The inception of the Furman Rugby Club actually began on St. Patrick's Day in 1997. After a storied day of rugby during
the famed St. Patrick's Day Rugby Tournament in Savannah,
Ga., two Greenville Griffin teammates (one a Furman student
Marc Roberts, the other a Furman employee, John Roberts)
mused one evening about the possibility of starting a rugby team at
Furman. Other schools in the area (USC, Clemson, App. State
and Davidson) had teams, so why not Furman?
the idea remained just that, an idea, for the next nine months until
plaguing injuries and family commitments forced John to
consider retiring from rugby as a full time player. Unwilling
to give up the sport he had played for 13 years, John began
considering coaching as an option. Subsequently, Marc and
John organized a meeting for anyone on the campus interested in
forming a team. The December Meeting attracted 10 male students,
mostly freshmen and sophomores. A follow-up meeting was
scheduled and a tentative practice schedule approved.
after Christmas break, the Furman men's club held its first practice
beside Paladin Stadium with about 25 students taking part.
After just two weeks of practice, Danielle Snoddy, a freshman
from Lousiville, Ky., queried John about the possibility of
forming a women's team as well.
skeptical at first (John initially didn't think the undergraduate
population at Furman would support a women's team) he agreed to
coach the team if there was enough interest. Danielle and
some others showered the campus with posters advertising the
new club and an organizational meeting was held. The response
was overwhelming-35 girls showed.
mid-February, the Furman men and women held their first joint practice
with more than 50 students taking part. Though excited about
the turnout, John was overwhelmed and issued a cry for help,
imploring his Greenville teammates to help share the coaching
duties. Mark "Haywood" Sullivan and "The Mighty" Joe Young
With three coaches, instruction
at practices (every Monday and Wednesday) became more
individualized. By mid-March the teams were progressing nicely
while preparing for their only game of the season-a March 27 double
header against the USC women's and men's squads in Columbia.
under the lights on a Friday night at Blatt PE field (the same
field John roamed as an undergraduate at USC) Furman held its
inaugural games. In the first game, the women's team took the
fight to USC and actually led 7-5 when Paige Rawson scored
the first try for Furman Rugby on a 15 yard run early in the
first half. But, as expected, experience won over and USC
eventually prevailed 35-13.
In the men's
game, Furman fought valiantly, trailing just 13-0 at the
break. The men came close to scoring on several occasions but were
turned back by a USC team anxious to shut-out the all-rookie
squad. Furman played the Gamecocks even for the first 15
minutes of the second half. However, as fatigue set in, the
larger USC team wore down the Paladins and scored several
late tries to take the victory 35-0.
by their success in the first games (by not getting blown out by two
long-standing rugby programs with winning records), the Furman
rugby team left Columbia feeling good.
a firm foundation set, the rugby teams went on to have great success
during their inaugural season in 1998-99. The men's club completed
the fall and spring season with a 12-1 record and outscored
its opponents 176-21. The season ended on a down note as the
men lost to Elon College in the North Carolina Division II
championship game. The women tallied a 5-1 record this spring
after posting a 1-3 record in the fall.
May 1999, at the Furman University club sports banquet, Furman coach
John Roberts thanked his players, coaches and presented a speech
that summarized the first season of Furman rugby.