USF rugby searching for return trip to Elite Eight

This year, the USF rugby team has a renewed spirit. After last year’s disappointing 27-12 loss to Sam Houston State in the National Collegiate Division II tournament, the Bulls feel as if they can make it to the top this year in Division II.

“We are trying to repeat as Florida Cup champions, and then we are looking forward to getting back to the Elite Eight, but this year winning it all,” said rugby club president Billy Scheirer.

Getting to the Elite Eight is a long process that involves winning the entire Florida division, which the team did last year by compiling a 6-0 record.

Then it must qualify for the South finals, which USF accomplished in 2001 by beating Georgia Southern, before losing to Arkansas State in the finals.

After making it to the Elite Eight, the Bulls lost their first game to Sam Houston State but ended up finishing sixth in the nation.

Although the team made it to the Elite Eight tournament last year in Jonesboro, Ark., it still only remains a club sport.

According to David Armstrong, who is business manager for Student Government, the budget for a club sport is $3,622, which includes equipment purchases, recruiting, travel, ref fees, etc.

During the summer, the rugby team worked at Devil Rays’ games to try and supplement their income enough to afford other things a team must have. Luckily, the St. Petersburg Pelicans, another club rugby team, made an $800 donation to the team, and the Bulls were able to go to the Elite Eight tournament last year.

“We really appreciated what the Pelicans did for us because we tried to do other fundraisers, but we usually weren’t successful,” Scheirer said.

Nevertheless, USF looks ahead to the future because of 20 great new prospects.

“We have a lot of young, new talent this year, and, during the fall especially, we are looking to get the new guys some experience,” Scheirer said.

The club set up a sign in front of Cooper Hall in order to recruit players, but mostly they are contacted through word of mouth.

Before Scheirer came to USF, he had never played rugby, but now he is president of the club and in his third year with the team.

Jon Clark returns from last year’s team with hopes of an even better season than last.

“We lost a couple of key forwards (to graduation), so we have to improve on our forward play,” Clark said.

However, he still believes that having a nationally ranked team out of Florida is a realistic goal.

So far this year, the Bulls have had a few problems, starting out 1-3 with losses to teams from Naples and Brevard County and the University of Florida. Their win came against the St. Petersburg Pelicans.

The Bulls play again Oct. 12 when they look for another victory against Eckerd College.