Fall 2011 Issue | By Kim Khan
HONOR-HEART-TEAM HELP ISU RUGGERS CLIMB NATIONAL RANKS
Marlo Carducci came to Idaho State University from Las Vegas to play football, but he was soon drawn to another ISU sport - one that is recognized internationally.
Since reviving the club rugby program in 1996, Coach Ram Eddings has helped the team gain recognition, incentives for out-of-state players and support from the University and local community. Today they have their sights set on a national championship.
"I strongly believe that the experience of playing some of the best teams in the nation is key to improving each year and will lead to ISU winning a national championship," Eddings said.
The rugby team has more than 19 international players and is one of only a few in the nation that offer out-of-state tuition waivers to promising athletes.
The incentives have allowed ISU to recruit top-level players.
"The team is excited to have six new players from California this coming season, four of whom are from a high school that has won the National High School Championship three times," Eddings said.
Idaho State University rugby was first organized in 1981, but dwindled and ended mainly because the co-organizers graduated and no one was left to continue the program.
In 1996, Eddings came to ISU to coach the team. He played competitive rugby in Portland, Ore. and Savannah, Ga. for 19 years and was ready to help ISU rugby reach its goal of winning a national championship. Eddings had previously coached both men's and women's rugby at Denver University and coached the USA Grey Wolves-a national all-star team. Recently, he has served as a member of the United States Rugby Union Board of Directors as the Collegiate Representative for more than 700 collegiate teams.
In 1999, the team set its best record at 8-4-1. They outscored their opponents 462 to 183 points. The ISU program then went from Division 1 to Division 2-giving the team a better chance at making the playoffs.
In 2003, the team took second place in a tournament in Oregon. They also made the national Division 2 playoffs for the first time in ISU rugby history. The team went on to place third in the region, going 1 and 1 in the playoffs. They barely missed the mark to play in the USA Rugby Football Union Elite 8, but they had earned respect in the world of collegiate rugby.
"We really give it all we have, and we realized we can do it," said team captain Jordan Peterson. "It's not a one-person game, so we play like a team."
In 2004, the team made it to the playoffs, but due to a tragedy within the program, fell short of moving forward with the loss of a player. The team motto, "Honor-HEART-Team" is in remembrance of Michael Simms, who died of head injuries while playing in Oregon.
"We have heart. It's our goal to win a championship and we have the team to do it," said sophomore player Marlo Carducci.
Along with building a competitive force on the field, ISU rugby players have made a difference in the community. In 2010, 15 players helped the homeless by offering their labor and time by collecting donations for the Aid for Friends fourth annual Homeless Encampment in Pocatello's Caldwell Park. For the last four years, the team has held Rugger Fest. This free clinic and tournament invites high schools to come to ISU to learn and play the game. The team plans to build it into a top high school event. ISU rugby has also developed an outreach program designed to take the collegiate sport to smaller communities of Southeast Idaho.
"The success of the team comes from the support of the community," said team captain Jordan Peterson. "A lot of people didn't know about us, but the more word got out, the more support we received."