Athletics to add women’s rugby as varsity sport in fall

Ethan Cardona, Contributing Writer

In a Feb. 25 press release on NewHavenChargers.com, the Department of Athletics & Recreation announced that women’s rugby will be added as the 18th varsity sport sponsored by the university. This is the third new team added by the department since 2017, with women’s field hockey added that year and e-sports, which was announced in early 2020, and began competing last fall.

The addition of the sport makes New Haven just the 26th school to field a varsity program and the eighth in Division II. The sport is currently classified as an NCAA emerging sport, as 40 varsity programs are needed throughout the country for it to officially be recognized as an official NCAA sport.
According to the release, “an emerging sport is a women’s sport recognized by the NCAA that is intended to help schools provide more athletics opportunities for women and more sport sponsorship options for an institution, while also helping that sport achieve NCAA championship status.”

With women’s rugby, the department now sponsors 10 varsity programs for women, which is an important step as the university continues to survey its options to move to Division 1. The addition of another women’s sport allows New Haven to remain in compliance with Title IX guidelines, allowing more female athletes to participate in varsity athletics.

Director of Athletics and Recreation Sheahon Zenger said, “Providing new opportunities for students in the classroom and on the field of play remains a priority for the University of New Haven. Rugby is a welcome addition to our menu of women’s athletics opportunities and continues to show the support the University has for athletics. With the success of our club rugby team in recent years, we look forward to fielding a competitive team right from the start.”

The National Intercollegiate Rugby Association (NIRA) will serve as the governing body for women’s rugby until it becomes an official sport in the eyes of the NCAA. The 26 teams that will officially compete in the 2021-22 season include three other schools from Connecticut and makes the Charger program the second in the Northeast-10 (NE10) conference to sponsor a varsity team.

The team will begin practices under varsity status in the fall of this year and will compete as a spring sport beginning in 2022. The search for a coach is already underway.