Football hire might mean more rugby players

Washington State University’s club rugby team hopes to build their program using help from the new head football coach. 

The head rugby coach at WSU, Danny Auerbach, said he hopes to meet with Nick Rolovich, the head football coach at WSU. Auerbach wants to persuade Rolovich to let the WSU football players play rugby during the football offseason. 

Earlier, WSU rugby coaches had set up a meeting to discuss football and rugby with Mike Leach, the former head football coach at WSU. However, Leach left for Mississippi State before the meeting could take place, Auerbach said.

Leach played rugby when he was an undergraduate at Brigham Young University, according to an ESPN article titled, “Free Pass.”

Auerbach, a former University of Washington rugby player, said their rugby team utilized athletes from the school’s football team. Husky rugby went on to win the D1-AA Varsity Cup in 2014 using one of the star linebackers from the football team. 

Even if Rolovich does not allow his football players to play rugby, then hopefully they can recruit the walk-ons that do not make the team, Auerbach said.

Similarly, every year WSU football hosts an open tryout for any student to showcase their skills and attempt to walk-on the football team. Last March, 19 students showed up in hopes to make the team, and one made the official roster. 

“There are a lot of former high school athletes here on campus that I believe would really enjoy playing rugby,” said Bob Sproull, assistant rugby coach. “Our team has former football, soccer, track, wrestlers, and baseball players.”

Student-athletes that either quit the football team or try to walk-on and do not make the team should definitely play rugby, said Clay Markoff, WSU football player. 

Markoff played rugby at WSU as a freshman in 2016. Then, in the spring of 2017 he walked-on and made the football team. Markoff said Coaches eventually awarded him a full scholarship in August of 2019. 

Honestly I’d do both, I’d do the offseason workouts and then I’d play rugby,” Markoff said. “If it was allowed, then I would do it.”

The hope is to build a relationship with Rolovich, Auerbach said. Football and rugby are different sports but there is a lot of crossover between the two. It would benefit football players because it is a great way to stay hitting even in the offseason.

“It’s the fastest growing sport in America,” Auerbach said. “It’s a great game, and we’re trying to build a great program, and there is always room for guys to come out and give it a try.”

The team went five and two during the 2019 fall semester, however, a lot of the players were brand new to the game, Sproull said. The freshman class is really strong and has a lot of potential. 

The first game of the semester is against Eastern Washington University on Feb. 15. More information about WSU’s rugby program can be found at their website, mrugby.urec.wsu.edu.

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Published by Mitchell Delmage

Multimedia Journalism student

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