Triton rugby program joins new league | News, Sports, Jobs

Photo by Paul DeCoursey: Iowa Central’s Xavier Ellis takes to the field against Iowa State last season.

After competing for several seasons as an independent, the Iowa Central rugby team has a new home.

The Tritons have been announced as one of six teams in the recent National Collegiate Rugby (NCR) Division I Big Rivers Rugby conference.

Adrian College, Aquinas College, Marian University, Thomas More University and Wheeling University will join Iowa Central in the fall at BRCC.

“From the athletic director’s chair that I’m sitting in, having the chance to win a conference or a regional championship…that’s the carrot there that allows athletes to lift hard, run hard, work hard during the ‘off-season and to be best in class’, said Kevin Twait, athletic director at Iowa Central. “It lends itself to playing for something down the road. It’s hard to be independent at any level, so finding a conference with great competition like this is exceptional for our rugby programme.

“We already have one of the most decorated rugby programs in the country, and I think this will only improve our programme.”

For Iowa Central head coach Brent Nelson, it’s the culmination of years of hard work and progress.

“It’s definitely an emotional moment for me,” Nelson said. “For the leaders of the NCR and these other schools to accept us and the value of Iowa Central and Iowa Central rugby and what it does nationally, to get that respect and acceptance collectives really mean a lot to me personally. ”

The Big Rivers name was inspired by the schools’ proximity to some of the nation’s largest rivers, including the Missouri, Mississippi, and Ohio rivers. As relatively new programs, all schools in the BRCC receive financial support and support from their administrations. The new conference will help address some of the divisional disparities that may exist in college rugby conferences.

Iowa Central played Wheeling in the first Rhino Bowl last December. Adrian and Thomas More met in the 2021 Division II National Finals.

“For me, it’s all about the competitiveness of these teams,” said Hamish McCallion, an assistant for the Tritons. “They have the same number of support and scholarship opportunities, so it provides a great competitive environment for us as a conference.”

Joe Lippert, another Iowa Central aide, added that the conference provides a “Consistent and more consistent regular season and postseason path.”

“Having that competitive parity in the conference week after week instead of zigzagging is great,” Lippert said.

Justin Whitton will be the league commissioner. Whitton is a past president of the USA Rugby Congress and served as head coach at Saint Louis University for 13 seasons. He also previously served as Commissioner of the Gateway Rugby Conference.

“We are now seeing an explosion of ‘college-style’ rugby programs across the country as schools of all sizes recognize the value rugby can bring to their campus communities,” said Whitton. “These programs — and the coaches and administrators leading the way — will be the reason our national level of play continues to improve.

“It’s great to be with an organization like NCR that has one goal of improving and growing the college game in America.”

Nelson said the Iowa Central will always have the ability to schedule non-conference opponents in the future, with increased flexibility in the schedule.

“We’ll play five conference games and be able to fill our schedule with some local teams while still being able to ‘break through’ in terms of competition,” said Nelson. “We can also play midweek matches and B-side matches.”

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Ryan H. Bowman