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By Tom Harris
Executive Vice President and Chief Distribution Officer, The Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company
After our fourth year of sponsoring college rugby, we are thrilled with the growth and development of the sport. We have seen the Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship (CRC) continue to raise the profile of collegiate rugby in the United States and become a pathway to the national teams. We have witnessed the National Small College Rugby Organization (NSCRO) add more opportunities for both male and female small college players to develop their skills. And incredibly we watched the United States national team take home gold in the USA Sevens for the first time in history.
Along with the international event, the Las Vegas Invitational continues to raise the profile of college rugby. Twenty four college programs came to Las Vegas this year vying for a spot in the CRC. Having the opportunity to engage these tremendous student athletes reaffirms my belief that these are the type of individuals that we want to become the next generation of financial advisers.
In addition to Las Vegas, the CRC continues to grow. ESPN signed on to be the official broadcast partner for the CRC and for the first time ever, nearly all games inside the stadium were broadcast on the ESPN family of networks, including their new digital platform, ESPN+. In total, there were nearly 20 hours of footage across all platforms. This new exposure allowed more men’s and women’s players to showcase their talent.
The first ever game aired on ESPN featured a women’s quarterfinal between the University of Notre Dame and the NSCRO Selects, an invited group of elite small college players, sponsored by Penn Mutual. One of the reasons we chose rugby was because of the equality between men and women. I am proud that these wonderful and talented women are continuing to get more exposure on the big stage.
The National Small College Rugby Organization (NSCRO), powered by Penn Mutual, has also seen tremendous growth. In addition to the NSCRO Select side making semifinal appearances at both the Las Vegas Invitational and CRC, the organization has seen growth in their membership and provided new avenues of opportunity for men’s and women’s players. In January, NSCRO hosted their inaugural Women’s 7s All-Star Championship, and this June put together the first ever Men’s 15s All-Star Championship. NSCRO continues to be a leader in the growth of college rugby and we are proud to help support that growth.
Throughout our tenure in the sport the characteristics that attracted us to rugby have not waivered. Continually, our interactions with the rugby community display the values of respect, integrity and commitment, values that have and continue to guide us in serving our policyholders. This year, we had a record 21 nominees for the Penn Mutual Life of Significance Award all of which have done remarkable things in their communities. Harvard’s Nick Carey took home the award this year and we will be making a donation to the M.S. Foundation on his behalf.
I’m also proud of the relationships we’re developing across the rugby community. We’ve supported the U.S. Rugby Foundation and their efforts to grow and promote the sport, while leaving a legacy in the rugby community. Our agencies are making connections with local colleges by providing opportunities for financial education, internships and job opportunities as well as connecting at the grass roots level.
We like to say “Penn Mutual loves rugby” and that investment and connection has seen a resounding response from the rugby community. During the most recent Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship (CRC), announcer Colin Hawley stated “rugby has no better partner than Penn Mutual.” Hearing those words brings a smile to my face. As a sponsor we want to do more than just put our name or logo on an event, we want to do what we have done for over 170 years--build relationships, sustain a legacy and help people live life with confidence.