Bayer named head coach of WJU rugby program

D1A Rugby: Bayer named head coach of WJU rugby program
Photo Credit: WJU Athletics

WHEELING, W. Va. – Tal Bayer has been named head coach of the Wheeling Jesuit University (WJU) rugby program, becoming the first full-time head coach of the varsity program.

Bayer will take over leadership of the rapidly growing and successful rugby program, which is drawing student-athletes from across the country and around the world. He succeeds Eric Jerpe, who led the team’s restart three years ago, served as its initial coach, and provided strong leadership on the field for the new program. Jerpe left the program earlier in the summer for other pursuits.

“Tal is an educator. His ability as a coach and his understanding of Jesuit education make him a natural fit to continue the growth of the WJU men’s rugby program,” said WJU President, Rev. James Fleming, S.J.

WJU Interim Athletic Director James Regan said, “Tal was instrumental in growing the program as an assistant coach. It is great to pass the torch on to someone who knows Wheeling Jesuit and the rugby program. We are excited to welcome him as our first full-time head rugby coach and know our team is in good hands.”

Bayer, who arrived at WJU from Washington, D.C. more than a year ago, brings to the post a wealth of rugby coaching experience, educational leadership and operational management.

“I look forward to having the opportunity to be a part of something that goes beyond athletics. My background in character education and positive coaching aligns well with the Jesuit values of building men and women for others. I want to build a program of excellence that is recognized as much for our efforts off the field as on the field,” Bayer said.

He added, “I am excited for the opportunity to continue to build on the positive momentum Coach Jerpe established during the first three years. We have a great foundational group of upperclassmen, who help lead our efforts and a first-rate group of recruits challenging and pushing from underneath.”

The WJU men’s rugby program restarted three years ago with a roster of 29 student-athletes. The team’s roster has expanded this fall to 65 student-athletes from 15 states and four countries.

“While varsity rugby is still ‘new’ on campus, our program was founded in the spring of 1966. We have a rich and proud tradition of rugby at this university – a fact that can not be forgotten. I hope to honor that legacy and build a sense of connection between our current players and alumni,” said Bayer.

Before joining the coaching staff at WJU in January 2014, he served as athletic director and head rugby coach at the Hyde Leadership Public Charter School outside of Washington, D.C. from 1999 to 2013. Bayer founded the Hyde rugby program and built it into an internationally recognized team with a worldwide network of supporters. His squads captured the 2011 Metro Area Varsity Rugby Conference title and finished in second place six other seasons.

Bayer also was a team manager/assistant coach for USA Rugby’s U-19 U.S. National team from 2002-04. During that time, he helped with assessment, tracking and team communication, as well as team logistics on international tours and national camps.

He earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration from Radford University in 1993 and a master’s in educational leadership from Wheeling Jesuit in January 2015. In addition to his coaching duties, Bayer also serves as an admissions counselor at the university.

Joining Bayer as assistant coaches are Luke Titus and Wheeling native Alex Brautigan. Titus is a member of the WJU class of 2015 and joined the program in 2012 as a player.

Bayer will make his WJU head coaching debut at 1 p.m., this Saturday, Aug. 29, when the Cards play at the University of Cincinnati. The full schedule can be viewed at http://athletics.wju.edu/schedule.aspx?path=rugby.