History and Tradition Since 1975
The Origin of the Towson University Men's Rugby Club
Spring 1975: Craig Dobkin, a rugby player for Baltimore Rugby Football Club, with Ron Stringer and Matt McGlone, promoted starting a rugby club via word of mouth and an advertisement in the Towerlight.
About 20 guys showed up for the first meeting in Burdick Hall and practice, including Bill Berault, Russ Clark, Bruce Stein, Bob White, Larry Esten, Jeff Opieken, Ken Kitchelt, Tim Chestnutt, Tom Medicus, Tom Dillon, Dan Badolato, John Dillon, Peter Gorman (Peter died in 1978 in an auto accident), and Mike Leonard. The Towson State Rugby Football Club was born.
During their first season, Towson State RFC played as the Baltimore RFC C-Side, and the first game was played in gold and white vertical stripe short-sleeve soccer jerseys. Black rugby jerseys were delivered later in the season. Yellow windbreakers were also ordered, and the printer spelled Rugby as "Rubgy" on the crest. The club had a good laugh and the printer made a patch to cover the misspelling. The club finished their first season 4-7-1.
The club's first tour was in January 1976, and the students who went received 3 credits for going. There were six games: 4 in England and the last 2 in Wales. Though winning their first 2 games in England was a big accomplishment at the time, what was more important was the learning that took place on that tour.
In the Spring of 1976, the club finished 9-0-0.
The club went on to win the Potomac Rugby Union (PRU) Division-2 championship in 1977, and moved up to Division-1. Back in those days, the club was a combination of Towson State students and players who did not attend the school. Even though most of the team was made up of students, in 1978, Towson State beat the best men's club on the East Coast, MOB, for the Division-1 championship.
Peter J. Gorman III: died in 1978 in an auto accident
The club toured again to England, Wales & Scotland in 1979. Towson State RFC had some very competitive collegiate-only sides, so when the Collegiate Championships arrived in the early 1980's, TOM (Towson Old Men) was formed. This made Towson State RFC exclusively a college club. One of Towson State's coaches at that time was Tom McCormack, who was an Eagle (USA Rugby) hooker.
In 1984-85 TOM went through some rough times and merged with Chesapeake RFC, a local men's club (Chesapeake RFC and Baltimore RFC merged in the mid-1990's to become Baltimore-Chesapeake RFC).
During the 1980's & 1990's Towson State University RFC grew as a force to be reckoned with in the College Divisions of the PRU and the Mid-Atlantic Rugby Football Union, and enjoyed the leadership of dedicated coaches such as alumnus Chris Schmidt.
- John Malcolm, 1987
- Ray Green, 1992 (1994 for California)
- Dave Skinner, 1993
- Jon Holtzman, 1993
- Earl Brownell, 1993 & 1994
- Pat McKenna, 2013 & 2013 Fall*
- Kyle Sweeney, 2013
*USA Rugby National Championship tournament switched from Spring to Fall in 2013
In 1995, alumnus Tim O'Donnell started the Towson State Old Boys as an alumni-side for participation in local tournaments, helping bring many older Towson ruggers back under the banner of Towson State.
The late '90's saw the emergence of a new breed of aggressive winning under the guidance of Coach Rusty Cross. On July 1, 1997, the school dropped the designation "state" from its name to become Towson University - thus changing the name of club as well.
The 1990's also saw the emergence of extremely competitive local and national collegiate rugby in the United States - and Towson University graduates were seen in the head coaching positions of top college clubs such as the U.S. Naval Academy (Mike Flanagan), Texas A&M (Alec Klinghoffer) and Loyola College (Chris Schmidt).
In 1998, alumnus Scott Marchakitus and Coach Rusty Cross began the enormous task of organizing the first annual Towson University Rugby Reunion. It took place on April 24, 1999 with games on Burdick Field and a dinner ceremony at the Auburn House on campus. The ceremony featured speeches by past coaches, alumni and University President Hoke Smith. To this day, this reunion remains the largest alumni event in the history of the school.
In 1999 the TU Rugby Alumni Association Committee was formed to organize future annual reunions. On April 29, 2000, rugby alumni from 4 decades celebrated the 25th Anniversary of the Towson University Rugby Football Club at the second annual Rugby Reunion - once again with games, dinner and a ceremony.
In 2000 the Rugby Enhancement Fund was fully established thanks to the donations of about 60 individuals and matching corporate donations. More successful reunions followed in 2001 and 2002, this time with casual post-match socials at the Charles Village Pub in Towson.
In 2003 and 2004 the annual reunions also consisted of Friday night happy hour, Saturday afternoon matches and socials at local pubs. Winter 2004 featured the first international rugby tour for many years with a trip to Ireland. Coach Rusty and a band of 11 students flew into Limerick and started a 2 week trek across Ireland playing rugby games and visiting local sights.
Spring 2005 brought the 30th Anniversary of TU Rugby. This reunion weekend was by far the most event filled yet, with a full day of alumni golf organized by Tony DeCesare at Pine Ridge Golf Course on Friday; and Friday night happy hour at the Rec Room with an hour long slide show presentation of 70's and early 80's rugby photos. The next day was the first rainy reunion match in 7 years, but alumni played through the weather until 3:30 PM when the Peter Gorman III Memorial Bench dedication began.
Bagpipes played, and family and friends gathered on the former location of the old memorial pitch to honor the memory of Peter. Later that evening, the 30th Anniversary Dinner and Presentation was held at the Auburn House. Alumni from all decades spoke about their past experiences, with slide shows and award presentations. Coach Rusty Cross was honored with the TU Rugby Club & Alumni Loyalty Award for a decade of commitment to the club. Many current players and supporters received awards for their contributions. Alumni finished up the weekend reunion later that night, back at the Rec Room in Towson.
Summer 2005 was the 10th year the Towson State Olds Boys Est. 1995 (TSOB) participated in the annual Slug Sevens Tournament in Maryland. TSOB teams consist of local high school students, TU students, TU alumni and friends who play in the day-long event together.
Fall 2005: After 10 years, the mantel of coaching the rugby club was passed to a new generation at Towson. Nate Bell, former player and club president from 2 years prior, and Peter Holland, recent graduate and former club officer, coach the club for two semesters.
Spring 2006: The club officers, with the support of current coaches, voted in head coach Jan Pretorius (Jan pronounced "Yohn") for Fall 2006. Originally from South Africa, Jan has decades of rugby experience and was introduced to the club by alumnus Don Stone, who is Rugby Alumni Advisor for the TU Rugby Alumni Association. Many alumni were introduced to Jan at the Eighth Annual Rugby Reunion on May 12 & 13.
Special thanks to Mike Flanagan and Russ Clark for contributing to this piece.