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Letter from Penn State Director of Rugby Chris Amoratis

 

September 30, 2015

 

Dear Penn State Rugby Alumni & Supporters,

I hope you are as excited as I am about the recent news that Blake Burdette and Kate Daley have been appointed as the first ever full-time head coaches of the Men's and Women's programs, respectively. Kate began her tenure as the permanent head coach 2 weeks ago, and Blake started this past week after completing his move from Utah.

The last several years have been the most challenging in the program's history with the suspension of the Men's team and the loss of the Director of Rugby. For the last 2 years, PSU Rugby's future has been in doubt. But with the support of the University's new administration, PSU Rugby is now positioned to move forward into a bright future. This recovery would not be possible without the financial support of the Alumni.

This season is an inflection point for both the Men's and Women's programs. Over the last 20 plus years, the Women have enjoyed unparalleled success under the leadership of Pete Steinberg, who built the program's success on the foundation laid by Charlie Smith. Pete was honored at this past Alumni weekend for his almost 20 years of service to Penn State Rugby as he officially retired from the position of head coach. Last year, Kate served as the interim head coach and, with the best assistant coaching staff in the country, led the team to its most successful year ever.

Moving forward, the Women will face a more competitive environment as more teams go varsity and offer scholarships. Ivy League schools like Harvard, Dartmouth and Brown have joined other lesser known schools like Quinnipiac, Lindenwood and Life University to grow the number of programs that are offering scholarships. The competitive environment will only continue to grow for the Women, which is one of the reasons the University recognized their need for a full-time coach.

The Men have seen a change in their competition as well. In the past, Cal presented the gold standard. However, an increasing number of schools are joining Cal in the elite echelon due to increased support from their school administrations and Alumni. Army, Life, Central Washington, Lindenwood, Davenport, and Wheeling Jesuit have all added rugby to their varsity sports, and other programs like BYU, Arkansas State, and St. Mary's now receive varsity-level support. The PSU Men's team has continued to grow, but has not been able to keep pace with these other programs. The turmoil of the last 2 years has compounded the problems the Men face in trying to compete. However, despite these challenges, the Penn State Men's Team has managed to bring a strong core of dedicated players to campus, which has enabled them to remain competitive.

Many Alumni have questions about the program regarding where it currently sits and how it is run. When rugby became a "team sport" in 2007 it gained significant support from the University including preferred facility access and most significantly varsity athlete health insurance. This means that the rugby players get treatment through Penn State Sports Medicine and Penn State covers anything that the players insurance does not. Included in this support is daily training hours with the rugby ATC and a rugby specific doctor.

While rugby formally remained a club sport, rugby no longer reports to the club sports director, reporting directly to Athletics Department. The University hired a manager to oversee both rugby and ice hockey and as well as a Director and Associate Director of Rugby. These positions combined both administrative and coaching roles, which turned out to be problematic as the increased support from the University came with increased obligations. Players could no longer show up to a practice and join the team, but instead had to first undergo a physical. The team also had to track players at practice and conditioning and comply with many other requirements that are standard in varsity athletics.

In the last couple of years, the Athletic Department added a Rugby Strength and Conditioning coach which enhanced the access the players had to the weight room. Ice hockey became varsity and rugby became the only "team sport." Last Summer when Club Sports moved from Athletics to Student Affairs, it was not clear if rugby would also be removed from the Athletics Department. Thankfully, with the support of the Athletic Department, rugby stayed in Athletics and now the Director of Rugby reports directly to an Associate Athletic Director.

The hiring of the 2 head coaches, along with myself as the Director of Rugby, is the organizational structure that the Alumni Board has been working towards for the last several years. The additional University positions would be possible only with the financial support of the Alumni and the 3-year commitment the Alumni Board has made to fund the positions.

I hope that you are as excited as I am about the future of Penn State Rugby, and I ask that you support the teams by your presence at games, Alumni events, and by making a donation to this year's campaigns.

With Blake finally coming on board I will be able to step away from the coaching role I have fulfilled over the last several years and focus on building the best Men's and Women's programs in the country. I hope you will join me on that journey.

Always willing to answer questions or concerns.

Yours,

Chris Amoratis
Director of Rugby - Penn State University
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Letter from PSURAC President Greg Gooch

September 30, 2015

Dear Fellow Alumni, Supporters, Parents, and Players,

I am excited to announce that a new era of Penn State Rugby has officially begun. As you may have heard, Penn State recently hired full-time head coaches for the Men's and Women's Teams. The hiring of Blake Burdette and Kate Daley, along with Chris Amoratis as the Director of Rugby, is a huge step forward for the program. However, now is not the time for the PSU Rugby Alumni to rest on their laurels. Now is the time to invest in change. The Alumni have made a 3-year commitment to the University to partially fund the head coach positions. In order to fulfill our commitment and to ensure that our teams have everything they need to succeed in an extremely competitive environment, the Alumni Club has launched the "Invest in Change" campaign with the goal of raising over $150,000 by next year's Alumni Reunion. PSU Rugby has never needed its Alumni more than now.

Over the last decade, the competitive landscape in the Men's game has exploded. Where there used to be a single, dominant program (Cal), the top tier is now occupied by many teams who have benefitted from the increased support of their school administrations and alumni. Many of these programs have scholarships and full-time staffing. On the Women's side, there are many programs poised to challenge PSU's dominion over the competition for the same reasons. In fact, the last 4 teams that the Women faced during the playoffs all offer scholarships to high school recruits. While the Women had their most successful year ever in 2015, staying on top will become much harder as more and more programs commit the resources necessary to challenge them.

When the University staff first created full-time positions for the rugby program, the administrative and coaching duties were combined in one position. This model did not work. The program needed full-time coaches and a full-time administrator in order to compete. As a result of the Alumni's push for change and willingness to put down money to make it happen, PSU Rugby now has a sustainable, effective organizational structure, which will enable the Men's team to take its rightful place among the nation's elite and the Women's team to stay on top.

Recognizing how critical the next few years are to PSU Rugby's long-term success and stability, the Alumni Club has begun a year-long reorganization to serve both you and the program better. Our efforts will include revamping how we connect with the Alumni and parents with more regional events, including upcoming meet and greets with the new head coaches in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, better managing our merchandising, and improving the connection between the Alumni and the Teams as well as to each other. I am excited about the engagement of our current board members and the number of you who have committed to helping us with this mission.

The goal of the "Invest in Change" campaign is to raise over $150,000. These donations will ensure that we can support the head coach positions beyond the current 3-year commitment, as well as fund coaching stipends, the teams' travel, and Alumni Club infrastructure.

With the support of the Alumni in attendance at this year's reunion we already have over $70,000 pledged to this campaign. In order to help the coaches and Director plan for the current season and the rest of the year, our goal is to have $150,000 pledged by December 1, 2015. Please consider joining the many Alumni who have pledged to make a monthly payment over the course of the next 12 months.

The following is a suggested pledge amount based on graduation year:

• Graduated 2005 or before: $100+/month
• Graduated 2006-2010: $50/month
• Graduated 2011-2014: $20/month
• Graduated 2015: $10/month

With your help we can help support the Men's and Women's teams on the pitch this season and build a strong foundation for their success in the many seasons to come.

Thank you all for your passion and support. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Yours in rugby,

Greg "Wombat" Gooch
President
Penn State Rugby Alumni Club
(917) 689-1905
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Penn State Officially Hires 2 New Coaches

Penn State Rugby Alumni Club
8th September, 2015

State College, PA
The Penn State Rugby Alumni Club has partnered with the University to support the hiring of 2 full-time coaches for the men’s and women’s rugby teams.  The recent announcement of Blake Burdette as the Men’s Head Coach and Kate Daley as the Women’s Head Coach is a huge step forward for Penn State Rugby and the culmination of several years of discussions between the alumni and the university.

 

With the hiring of Blake and Kate, Penn State Rugby has joined the ever-growing ranks of teams who have the benefit of full-time, university-employed coaches.  This step is vital to the success of PSU Rugby. To make this a reality, the Alumni Club made a financial commitment to the University to partially fund the head coach positions for three years.

 

The rugby department has gone through a significant transformation over the last year.  With club sports moving to student affairs, rugby is now fully in the Athletic Department.  The new positions are also the end of a slow re-organization pushed by the Alumni Club for many years.  The University appointed Chris Amoratis as the Director of Rugby earlier this year, and with the hiring of full-time head coaches the rugby department is now in a position to drive the game forward on campus.

 

“We are very excited about the partnership we have with the University to support the Penn State Rugby programs,” said Greg Gooch, Alumni Club President.  “Chris, Kate and Blake will be the leaders of the program, and our goal is to rally Alumni support so they can be successful.”

 

The Alumni have launched the “Invest in Change” campaign to support the new coach positions, and to help fund the operational costs of the teams and the alumni club.  The goal of the campaign is to raise over $150,000 by the 2016 Alumni Reunion Weekend with the request that alumni, parents and supporters make monthly donation.  Pledges can be made here.

 

The Penn State Alumni Club is a 501c3 devoted to the support of the Penn State Men and Women’s rugby programs.  You can find out more about the Alumni and Penn State Rugby at www.psurugby.org.