|BOWLING GREEN STATE UNIVERSITY RUGBY HISTORY|
Established in 1968 by an Air Force Academy dropout and an Ohio State transfer, Bowling Green became the fifth member of the Ohio RFU just as rugby began its fantastic growth spurt that continues to this day. Noted for its ferocious defense, the club prospered in those days of the three-point try. It was with the addition of ex-University of Wisconsin #8 Tom Haigh that the club took its first step up to the big time. Haigh was instrumental in establishing BG’s alumni association, the Poe Ditch Officers, as well as the Mid America Conference Tournament. Now thirty four years old, the tournament is the longest running college conference linked rugby tournament in the United States.
Haigh’s departure in 1973 resulted in a long, slow slide into the depths of mediocrity. By 1980 the club could still boast of never having had a losing season, but just barely. The stage was set for the next step up by the club to the game’s elite few.
The chief actor on that stage arrived in the form of Kiwi Bill Cotton. Having prepped at Miami University and the University of Alberta, Cotton’s appointment to the position of head coach created a shakeup right to the club’s very foundations and made Bowling Green the force in college rugby that it is today.
Restructuring the club’s administration off the field, Cotton also established the very un-New Zealand - like philosophy of a hard running, high scoring backfield. With a playbook that was unrivaled in its complexity until only recently, Cotton made Bowling Green the standard both on and off the field for Midwest College rugby.
It was during Cotton’s tenure that BG started its annual spring tour to the Southern United States. Taking on and beating some of the best the Eastern RFU had to offer, this tour became one of the highlights of the year. Along with a stellar won-lost record, Cotton also brought home four Mid America Conference and one Ohio Collegiate championship. One prize continued to elude the team - the Midwest Collegiate Championship.
It was up to Roger Mazzarella, who took over as head coach in 1985, to guide Bowling Green up to the next level After a near disastrous start and a wild card entry, Bowling Green beat Wisconsin 7 - 6 to win the first of three straight Midwest Collegiate Championships. Not only did the team earn its first berth in the final four of the National Collegiate Championship, but it was also featured in that rarest of all creatures, a Sports Illustrated article on rugby.
In addition to the three Midwest titles during Mazzarella’s twenty two years at the helm, the team has also won twenty six Mid American Conference, seven Ohio collegiate and eight Michigan Collegiate titles. With the club’s tour to England in 1987, the BGSU RFC became the first Bowling Green athletic team to play outside the North America continent. A second tour to England was successfully completed in 1995 as well as a tour to Wales in 2000, South Africa in 2002 and Ireland in 2005. The Falcons have also received seven National Collegiate Championship bids.
Even with an all-time record of 1663 - 358 - 82 on the field, Bowling Green can also boast of many significant off-the-field accomplishments. Club members have served in the offices of President, Vice President, and Secretary of the Ohio, Michigan and Midwest Rugby Football Unions. Roger Mazzarella has also served as coach of the Ohio Collegiate Select Side and has held numerous offices in rugby administration including the USARFU Board of Directors. Alumni play on some of the top clubs in the United States, including Belmont Shore, Scioto Valley, the Denver Barbarians, and Life Chiropractic. Four Falcons have achieved all-American honors - Chuck Tunnacliffe (1986), Tony Konczak (1988), Wes Harmon (1991), and Scott Hogg (2003) - and two played for the Eagles - Tunnacliffe and Vince Staropoli (1999). In addition, Bowling Green players have always made up a significant percentage of the Ohio, Michigan and Midwest Collegiate Select Sides.
With the completion by the University several years ago of the club’s $22,000 home pitch, which now includes seating for 250 and an electronic scoreboard, the future looks bright for the BG RFC. Who of those original members thirty eight years ago, as they threw railroad ties over the Bowling Green sewer to get to the pitch and got ready to play in castoff football practice jerseys, could have foreseen how well their efforts would pay off.