As one of the fastest growing sports in North America and in college sports, you may have noticed rugby is receiving more attention lately. Arizona has been a part of the rugby community for almost 40 years with Arizona State University’s club team. Scottsdale is looking to join with the first rugby event in the Valley – the Fiat of Scottsdale Rugby Bowl.
ASU Rugby debuted in 1975 and has ranked in the top 15 in the last five years and is currently ranked No. 11. Coach Gary Lane explains that unlike lacrosse or hockey, the rugby team does not play in a league division, but plays against everyone. They have had a tough schedule so far, but hope to move up in the ranks to No. 9 or No. 10 in the next couple of weeks. “I think we are doing pretty well,” states Lane, “We play U of A in two weeks at U of A. I think that will be a good test for how things are going.”
As a club team, ASU rugby does a lot of its own fundraising for travel expenses, tournaments, equipment and more. They tried new fundraising techniques this year including some crowd funding campaigns. They did not meet their goal, but did pretty well and hope their campaigns will be more successful in the future.
Lane also hopes to receive more exposure for the team and to receive team sponsorships. Lane emphasizes that the team is more than just a sports club, but also part of the community. The team participates in a lot of charity work for nonprofits such as the Special Olympics and Polo Plunge. They also support the women’s athletics at ASU and try to support the community in different ways. “It is a big part of our identity. We are very proud of that and we hope to set a benchmark for other teams at ASU,” says Lane.
ASU will compete against Brigham Young University (BYU) in the upcoming Rugby Bowl in Scottsdale. Lane says that the team is excited for the event and to compete against a difficult team. “It is our job to produce a game this is up to the stature of the event,” states Lane, “I’ve never been shy as a coach to take on big teams and see how we compare. You have to play at that level and if you don’t, why bother.”
Founder and owner of the Fiat of Scottsdale Rugby Bowl, Jason Rose, is also excited for the event. Rose explains that there is already a successful polo event in the valley, and he saw the chance to start a similar event with rugby. He explains that rugby is a growing sport and that there is a huge rugby footprint with the high-ranking teams of ASU and BYU. He states that the fans are about even so far according to ticket sales.
Rose hopes to generate visitors from different backgrounds form rugby enthusiasts to people who are fascinated and learning about rugby to people who simply want to enjoy an Arizona spring day.
There will be a myriad of other events including a motorcycle display, which will also donate money to a breast cancer charity, several local bands including the classic rock cover band Whiskey’s Quicker and Arizona’s premier Irish rock band Keltic Cowboys, a tug-o-war between ASU and BYU fans, World of Beer Garden, Scottsdale Cigar Lounge and even a barber shop. There is sure to be something for everyone, and all events take place inside the stadium so visitors can also watch the match.
For the future, Rose hopes to create a great Arizona event and the country’s best rugby event. He hopes to involve four, top college rugby teams in 2015, and also hopes to expand from thousands to tens of thousands of visitors. “It will be post-spring training and will be great for people looking for their football fix. Rugby has all of the hard hits like football but without the pads,” explains Rose.
Check out ASU’s rugby team and the Fiat of Scottsdale Rugby Bowl on April 12. Gates open at 11:30 am and tickets start at $12.