006 – Mike Andreini ’06 & Duane Grell ’06
2004-2005 – Sean Meehan ’05
2003-2004 – Joe Martin ’04 & Greg Rawson ’04
2002-2003 – Pete Gareiss ’03
2001-2002 – Matt Himelfarb ’02 & Matt Richenthal ’02 & Pete Gareiss ’03
2000-2001 – Leland Hedges ’01 & Nate Dekieffer ’01 & Bart Larmouth ’01
1999-2000 – Seth Hollis ’00 & Leland Hedges ’01 & Nate Dekieffer ’01
1998-1999 – Frederic “Eric” Potts III ’99 & Joe Dominguez ’99 & Brandon “Beamis” Jackson ’99
1997-1998 – Todd Kahler ’98 & Chris Anderson ’98
1996-1997 – Adam Goldsmith ’97 & Kevin Carter ’97
1995-1996 – Craig Shupenko ’96 & Jed Ruccio ’96
1994-1995 – Andy Thomas ’95
1993-1994 – Unknown
1992-1993 – Michael Evans ’93
1991-1992 – Sean Todaro ’92
1990-1991 – John Rice ’91
1989-1990 – Greg Casella ’90
1988-1989 – Ed Witz ’89 & A. Jason Barto ’89
1987-1988 – Jim Beville & James Rothstein ’88 & Dave Stradling ’88
1986-1987 – Ernie Enzien ’87 & Hampar “Henry” Karamanoukian ’87
1985-1986 – Hampar “Henry” Karamanoukian ’87
1984-1985 – Greg Richter ’85 & Hampar “Henry” Karamanoukian ’87 & Ernie Bower ’86
1983-1984 – Unknown
1982-1983 – Paul Massey ’82 & Dennis Megley ’83 & Kevin Danehy ’83
1981-1982 – Neil Torpey ’82
1980-1981 – Mike Hayden ’81 & Doug Sachs ’83
1979-1980 – Mike Hayden ’81 & Pete Mutino ’80 (also Coach)
1978-1979 – Pete Mutino ’80 & Jack Donnelly ’80
1977-1978 – Scott Porter & Bob Bestwick ’78
1976-1977 – Bob Bestwick ’78 & Keith Sobraske ’77
1975-1976 – John Criscione ’77 & John Ball ’76
1974-1975 – Berl Gottlieb ’75 & Jake Spiak ’75
1973-1974 – Fred Kopplin ’74 & Steve Geisler ’76
1972-1973 – Unknown
1971-1972 – Mike Malone ’72
1970-1971 – John Marsh ’71 & Rick Dalton ’71
1969-1970 – Joe Roller ’70 & Gary Revercomb ’70
1968-1969 – Gary Revercomb ’70 & John Griggs ’69
1967-1968 – Bruce Maclean ’69 & David Grant ’69 & Bruce Foreman ’68
1966-1967 – William “Cody” Keller ’67 & Russ Bruot & Bruce Foreman ’68
1966 – Steven Wright ’67 & Peter Stackhouse ’66