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Could rugby be the “Next Big Thing” at HBCUs?

Published: Nov. 22, 2021 at 6:45 PM CST
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(CBS News) - Rugby is gaining popularity in the mid-Atlantic and now several groups want to grow the sport at historically Black colleges and universities.

Several times a week, young women from Howard University hit the pitch, perfecting their technique and form. “I love the physicality of rugby. I like to go for the ball. I like to be intense, and rugby is a sport that celebrates all that intensity,” says team captain and founder Takunda Rusike.

She says she wants to elevate her intramural team to a sanctioned NCAA program. “Pretty much anything that we have, it’s like, we’ve gotten from outside sources. Our hopes are as time goes on, and we get more rapport, that we would be able to use some more university resources,” she says.

The 19-year-old’s push is backed by groups looking to bolster rugby in and around Washington, D.C., especially among historically Black colleges and universities.

“There’s about 900 rugby clubs at colleges around the USA and there’s only two at HBCUs,” says Howard alumna Carille Guthrie.

Guthrie now lives in Sri Lanka, contracting with the State Department. She uses her love of rugby as an icebreaker in her travels, after years of playing herself. Guthrie created the James G. Robertson & Clive Sullivan Rugby Foundation to get teams up and running. “We help them pay their registration dues, field fees, referee fees, and any kind of monetary needs that they need, so they don’t have to focus on fundraising as well as playing,” Guthrie says.

With momentum at every turn, Rusike says recruiting athletes was easy. “Right now, we have a solid like twenty-five to thirty,” she says. And she wants even the littlest athletes to take notice. “I hope that other Black little girls who play rugby know that there’s a spot for them at Howard.”

Howard University officials say they are confident it is only a matter of time before both the men and women’s rugby teams become varsity teams.

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