By Darrell Harris | Reporter
The Baylor rugby team is having its best season in over a decade. The squad is poised to compete for a conference championship and perhaps even make a run for a national championship. The team’s immediate goal may be to win championships, but this year’s club has a bigger goal it is aiming for as well.
The use of the term “club” was not simply a synonym for team. It was completely intentional. Baylor’s rugby program is not an official sport on campus – it is just a club run primarily by the players themselves.
Senior eight-man Pete Hamm, who currently serves as the team’s captain, says they are more than just a club sport.
“We do our best to facilitate the team as if it’s an NCAA sport,” Hamm said, “because we have high aspirations and want to be the best team we could be.”
This includes a rigorous practice schedule where they typically have only one day off during the school week in preparation for matches on the weekends. The club played its first game on Oct. 1 of last year meaning they have an in-season mindset throughout the entire school year which requires great mental endurance.
The club’s discipline has paid off in the form of a 6-1 record, already surpassing their 5-3 final record from last year. The Bears are currently first in the Red River Rugby conference of Division 1A rugby, the highest level of collegiate rugby in the country. Following an impressive win this past weekend against Oklahoma (4-3), the club is on the cusp of being nationally ranked. The club’s victory over Oklahoma also avenged their sole loss on the season, which came against the Sooners last November.
This Saturday, the Bears play Texas Tech (1-4) and a victory there would place them in the conference championship game. This is a remarkable turnaround for Baylor’s rugby team considering just four seasons ago the club finished with a 0-10 record.
The team’s members hope that they earn the attention of the university in the process of this season.
“One of our goals this year is to show the university [that] Baylor has a savage rugby team,” Hamm said. “…One who is here to make their mark on campus and represent Baylor in a positive light in the athletic community.”
Hamm also discussed what sponsorship from Baylor would do for their program.
“An official sponsoring of the organization from Baylor’s athletic department would help further legitimize the rugby team as well as benefit the university by having another championship-caliber athletic program,” Hamm said.
The rugby team’s diligence and commitment to excellence could also be attributed to their head coach Mason Hering.
“He dedicates a lot of his time to us,” Sophomore center Stewart Morris said. “He’s helped us grow as men, as Christians and as rugby players. He’s been the driving force for us.”
Hering played and coached professional rugby for over 10 years for the Austin Blacks, so he brings a lot of experience to Baylor’s rugby program. Hering and the rest of the squad are hoping to win Baylor’s first Rugby National Championship since 2001.