FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – Fresno State could possibly be about to win big in a sport that many in the Central Valley have no idea how it is played. Fresno State Rugby is about to go up against the Kansas Jayhawks in the American College Rugby National D1AA Finals. It’s a big deal for the program, which is less than 15 years old.
“This is the first time Fresno State has been in this position, and we’re a very young rugby program,” said head coach Patrick Quan.
Quan says getting support for a sport that is often overshadowed by more popular sports is difficult – adding that the Fresno community is not known for its rugby.
“My father, Milton Quan, has stood in the quad of the school and tried to identify people who look athletic and get their information so we could call them and ask them to play rugby.”
Patrick Quan says finding the players also proved challenging, revealing that for every 100 prospective rugby players they get onto the field – only one of them sticks around.
“Football players are not rugby players, they’re not even close. They’re a whole different style of athlete, playing a game based on similar roots but the actual play is different.”
The game of rugby itself was developed in the 1800s and can be traced back to schools in England. To the uninitiated, it looks like something between football and soccer (a more detailed examination of the rules can be found here). After rugby was established in Europe, it started spreading and eventually reached the United States.
Members of the coaching staff at Fresno State’s rugby team hope that success against the Kansas Jayhawks Rugby Football Club will help boost the profile of the local team. Even getting to the finals and the possibility of success is prompting new interest.
“Even now, we haven’t even played the game and we have a lot of players and coaches reaching out about the program.”
Financial support is also necessary to keep the team going. Quan reveals that Fresno State rugby does not get as much funding as the other college athletic programs receive prompting an online fundraiser to help the team reach its goals. As of Wednesday, it has raised over $20,000.
“We’ve been blown away by the community’s support. It’s been incredible.”
Quan wants Fresno State to remain a nationally prominent team. The result of the game on Saturday may be a deciding factor. The kick-off at the Choctaw Stadium in Arlington, TX, is at 2 p.m. Pacific Time.