Rugby at Louisiana State University, 1970-2017

Bahamas here we come.

By Rob Haswell

My arrival on the LSU campus, as a visiting geography professor, in September, 1970, prompted two responses. Firstly, David Dukes, a local leader of the Ku Klux Klan, encouraged all of his followers to sign up for my culture worlds course, on the assumption that I was an apartheid apostle. When I set the record straight they staged a walk out. Secondly, I was beseeched by two Americans to start a rugby club: Jay McKenna had played rugby in Maryland, and proved to be a very good club secretary; while David Terry became equally invaluable – he made our first goalposts and became our very competent, and sober, bus driver. Terry had played in a rugby game at LSU in 1968, but it had ended in a brawl.
On 27 October, 1970, The Daily Reveille, the LSU campus newspaper, carried the following enticing invitation:
“A beer bust; hookers; scrums; knock-ons; and props. That’s what rugby is all about Rugby?? The newcomer to the LSU sports scene is the ancient game of rugby. Recruiting for the Tiger squad will be held in the Union all day Thursday, followed by an impromptu elbow raising party in the Tiger Lair at 5 pm.”
Needless to say more than eighty pitched up for the beer, and two weeks later we headed to New Orleans to play Tulane, who boasted an 8-1 record. We were fortunate to have a sprinkling of foreigners in key positions, such as front row, hooker, fly half and full back, but nine Americans made their rugby debut and we registered a 15-3 win. For the record, Sonny Jeffrey scored the first try in LSU’s rugby history.
Our first home game, on 7 January, 1971, against Hammond, received the following review:
“Imagine 15 athletes decked out in unnumbered grey sweatshirts and shorts, chasing, carrying, kicking and lateralling an oval-shaped ball; tackling, forearming and otherwise maiming their more experienced opponents and you have an accurate picture of LSU’s newest, potentially most appealing, yet officially unrecognised minor sports team.
The game they are playing is rugby and though it was conceived in other parts of the world, it was made for concrete canyon fans. Rugby combines the artistic footwork in soccer with the blatant brutality of football and most Americans, especially Louisiana Americans, love institutionalised bloodshed”.
Initially we played on narrow American football practice fields, but after being recognised as a club sport, thanks to the efforts of Hal Rose, we laid out an almost full size rugby field on a cow pasture alongside a concrete car park. Terry made our goalposts – his finest erection — and we had to squeeze the field into the space available, and so we named it Gerry Mander Field – it took the Athletic Director, who drove right past the field every day, several weeks before he got the pun, laughed his head off, and provided us with the scaffold materials to build our not- so- grandstand. Then he invited us to play a curtain-raiser to an LSU football game, in LSU’s Tiger Stadium, which we did by playing against Rice in the stadium on 2 October, 1971. It was an historic occasion, but the narrow field inhibited backline play, so we followed it up by playing Notre Dame, on Gerry Mander Field, in front of several thousand spectators, many of whom then went to Tiger Stadium to watch the LSU vs Notre Dame football game. There is no reason therefore, why rugby and football cannot co-exist, in a mutually beneficial relationship, on American campuses, and, in fact, rugby tackling is now belatedly recognised as being a far safer option, than using your helmet and suffering the inevitable head injuries being sustained by football players.

Establishing ourselves as the best team in the southern U.S. wasn’t all that difficult, but resulted in us travelling to the Bahamas, in late 1971, and becoming the first U.S. college team to defeat the Freeport Rugby Club. The drive to Miami, in three vehicles, and the boat ride, sponsored by Governor Edwin Edwards, is the stuff of legends.
My brother John, who was living in Bulawayo at that time, visited us and added much-needed coaching for our forwards. When he explained that the town’s name could be translated as ‘The Place of Slaughter’, the Americans decided then and there, to form a huddle before the kick off of a game, link hands and shout out “BULAWAYO”, and to this day it is LSU’s equivalent of the Haka, and the word also appears on the club’s crest.
1972 saw LSU finish third in the first National Collegiate Rugby Tournament, losing to Palmer Chiropractic College, who just happened to have Roy and Ian McCullum in their team. We avenged that by narrowly beating Palmer, minus their Boks, at LSU later that year. Our national recognition saw us invited to the annual Sevens Tournament, held over the November Thanksgiving weekend, in Washington D.C. Imagine driving all that way for a sevens tournament, but of course each road trip was epic, with pillow fights, mooning and partying the order of the day. We crisscrossed the South, and beyond, from Texas to Florida, and from Tennessee to Virginia, and north to Big Bend, Indiana. ‘We were young and we were strong but running against the wind’.
I insisted that we played hard and partied hard, as the camaraderie in rugby is completely absent in American sports. We played a running and passing game as befits a University team, but is also attractive to American athletes and sports fans, who see more than enough crash ball plays in American football. Rewardingly, the LSURFC has produced a steady stream of rugby players, who have earned representative and international rugby recognition. Boyd Morrison, Bob “Big Red” Causey and Gary Lambert have played for the U.S. Eagles, with Causey and Scott McLean, a former LSU and Eastern U.S. scrumhalf, coaching the current LSU team, who play in the Red River Conference.
In addition, Les Bratton, a founding member and player, established the Louisiana Exiles as an alumni club, who successfully and annually participated in the Saranac and Aspen Tournaments. Furthermore, LSURFC alumni, particularly, Gary Giepert and Tim Falcon, have played a leading role in establishing rugby in high schools in The Big Easy, and hence the rise to national prominence of the New Orleans Rugby Club. In fact, the Falcon family, Tim and his three sons, have made a major contribution to rugby in Louisiana, and that will continue with Tim being the driving force behind the establishment of the NOLA GOLD professional franchise in 2018. I urge rugby people throughout the South, to support this important step in the growth of rugby in the U.S. After all, a little Nawlins never hurt nobody, so make the trip.
I was able to maintain contact with the club by visiting the U.S. regularly in the 1980s and 1990s – two of our sons, Bobby and Benjamin, were born in and now reside in the U.S., so I have also been a bi-annual visitor more recently.
In summary then, although I planted the rugby seed at LSU, many others have watered and nurtured it over the years. So much so, that on 29 October, 2020, the LSURFC will be 50 years old—no mean accomplishment and testament to the blood, sweat and beers of so many over so many years. Hopefully, I will make it to the celebrations. BULAWAYO!!!!!!!!!!

Toast to first rugby field on LSU campus.

LSU team in D.C.

LSU Rugby Crest.

LSU Inaugural Meeting.

Early newspaper clipping.

Les Bratton telling Rob how to play rugby.

Robert Markel Cup Kicks-Off 2nd Season

The first Robert Markel Cup was won by NOLA Green on Dec. 31st, 2016, in their 65-12 victory over Crescent City Blues.

The second season opened on Sept. 2nd, 2017, with 6 teams competing for the trophy. The teams are Krewe of Gretna, Crescent City Blues, Pontchartrain Po-Boys, Baton Rouge, Gulf Coast, & Mobile Battleship.

The Cup is named for Robert Markel – founder of Spring Hill, Jackson, Smiley Faced Warriors youth rugby, Jesuit, and many other rugby initiatives in the Deep South. 

For more on Robert Markel see article at: http://www.deepsouthrugby.net/2007-2008-articles/robert-markel-a-grandfather-of-deep-south-rugby/ 

2016-17 Deep South News

2016-17 Deep South Rugby Articles

8/31/17  Pete Maud Died (1938-2017)

Pete was a major influence on the development of rugby in Louisiana and the Deep South.

Link to his history of Deep South Rugby:

Maud’s History – Part 1 – Tulane’s Beginning

8/5/17 USA Rugby National Collegiate Academic Honor Roll

The following rugby players in the Deep South Region made the 2016-17 USA Rugby Collegiate Honor Roll for maintaining 3.5 grade point average.

Katie Noriego             Junior                  Univ. of Alabama

Jade Barkett             Junior                    Univ. of Alabama

Carrie Kukelhan      Sophomore           Univ. of Alabama

Lily Wissinger          Junior                    Tulane

Elena Garides           Senior                    Tulane

Hannah Hoover       Junior                     Tulane

Gwendoyln Leifor   Sophomore             Tulane

Caroline Scott           Sophomore             Tulane

Trista Peronard        Junior                      Tulane

7/29/17 FLO Rugby Website 2017-18 High School Hot List

The following Louisiana high school rugby players were selected to the list:

Props: Justin Livaudais (NOLA Barbarians),  Kieran Webb (Bayou Hurricanes), Nick Gauthe (Jesuit)

Hooker: Reece Guidry (Bayou Hurricanes)                                                            

Flanker: Charles Lobrano (Jesuit)

Scrum Half: Josh Cashio (Jesuit)

Fly Half: Case Ellis  (Jesuit)

Center: James Williams (Bayou Hurricanes), Logan Neill (Brother Martin), Matt Palmer (Jesuit)

Wing: Gabriel Cardenas (Bayou Hurricanes)

Fullback: Drake Roethele (NOLA Barbarians), Jack Gab (Jesuit)

7/29/17 Rugby Americas North Championship in Georgetown, Guyana

David Coleman (Birmingham) selected to play in championship match for USA Rugby South Panthers vs Guyana for championship. USA Siuth Panthers win championship 23-19.

7/22/17 Southern 7s Atlanta

NOLA as the True South champions in Pool B with Charlotte, Boca Raton, & Optimus in competition to qualify for national championship  held August 12-13.

NOLA results in tournament:

NOLA 14  21 Optimus

NOLA 14  7   Boca Raton

NOLA 14  19 Charlotte

Charlotte and Optimus went through to the semi-finals. They both won those matches. Charlotte defeated Optimus 24-5 in the final.

7/19/17 2016-17 Collegiate All Americans

Honorable Mention

Lukem Beaumont – LSU

Kadis Simmons – LSU – Alexandria

5/27/17 South Panthers Fall 36-29 to Mexico

Saade Bou-Mikael (NOLA) and David Coleman (Birmingham) were part of USA Rugby South’s side that traveled to Puebla, Mexico, in the 36-29 losing effort vs. Mexico in the Rugby America’s North Championship.

5/14/17 South Panthers Defeat Cayman Islands

David Coleman and Zach Blalock (Birmingham) and Saade Bou-Mikael (NOLA) were part of the USA Rugby South Panthers 39-5 victory over Cayman Islands in the Rugby America’s North Championship.

5/9/17 NOLA to Have Pro Rugby Team

New Orleans joined Glendale, Kansas City, Dallas, Houston, Austin, Seattle, Minneapolis, and Salt Lake City as cities planning to host a professional rugby team in 2018. New Orleans entered talks to partner with the professional French club Clermont-Auvergne in the professional team venture.

4/29/17 Jesuit Captures 10th State Title

Jesuit defeated the Bayou Hurricanes to win its 10th Louisiana high school championship. The NOLA Barbarians took 3rd plac with their win over Brother Martin Crusaders.

 

04/23/17 Chattanooga Edges Birmingham for Div. 2 True South Championship

Birmingham defeated Knoxville 28-25 in the semi-final. In the final Chatanooga squeezed past Birmngham 26-25.

(5/6/17 Chatanooga loses to Miami Tridents 74-14 in South D-2 Championship. Miami would lose to Charlotte Rugby 34-33. Charlotte would lose to the Detroit Tradesmen who would lose to Life who would defeat St Louis Bombers in the Final.

Montgomery defeated Mobile to claim the Div. 3 True South Championship. Montgomery would lose 36-24 to Southern Pines who would cruise past Gainesville 44-5, and defeat Saratoga before losing to Bremer County Bucks in semi-finals. Bremer County lost to St. Louis Royals in the Final 29-19.

04/23/17 Tulane Women in Spring Div. 2 National Championship

Tulane traveled to Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, and defeated Grand Canyon University 22-20 in the semi-final in their attempt to retain their 2016 national championship. The final was a rematch of the South Independent Conference championship. Kennesaw State ended up edging Tulane 21-15 for the title of spring champion.

(5/6/17 fall champion Davenport crushes Kennesaw State 71-5)

04/02/17 Deep South College Conference Champs

LSU fell to Baylor 25-22 in the Red River championship match.

LSU-Alexandria captured NSCRO Mid-Atlantic South Region championship with a 26-15 victory over Loyola.

(LSU-Alexandria ends up 4th in NSCRO losing to Xavier University 32-19. Claremont claimed the title with 65-0 win over Tufts.)

02/10/17 Tulane to Host NSCRO Qualifying Tournie

On April 8th Tulane will host a National Small College Rugby Organization qualifying tournament. This is NSCRO’s fifth year holding its championship tournament alongside the ‘larger’ school CRC 7s tournament which receives national television coverage. The championship tournaments will be June 3-4, 2017, near Philadelphia.

12/20/16 NSCRO Top 50 Fall 2016

From what was once Deep South region the following university rugby sides playing among the 185 colleges in the National Small College Rugby Organization made the top 50 for fall season 2016.

#26 LSU-Alexandria

#34 Tulane University

#35 Loyola University

#40 University of North Alabama

12/05/16 Alabama’s Depperschmidt SCRC Player of the Year

Ross Depperschmidt has been named 2016 SCRC Player of the Year. This award is voted on by coaches and delegates of conference teams. Ross is a senior and captain of Alabama. He played center. Max Dodds of Ole Miss (flyhalf) was a finalist.

12/03/16 Birmingham Represented in USA Rugby South Panther Squad

Birmingham players Brendan Smith, David Coleman, and Zach Blalock were selected to be part of the USA Rugby South Panther squad that played the Capitol Rugby Union in Richmond, Virginia, on December 3rd.

11/24/16 Alabama Wins SCRC Championship

Alabama defeated Tennessee 12-8 to capture the Southeastern College Rugby Conference (SCRC) 2016 Championship. The match was played at Life University in Marietta, Georgia.

The following was the Uiversity of Alabama’s team:

Alabama
1. Tyler Pollock / TJ Patterson
2. Pat Feimer
3. Shawn Dawley
4. Bobby Collins
5. Jackson Moss / Ian McDonald
6. Heath Ross
7. Connor Ray
8. Christian Abbatiello
9. James Puente
10. Jgnacio Guisasola
11. Andres Kallas / Brett Walsh
12. Ross Depperschmidt (c)
13. Taylor Carpenter
14. Caleb Strum
15. Tyler Hsin

10/27/16 USA Rugby South Panthers Squad to Face Life University

The following players from the Deep South Region were part of the USA Rugby South squad picked to play 2 matches against Life University on Nov. 6th.

Adam Hicks Birmingham
Brendan Smith Birmingham
Cameron Falcon New Orleans
David Coleman Birmingham
Robert Smith Birmingham
Saade Bou-Mikael New Orleans
Zach Blalock Birmingham