The Fresno State men’s rugby club won its first 7s conference championship after winning a national championship, through limited resources and funding.
Unlike other sports at the university, rugby is not an NCAA covered sport because it is a club sport. This means there are no scholarships for playing, but team members said they are playing for the love of the game.
Its club sport status also means that there is significantly less funding in comparison with the other sports, like baseball or basketball.
The rugby club has been forced into less-than-ideal practicing conditions before. Men’s rugby Head Coach Paul Carter said he can see that improvements need to be made, from updated equipment to a safer, cleaner place to practice, that aren’t being taken into consideration now.
“We get groundskeepers that are admonishing us [if we try to play on campus] because we’re on the field, or they had laid down some sand,” Carter said.
The team has said before that the title of club sport can carry a negative connotation. Despite their accolades, the team feels like it’s not being taken seriously.
The women’s rugby team has been advocating for a playing field for club sports, working with the Associated Students Inc, but no solutions have been made at the time of this article.
The men’s team has practiced at a local park because it was not able to gain access to a field on campus.
Carter gave thanks to the Fresno State Police Department for providing lights for their evening practices to make the park safer in the meantime.
“We’re so grateful for what we have, and I would love to give a lot of respect and kudos to the chief of police because he has taken it upon himself to have his officers go out and provide the lights for us. They don’t have to do that,” Carter said.
The team has proven to be able to work with what it is given without sacrificing its performance.
As the ‘Dogs played through their 7s season this fall, they have continued to deal with the same issues as their previous season regarding their practice conditions. However, that is not the only thing they are trying to overcome this season.
The team lost some talented players in its senior class last year and finding replacements has been a challenge, according to Carter.
“Getting everyone to practice and having enough experience [is a problem]. We have a lot of new guys. We graduated a lot of really good players from last year’s team. But having a guy like Isaia Kruse, one of the best 7s players in the country, certainly helps a lot as well,” Carter said.
Kruse was even selected to represent the United States in the Youth Olympic games in 2018.
After just 13 years in existence, the Fresno State men’s rugby team won a national championship this past spring during its 15s season.
During its last 15s season, the team was able to compile an undefeated 10-0 record. The club performed a dominating 60 points per game average in its first nine games of the season. In the Pacific West Conference Championship, it beat Sacramento State 36-0 en route to its first conference title ever.
From there the Bulldogs advanced to the Western Regionals, where they faced San Diego and Western Washington. Like it had done all season, Fresno State had two blow out wins by scores of 46-7 and 52-15, earning a spot in the national championship.
The team faced the Kansas Jayhawks in the national title game in April. Fresno StateFresno State began with a 14-0 lead until the half. The Jayhawks scored multiple times in the second half and made the game close, but Fresno State was able to stay composed and secure a close 22-17 victory.
After finishing the 7s season with a record of 6-1 this fall, they became conference champions. They have now started preparation for the 15s season. They are 0-2 in the preseason and hope to make improvements before the regular season begins.