Photo Credits: wcupagoldenrams.com
Last December, the West Chester University Men’s Rugby club defeated St. Joseph’s University en route to the national championship game in Houston, Texas. It was the greatest achievement in the program’s history. The team had earned the opportunity to represent West Chester University on a national stage; something that few teams are able to do. After a grueling season in which they battled every step of the way to become one of two national representatives for the rugby clubs in their conference, the rugby team faced one more obstacle on the road to a championship: West Chester University.
“We put in a request to receive money from the school through a program that funds club sports,” Vice President of the club, Andrew Barber said. “It took them till after we got back for them to respond to us, and we were declined.”
“Players were upset with the school because we were representing them on a national level and received nothing in return. We put together a gofundme and raised the money ourselves.”
Fortunately, the team was able to raise the money and compete down in Houston, but one must ask why didn’t they get that money from the school?
The Men’s Rugby Team is 1 of 25 registered sports clubs at West Chester University. Some of the other such clubs include: the men’s and women’s soccer teams, ultimate frisbee, wrestling and field hockey. These teams are funded through the same way as other student run organizations.
“We get all of our funds through the Student Government Association (SGA),” Dylan Edelman, the Vice President of the Ultimate Frisbee club stated, “we go through a process of requesting funds based on a budget that we create for ourselves, and hoping that we get most of what we ask for.”
“I don’t think that the lack of funding really has impacted us,” he continued, “for ultimate, we typically only go to 6-7 tournaments a year and we book hotels for maybe 2 of them. That typically means that the 4-5 thousand that we’re allowed for the year gets used pretty easily, but we’re still able to act pretty freely with what we want to do.”
Teams such as the rugby club have a need for that increased funding, however, when cases such as a national championship arise. Not only that, but Barber also told me that the team “doesn’t have a bus for most games so [they] must pay for gas and drive [them]selves. [They] have restricted access to fields for games and it can be tough finding a consistent practice location.”
These are benefits likely taken for granted by teams which find themselves considered an athletic sport by the university.
Not all of the clubs have the same benefits as each other, however. The soccer teams, for example, have a designated field whereas the rugby team may have a different one from week to week. The ultimate frisbee team isn’t even allowed to use the university logo due to copyright issues!
So why are these and the other 23 sport clubs not considered an athletic sport worth school funding? Well, I reached out to a source who works in connection to these clubs to attain those answers, but was unable to get a response before writing this article. One thing I did get was an attempt to answer the question by Edelman:
“College Ultimate is run by a company called USA Ultimate, and they aren’t at all associated with the NCAA. I don’t even believe that some of the higher-level ultimate programs like Pitt and UNC are school sponsored, so I think the ceiling for an ultimate team like us would simply have to be a high functioning club team.”
As far as we know, there is no way to apply for a club to become a university-funded sport.
Now, not all is bad with being a club or intramural. According to both Barber and Edelmen, the status actually offers a more freeing feeling.
“I mean it’s definitely more of a relaxed team vibe,” Edelman told me, “because it’s just a club, we can’t really be strict about mandatory practices and stuff of that nature. I always just say that as a team we’ll take it as seriously as our guys allow us too. Typically that means that we have pretty competitive practices and regular attendance, with the intention of really competing at a high level, but in theory we could just as easily be a team that’s primarily there for the social benefits.”
“Myself along with other teammates are ok with rugby being a club,” Barber stated. “While we do practice and lift on a regular basis, it makes the atmosphere more laid back and welcoming to new members. We get a lot of recruits through former sports players who want to get away from the rigorous scheduling and practices of sports teams.”
It would seem as though the change of pace from ultra-competitive to each player playing at their own competitiveness is a benefit built into the nature of being a student-run club. This is truly the case of many clubs on campus and goes to show how fortunate we, as students are, to have these organizations to call a second home. These and all clubs are what students make them, and it is up to each of us to lead our “team” to the finish line.
Joseph Gill is a third-year English major with a minor in Journalism. JG923276@wcupa.edu