As we approach the end of 2011, we look back and reflect on the ups and downs of the program, as we anticipate the challenges that come with the coming new year. Alot of changes were brought about this year including the new College Premiere Division, the addition of a new coach to our coaching staff and the largest intake of freshman recruits since the programs inception. Alot of goals were met, whilst others proved to only set itself apart as a challenge to be tasked for the coming season – namely our bid for a National Championship title in both the Sevens and Fifteens codes.
The behind the scenes work of various role players in our program’s internal affairs has been the backbone of the teams stability. Now being housed under the International Programs, the rugby program at Arkansas State University has been blessed with the tremendous support of the school and a loving community in the small town of Jonesboro, AR. The year 2011 set a proper foundation for better things to come like the inclusion of a new Assistant Coach in Dr. Alexander Houser, and the approval for a new rugby complex to be built on our current rugby pitch. Coach Houser hit the ground running with his new role: setting policies for players on and off the field as student athletes. His aid with the sevens team was also evident in their 3rd place finish in this years National College Sevens Championship. The approval of a new rugby complex (more details later) came as a huge surprise to the coaching staff and players as it had been long talked about for the past few years. Coach Huckaby has been all smiles about the idea and its exciting to know that breaking ground on the construction of th new facility may start as soon as next year.
The road to the National Championship in this years College Premiere Division was capped off with a third place finish after an epic semifinal loss to Bringham Young University in Colorado. Our undefeated run in the Southern matrix was a strong component of the teams success especially with the defeat of new kids on the block – Life University. Being seeded as number 1 from the South saw our pack go up against a much determined St. Mary’s team from Moraga, CA. The game which ended with a 30-17 victory to the Red Wolves was the stepping stone to a rematch against the Cougars. Although, the scoreboard read 36-15 when the final whistle blew , rugby publications described the match against BYU as a nail-biting to say the least. Our Fall Developmental side brought even more excitement to camp as the team was boosted by the largest freshman intake to date. With players being recruited from Texas, Illinois, the Carolinas, South Africa and the Pacific, ASU Rugby’s coaching staff will not have the problem of a lack in depth.
This year marked the beginning of what we hope to be an ongoing competition – The National College Sevens Championship. Being piloted by a special USA Rugby committee, the success of the competition was due to the committment of all the teams that vyed for the Top 24 spots in the National Championship. Arkansas State were drawn up in a South Independent Conference with arch rivals Life University and failed to receive an automatic bid after succumbing to the Running Eagles in the Qualifiers. However, the at-large bid that pooled the RedWolves in the National Championship was their ticket to a nationally ranked third place finish. Arkansas State went through pool play defeating Airforce, University of Arkansas and Central Washington University to play California Polytechnic State University in the Quarterfinals. Then it was a rematch of the qualifiers as ASU took on Life University for a berth in the Final. However, the game went down to the wire until Life ran away with a last minute try to send our boys our home.
This year we are proud to be recognised by our All Americans and Honorable mentions of both codes namely- Roland Evans, Nardus Wessels, Roan Farr, Danie Swanepoel, Paul Steyn Benade, Shaun Potgieter, Zac Mizell, and Pat Sullivan. Lest I forget, our lone and first ever Academic All American – Paul Fouche Raath. Congratulations on your achievements and thank you for your unaccountable contribution to the growth of ASU Rugby.
All in all the year 2011, has been a great success. On behalf of the Coaching Staff and players, I would like to extend the utmost gratitude to our university, our alumni, our parents, teachers, and the Red Wolves Rugby family that continues to grow everyday. We wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and look forward to your continued support for the coming season.