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Despite being promised a shed, the IUP rugby teams have had to fight to get what they were promised. 

The IUP rugby teams were denied a storage shed in 2016 after previously securing approval.

Head coach of the men’s rugby team since 2019, Seth Erwin, discussed the shed incident that started in 2014 and still has not been fully resolved due to delays and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Lawrence Bouma, another head coach of the men’s team, met with administration of IUP in 2014 to inquire about placing a shed on the south campus for the men’s and women’s rugby teams.

The agreement was that the shed had to be donated or cost IUP no funds in securing the shed but ultimately was approved.

A few years later, a former rugby player in the late ‘90s, Anthony Chappie, used his connections to have the 84 Lumber company donate a shed.

With a shed secured, Erwin and Chappie were directed to talk to Michael Brown from facilities in order to get the signature and location input on the shed.

They were denied, and through attending an open forum, it was stated by Brown that he was not aware of the previous agreement and that it was impossible to add a shed due to square footage and the space available.

The donation is no longer available due to time passing and Chappie leaving the program.

“Currently, we are still without a shed,” Erwin said. “Though, we have done a crowdfunding campaign and are hopeful for getting a shed this fall.”

COVID-19 regulations have required coaches to not meet on campus, but, before campus closed,, Erwin and the other coaches of the rugby team were working with Todd Garzarelli, director of athletics, to discuss the options and location of a storage shed.

“The part of all this that is frustrating is that we are trying to better the university and bring students, to not only our program, but also [to] the university,” Erwin said. “Since we are a club, we are absolutely treated by some, not all, that since we are not varsity, we are on our own.

“We don’t ask for much, but in anything we ask for, there is lots and lots of fighting that we need to do.”

The men’s rugby team started in 1974 with a Division I classification that has bounced between DII and D I-AA since 2006.

They will be playing in a newly-formed Division II conference in The Allegheny Rugby Union but have played the likes of Penn State, Naval Academy and Virginia Tech in the past.

“Since my time at IUP, we have had a successful program, making playoffs in DII to being moved up to D I-AA,” Erwin said. “I would say, without looking at old records, we are likely 50–10 record-wise.”

Erwin credits Bouma as leading the most successful team in IUP history, citing the 2000 D1 Final Four national playoffs in Florida.

Approximately 30 percent of the yearly budget of the rugby team is supported by the IUP Co-oP fund while most funds come from fundraising or donors like Marty Patti from “Al Patti’s.” Bouma invests in traveling funds.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the men’s rugby team has not been able to play since fall 2019.

Sean Zimmerman, developmental and sevens coach of the men’s team and a former player that decided on coaching due to his aspiration for teaching, discusses the difficulty of not being able to meet due to the current pandemic.

“I am just hoping things can get back to normal and we can get back on the field for the fall 2021 season,” Zimmerman said. “I never really realized how much rugby has become part of my life until COVID-19 hit, and we have not been able to do anything in about a year and a half.”

Erwin followed up with a comment about the effects of COVID-19 on the men’s team.

“Watching varsity teams meet and play, we again feel like we are on the back burner,” Erwin said. “We understand that most club sports and clubs on campus are student-run, but we are a team with a full coaching staff that could perform contract tracing.

“Since we shut down, we had to decline a bid to a national tournament that potentially could have had us nationally televised; [it’s] just heart-breaking for our players.”

If you want to learn more about the men’s rugby team, check out their Crimson Connect page or reach out to their two captains, RJ Beech and Dalton Cain. If you want to support the rugby teams, check out: iup.edu/supportiup rugby.

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