Cambridge, Mass. – Harvard University announced today on their athletics website that the school will make their women's rugby program varsity beginning in the fall of 2013.
Harvard, which competes under the name Radcliffe, the name of the college when Radcliffe, as a women's college, coordinated with Harvard, then a men's only college. The Radcliffe rugby team is the same as the Harvard Women's rugby team.
Women's rugby will take the number of varsity sports at Harvard to 42, with 21 for each gender.
Harvard will be the first Ivy League institution to sponsor a varsity rugby program and continues to lead the field with its long tradition of supporting athletics for women. There is no indication as yet whether this will help jump-start a move to varsity for other Ivy League women's rugby programs, but the prospect is there, especially since Brown and Dartmouth have accomplished teams, and other Ivy schools have strong traditions.
"As a former student athlete and competitive swimmer, I strongly support the important role that athletics plays in the lives of thousands of Harvard College students," said Michael D. Smith, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. "I'm proud of what the women's rugby club has already achieved in recent years and look forward to following their success as a varsity sport."
"We are delighted to add women's rugby as our 21st varsity sport for women." said Bob Scalise, the Nichols Family Director of Athletics. "We are proud to be the largest intercollegiate athletic program in the country and to have the greatest number of intercollegiate athletic opportunities for women of any college or university nationwide.
"We have been impressed by our team's enthusiastic engagement in their sport as well as the explosive growth of rugby as a sport for women. We hope that our decision will be a catalyst for other schools to follow our lead and consider adding rugby as an intercollegiate sport for women. The program's impressive role as part of our club sport offerings and the longstanding level of commitment by these students has underlined the importance of athletics as an integral part of the educational process and experience."
The women's rugby club, which began in 1982, has won two national championships (1998 in DI and 2011 in DII).
"The women's rugby team has demonstrated the commitment and sustainability of interest that is consistent with a varsity level program." said Scalise. "We are committed to our mission of providing educational opportunities through athletics where competitive and recreational programs serve an integral part of the educational experience."