NSCRO President Steve Cohen at the 2015 Women's National Championship. Photo Courtesy of Larry Schnack.
When NSCRO Founder and President Steve Cohen began this journey in 2002 his goal was relatively simple…create an opportunity for colleges to get out of their ‘comfort zone’ and expand their rugby horizons with a competition against teams they would normally not play. After having spent more than 10 years administrating collegiate rugby for the East Penn RU and Mid-Atlantic RFU, and seeing how his creation of a Division 2 national championship event blossomed into a USA Rugby national playoff system for men’s and women’s colleges in 1998 and 1999, respectively, he turned his attention to the men’s and women’s small colleges playing – what was known at the time – as Division 3. He established an East Coast Division 3 playoff system for the Unions that had a Division 3 which at the time were primarily all on the East Coast. Over the coming years, the success of both the men’s and women’s competitions encouraged other Unions from coast-to-coast to offer a Division 3 competition for their small colleges and by late 2007, NSCRO was formed – with USA Rugby’s acceptance - to serve small college needs.
The first official NSCRO men's national championship was held in April 2008 at Hamilton College. 85 teams began competing for the championship title which was won by Plymouth State University who edged Furman University 22-17. In November 2008, the Philadelphia Women’s RFC hosted the first official NSCRO women’s national championship. 41 teams were in the running for the championship title won by Bryant University over Gettysburg College 27-5.
For the 2016-17 NSCRO has more than 240 men’s teams under its belt and now offers 3 different competitions leading to the Small College National Championship in both 15s and 7s.
On the women's side in 2016-17, there are now nearly 110 teams competing for a 15s and 7s National Championship. As part of its commitment to women's collegiate rugby, in 2015 NSCRO retained the services of Bryn Chivers as its Commissioner of Women's Rugby. Bryn, the former USAR U20 Women's National Team Head Coach, brings a passion and understanding to developing collegiate rugby that is hard to find.
The complete history of both the East Coast and NSCRO Championships can be found at http://www.nscro.org/championships.
In August 2012, NSCRO reclassified Division 3 as Small College Rugby to reflect that NSCRO teams are based on student enrollment not by the strength of the team.
In 2015, NSCRO signed a multi-year contract with the Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company that has enabled NSCRO to improve its services to its constituents through the hiring of key personnel, including Bryn Chivers as Commissioner of Women’s Rugby. Penn Mutual has taken to collegiate rugby in an amazing way. Click here to learn more about it.
For the complete history of NSCRO clicking here.
Since its inception, NSCRO's growth has not only been continual, but simply astonishing. Small colleges are inspired by the opportunity to be the Small College National Champ and set their goals accordingly. NSCRO schools are found coast-to-coast. Have a look at our Interaction Map by clicking here.
With nearly 400 colleges "under its belt" NSCRO provides effective leadership and strong support to small colleges trying to start a rugby club, existing ones in need of guidance, and assistance to Conferences and Unions governance. NSCRO provides 5 different national playoff systems which includes nearly 40% of the colleges in the US that play rugby. Nearly 12,000 student-athletes and coaches are part of today’s NSCRO experience!
NSCRO has also transitioned from its basic goal of creating and managing a national playoff system to an organization that also works closely with its small colleges and member Conferences/Unions in helping their formation, establishing league structure and governing policies and procedures. Check out our Mission statement by clicking here.
NSCRO works closely with USA Rugby in our common goals of bettering the collegiate rugby experience.
NSCRO creates its own policies and procedures, such as for team and player eligibility, which are designed to serve the needs of small colleges and their student-athletes. Our eligibility policies are reviewed and accepted by USA Rugby.
To help recognize and inspire student-athletes, NSCRO has created 2 recognition programs. As part of its Leadership Development Program which is found at http://www.nscro.org/serviceandleadership, there is the Student Leader of the Month Program. Details can be found at http://www.nscro.org/student-leader-of-the-month.
Additionally NSCRO recognizes the on-field accomplishments of players with its Penn Mutual NSCRO Playoff of the Month Program. Check it out at http://www.nscro.org/playerofthemonth.
NSCRO’s popularity has soared over recent years. At the 2015 Men's National Championship held at Infinity Park in Rugbytown USA - Glendale, Colorado - the live streaming broadcast reached over 9,000 connections in over 100 countries with tens of thousands of fans watching.
It only goes to show...if you build something and do it right...they will come!
Over the years, NSCRO has received feedback from clubs as to how NSCRO has improved their rugby experience along with their fans and families but importantly how their school’s administration now views rugby. Time and again, we are told that the school’s now see rugby as a legitimate sport that is part of a well-run and highly respected national organization. This has led to improved relations with the school and in many cases increased funding and support. Below are some examples received by NSCRO. Just click on the headline for the full story:
NSCRO receives countless thanks from players, coaches, fans, alumni and parents for providing an opportunity that has enriched the lives of the students and in enjoyed by those watching. Here are just a few testimonials sent to NSCRO:
"NSCRO has done so much for the small college rugby scene.....that it's a VERY BIG PART OF THE OVERALL COLLEGE RUGBY SCENE. Great stuff. Looking forward to seeing how we can continue to work together to expand on the recent successes and grow your comp and the correlating opportunities for student-athletes at those institutions."
- Dan Payne, CEO, USA Rugby
"Thank you for all you have done for college rugby. It’s great that smaller universities and colleges have this opportunity for parity and competition on a local, regional and national level. The enormous amount of personal time, commitment and heart that go into such an endeavor can oftentimes go unrecognized and under-appreciated. What you have done is impactful and it matters. On behalf of Loyola University RFC of Maryland, we would like to thank you for leadership in taking rugby to the next level in America"
- Kenny Ames, Director of Rugby Operation, Loyola University (Maryland) RFC
"In my short experience of being personally involved in NSCRO, I am continuously impressed by the professionalism of administration along with encouraged by the clear vision for the purpose of this organization."
- Angela Smarto, Head Coach, Robert Morris University Women
"Steve - Just a brief note of thanks for all you have done for us here at Eastern Connecticut Rugby. You helped guide us through uncharted territory this year (post season play) with a level of grace, accessibility, understanding and professionalism that I have have never seen in rugby in all my years of coaching...you made the post season meaningful and fun. You took time to speak, on multiple occasions (day and night!!) to me and NEVER rushed me or "brushed me off"....most appreciated. I am a better coach for this experience and you are a great ambassador of the game. Thank you."
- Ray Aramini, Coach, Eastern Connecticut State University
"Thank you for your support this past season, we wouldn’t have been able to pull this off without your direction and guidance. This was a successful season for all clubs involved within NSCRO and UpSCRC, many new opportunities presented themselves, allowing more competition and growth on and off the pitch. Happy Holidays to you and your family, I hope you get a few minutes to relax and reflect on all the great Rugby that NSCRO is offering and exposing to new Ruggers within the Small College community. Thank you again for all your commitment and support!"
- Rich Worden, Upstate Small College Rugby Conference
"Thought you would like to know this, as it brings great pride for me. But we have the local high school graduates (football players and wrestlers) deciding to attend LFCC for 2 years then transfer just to be able to play rugby for the college. Needless to say, this is our areas first real exposure to the sport. I honestly can say it is because of NSCRO on so many levels. If you get need any type if help with NSCRO, please let me. I would live to become more involved. This game means a lot to me, and I can see it spreading like wild fire in my players."
- Aaron Painter, Outreach & Athletics Specialist & Head Rugby Coach
Lord Fairfax Community College, Middletown, VA
"Thanks Steve for all that you have done with NSCRO. The organization has done a great job allowing small schools to compete and build their programs."
- John Welsh, Coach, Washington & Lee University
“Thanks for all the hard work. The foresight, attention to detail, and the execution were all top notch. Everyone I ran into from spectators at the field and on-line to players and administrators had only great compliments for the NSCRO event and NSCRO. Good job.”
– Steven Hiatt, Head Coach, California Maritime Academy RFC
“Congrats on a great season and for all you do. The competition has really energized tiny Eckerd College (800 male students) and even the administrators I've talked to now see the possibilities of rugby being a marquee sport and a branding opportunity. The boys also know how close they came to having a magical season and enjoyed living vicariously through the University of North Florida, knowing they had them beaten twice in Florida RU league play before letting them off the ropes. They know with a bit more dedication, they can go far.”
– Paul Mabry, Executive Director, Rugby Texas (Paul has a son who plays for Eckerd)
“We all agreed that you put on a fine national championship! It was a weekend no one will ever forget.”
– Jill Mross, Parent of University of North Florida player
“I was impressed by how professional the entire weekend was. Everything was great -- the stadium, the commentating, the fans, the teams, and without reservation, the games. All games that I saw were hard-fought and relatively close. It looked/felt/was a championship weekend.”
– Christina Yates, Parent of Cal Maritime Academy player
“I wanted to let you know that this was one of the best college sporting events I have attended. You did a fantastic job and everything was first class. It was really exciting to watch my son compete in such a great venue and I will fondly remember the experience. Even the fact that Franciscan wasn't able to walk away with the championship did not diminish the wonderful experience. You were a great host and I hope the Barons make it to the final four again next year so i can make a return trip. Thanks for your hospitality and we all appreciate the time and effort you've spent to put division 3 college rugby on the map.” – Greg McClelland, Parent of Franciscan University player
“Thank you for all your effort in hosting a superb and first-class championship. The team returned home and was met by local TV stations at the airport. Additionally, the team received a Police escort through the city of Newport, RI upon their return to campus. Our President will also give recognition to the team, particularly the seniors; during this year’s commencement ceremony and today I’m headed to our Board of Trustees meeting with our captains in tow to share the team’s accomplishments.”
– Colin Sullivan, Athletic Director, Salve Regina University
“I cannot thank you enough for organizing the Small College National Championship. Everyone affiliated with Franciscan University; players, parents, fans, Fr. Terry, Chris Ledyard and myself were very impressed with the weekend and how well organized everything was!! We were honored to be a part of this experience and hopefully proved that we did belong in the Final 4. I was really impressed with all 4 teams that made it to Glendale this year, what great programs!”
– Mark Hanrahan, Head Coach, Franciscan University RFC
2012 National Championship - Franciscan University and Univ. of North Florida Post-Match Comaraderie