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Talent…everyone is competing for it. Companies are always looking for access to quality individuals. Similarly colleges are competing for students. For Penn Mutual and many small colleges across the country, rugby is a way to attract talented individuals.
Many small colleges across the country are investing in men’s and women’s rugby as a means of attracting students. These small colleges cannot necessarily compete with traditional division one athletic departments with bigger pockets to attract student athletes so some are taking an innovative approach.
Eight years ago, American International College (AIC), made an investment to make men’s rugby a Varsity club sport and women’s rugby a full-fledged varsity sport. The small college in New England poured in money and other resources with the goal of boosting school enrollment.
“We recognized an opportunity to increase our student athlete enrollment and tuition revenue through elevating our men’s and women’s rugby program to varsity status. Like many small private institutions, the athletic department serves as an extension of our admissions office. In order to move from club to varsity, we had to submit a substantial increase in operating dollars. However, the return on our investment has justified our decision,” said AIC Athletic Director Matt Johnson.
This forward thinking approach has led AIC to the top tier of collegiate rugby. The investment in rugby has resulted in a bevy of talented high school rugby players attending the college, boosting enrollment while building a high performance program. The women’s team has become a perennial power in division one rugby and the men’s team made waves by winning the Heart of America qualifier, , and earning a trip to the Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship in 2017.
For a small college, the opportunity to play on national television and in front of thousands of fans, is great brand exposure for the university to spectators and potential future student athletes.
“In our opinion, the Penn Mutual CRC is the premier collegiate rugby championship. It provides us an opportunity to not only compete against some of the best collegiate rugby programs, but also some of the elite institutions,” Johnson added. “Competing on the NBC Networks in a championship with thousands of spectators, including high school players from across the country, should significantly enhance our brand recognition throughout the rugby world.”
Rugby is even making an impact at some of the smallest institutions across the country. Christendom College, which competes in the Nationals Small College Rugby Organization (NSCRO) powered by Penn Mutual, boasts an enrollment of roughly 450 students. Despite having a small student body, the Virginia school made men’s rugby a varsity sport in 2009.
After adopting rugby as a club sport in 2006, the college transitioned the program to Varsity due to the growth they had seen over the three years. The rugby team has shown steady growth over the last eight years, bringing in a number of student athletes because of the commitment to rugby.
“The investment into rugby made sense at Christendom. With a small student body, rugby had excitement and growing momentum. Now students who want to attend a Catholic, Liberal Arts college and play rugby at a high level, choose Christendom over other colleges,” said Christendom Athletic Director Patrick Quest.
The hard work and investment in rugby has paid off for the NSCRO school. The Crusaders qualified for the NSCRO 7s national championship in 2017 and traveled to Philadelphia where it was held in conjunction with the Penn Mutual CRC. Christendom ultimately took home the title with a dramatic overtime win in Talen Energy Stadium.
The success of the program has led to increased brand exposure for the tiny college. Quest indicated that most people have never heard of Christendom and often mispronounce the name of the school.
“Rugby has surely helped with brand awareness for Christendom. Even prior to playing in the Penn Mutual event, Christendom’s rugby team competed in tournaments in New York City, Washington D.C., Richmond, and other east coast cities, and those tournaments attracted larger and more well-known colleges. Most had not heard of Christendom College, but they knew about us and about our team after the tournaments.”
Playing in front of a large crowd at the Penn Mutual CRC, however, was the best return on investment the program has seen. With thousands of people in the crowd, Christendom College is making inroads in the rugby community.
“For Christendom and our rugby team to attend a national tournament and events like the Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship, means a lot! A small school, that most have never heard of to not only qualify, but compete with much larger colleges on the national stage speaks volumes,” Quest concluded.
Both AIC and Christendom have used rugby to attract talent to their respective schools. As one of the most forward thinking and progressive life insurance companies in the United States, Penn Mutual is taking a similar approach with rugby. Penn Mutual is looking for the next generation of financial advisers and with the work ethic, character and values of the rugby community, we think rugby players will excel with Penn Mutual.