Ave Maria Men's Rugby Elevated to Varsity Status
AVE MARIA, Fla.- Ave Maria University is pleased to announce that its men's rugby team will be elevated to varsity intercollegiate status, effective for the 2023-2024 academic year. Rugby will become the 25th varsity sport on the Ave Maria University campus.
The University has had a successful club team for many years, leading to the decision to elevate the program to varsity status.
"The Athletic Department is thrilled to bring rugby under the umbrella of AMU Athletics," University Vice President and Director of Athletics Joe Patterson said. "We are excited for the future of the program."
Junior Anthony Audino, who serves as one the current club team's captains, underscored the excitement surrounding the University's decision.
"The elevation of men's rugby to a varsity sport at AMU is a long-awaited triumph, not only for the current players or the players yet to come, but also in a very special way for all the players and leaders who came before," Audino said. "We have reached new heights as a team in large part because we stand on the shoulders of those who came before us and left the club better than they found it, and we look forward to making AMU Rugby a powerhouse for generations to come."
The Ave Maria rugby team currently competes in Division II of the Florida Collegiate Conference, a division of Florida Rugby. Ave Maria competes alongside club teams from Eckerd, FGCU, and Miami, while seven other Florida schools compete in Division I. Fellow Sun Conference member St. Thomas added varsity rugby this year.
Tim Dockery, who also serves the University as the Vice President of Advancement, has been named the program's inaugural head coach.
"As a club sport, Ave Maria rugby has established a strong reputation, including winning a collegiate championship, so the program will build from a very strong base," Dockery said. "This move to varsity will ensure additional resources are available for the recruitment of high-quality student-athletes and will allow investment in coaching, training, and travel as the program expands and plays a more competitive collegiate schedule."
Dockery began playing rugby as an undergraduate at Princeton University and continued playing men's club rugby primarily for Chicago's Lincoln Park RFC. Lincoln Park qualified for the USA Rugby Men's Division II National Championship playoffs six times during his 11 years as a player. In 1993, he was a founding player for the Naples RFC, now playing as the Naples Hammerheads.