Undefeated Blue Ox rugby to play in D-III tournament

Coming off an undefeated (3-0) fall season in the North Central League, the Blue Ox rugby club hopes to continue its success this weekend at the Division III tournament at the Eagan Community Center in Eagan, Minn.

The team faces St. Olaf in the final four matchup at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 17. If the Blue Ox win, the team advances to the championship, in which it takes on Bemidji State or Viterbo University.

Win or lose, the team will play Sunday in either the championship game at 1 p.m., or for third place at 9:30 a.m.

These matches will conclude the team’s league play. Three fall matches are set up by the Minnesota Rugby Union with the best teams making it to the final tournament. The Blue Ox will play a few more “friendly” matches after this weekend before looking ahead to the spring season.

Rounding out the fall season

The scrappy team has made quite the name for themselves. The Blue Ox is now gaining the recognition the team’s been longing for.

“When we talk about it, we look at it like, two years ago we were in the same spot, but we were just looking to win one game,” co-captain Sam Glynn said. “Two years later we are looking to win the championship already for D-III and it’s crazy.”

As word spread about the team in the offseason, new recruits have brought together a more complete team of athletes and new freshmen. With the addition of consistent players, the Blue Ox no longer has to rely on core members to carry the weight of the team.

“I think we’re playing as a team,” co-captain Sam Prenevost said. “There were a lot of really good individual athletes last season and it’s really brought the team together to play well. The vibes are just a lot better and everyone’s being utilized, not just a few key assets.”

Glynn said that as the team becomes more established, players are becoming more serious about playing.

“Before people would just show up on game days or we’d have 14 guys at a game or not even have enough to play,” he said. “It’s still very laid-back, but we work hard and that’s something we want to show to the freshmen.”

The team’s three fall wins were against St. John’s, St. Cloud State and Southwest Minnesota State.

New sponsors, new coach, new outlook

This fall the team secured their first sponsor, Brit’s Pub. The Minneapolis bar gave the team $600 to help cover expenses, such as the $80 player’s fee. The team was also able to use some of that money to get field time at Merriam Park for practices three hours per week. The addition of field space has helped the team because the Blue Ox normally scrambled around campus to practice anywhere possible.

“We’re at a point where we actually have our own field and we don’t have to worry about getting kicked off of St. Thomas’ fields anymore,” Glynn said. “We’re doing our own thing and we don’t have to worry about Public Safety.”

The team also secured sponsors with Schell’s Brewing Company. Schell’s will donate $700 to the team before the spring season, and Tiffany’s Sports Lounge this fall hosted a benefit at which the team made $700.

“It was a ton of fun,” Prenevost said. “There was a ton of people there.”

With the additional sponsorship money, the team’s first goal is to buy new jerseys, which will cost up to $2,000.

This fall, the Blue Ox has Dennis Hogenson as a head coach. The former Blue Ox and experienced rugby player has been a huge asset to the team’s success. The team also gets help from the Macalester rugby coach, who offered to volunteer his time to give the team overall advice.

Becoming a sustainable club

For the Blue Ox, not being a St. Thomas affiliated club has advantages and disadvantages. The team is making money from sponsors that the school may not be able to match, even if the bars are sources that may be frowned upon. On the other hand, the team would like to have the rights to a home field at St. Thomas, because most of its games are too far for fans to travel.

“We still don’t have a home field, because that hurts us immensely on campus,” Glynn said. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve talked to people that will say, ‘Oh, that sounds really cool when is your next home game?’ And I have to say, ‘If you want to drive an hour to Gustavus to watch us play you can.’”

The team also has a conflict of interest with some of its consistent members who are from other schools. Becoming an official St. Thomas club would mean these players would be ineligible to play.

In the end, the team’s captains agree that the key to establishing a sustainable club is eventually becoming affiliated with St. Thomas.

“We could be on campus, we could advertise, and we could have games at the stadium,” Prenevost said. “I would love to do that before I left, because it would make the club last.”

Being a St. Thomas club would also mean a chance to play in the national tournament.

“If we win the D-III championship this weekend we can’t go to nationals because we aren’t sponsored by the school,” Glynn said. “We just have to have the school name attached to us, but we can’t do that. That’s one huge opportunity that we miss out on.”

Matt Linden can be reached at mdlinden@stthomas.edu

19 Replies to “Undefeated Blue Ox rugby to play in D-III tournament”

  1. St. Thomas leadership is a complete joke. College is a time to expand one’s experience and become a well rounded person. By not letting the Blue Ox on campus, what do they accomplish? St. Thomas officials have said that it’s because of the drinking stigma that comes with along with rugby, yet every other MIAC school has an official program and they have not had any abnormal issues.. St. Thomas is nearly the only school without an official program, regardless of D1, D2 or D3 status.

    So instead of helping young men stay active, learn a new sport, meet new people, and completely enrich their college experience, UST has decided to pad their pockets while denying nearly 100 students(throughout program history) the simple joys of a wonderful game. UST’s incompetence, arrogance, and ignorance has bitten them in the rear time again time again, and continues to do so with this joke of a prohibition.

    I am completely ashamed of being a Tommy for this single reason, and they will NEVER see a single penny from me until the closed-minded, egotistical, pompous and completely naive personnel and the policies they oppress upon students are removed.


  2. I find it interesting that even though this club team is not affiliated with St. Thomas, they are getting more news coverage than club teams that are actually affiliated with the university. I understand they are undefeated (I give my congrats to the team!) but I believe that if you are going to cover the accomplishments of one club sport, then you have to be fair (within reason) and cover the other club sport’s accomplishments as well.

  3. Meg what you need to understand is that this isn’t just about an accomplishment, this is also about establishing a point that the Blue Ox are overcoming huge obstacles to become a great organization. An organization that the school wants no part of because of a stereotype that comes along with the game of rugby (my drinking team has a rugby problem). What they don’t look at is the collective unit of motivated go-getters responsible enough to keep a team formation, and excel in it. A unit of future businessmen, engineers, a DEA officer, and at one time a seminarian. This is not just a club, this is an extremely talented unaffiliated club tackling obstacles and that makes for a great story.

    The Blue Ox continue to surprise and excite the rugby community. Other clubs are already established and backed by the school. Unfortunately the Ox continue to play the role of the unwanted step child doing all they can to be part of the family.

  4. Robbe, I completely understand your point. It was never my intention to completely disregard all the accomplishments this team as done. I just get frustrated because I see stories on a selective few club teams, not all. My comment was geared more towards the reporters at Tommie Media and not the Blue Ox Rugby Club itself.
    I agree with both you and Johnny, the university should reconsider its stance on The Blue Ox. I have a couple friends at other universities that play rugby and can see, through their involvement, how it has enriched their college experience. They are constantly meeting new people at matches and formed bonds with fellow classmates that would not have happened if they did not join their school’s team in the first place. UST should allow its students that same chance with an affiliated rugby team. Also, The Blue Ox should be allowed the chance to go to a national tournament, after all the hard work its members have put into their practices and matches, just like every other club team.
    And I myself completely understand stereotypes when it comes to certain sports. I play ultimate frisbee here at UST (both our teams are highly recognized within the Central Northwest Region) and couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve been regarding as a “hippy pot smoker”. In actuality, ultimate is a worldwide sport and the USA team won gold over Japan in the 2009 World Games.
    To sum up, I hope that this article helps the rugby club put their achievements out there for the university to see, which would hopefully cause them re-think the team’s status and allow them to become an affiliated club sport once again. I also hope that Tommie Media will represent more club sports in the news as the year continues, as they are an important part of some UST student’s lives.

  5. Seriously Meg? Are your itsy bitsy feeling hurt because no one cares about FRISBEE? Give me a break and try to ween yourself off those diapers. This is a site oriented toward news, frisbee is not news. If there were enough people who cared about frisbee to warrant the special warm-fuzzy attention you so adamantly insist it deserves, it would be getting it. Unfortunately for you and your other ‘athletes’, you’ll have to settle for the continuing financial support of the University for your “sport”.


  6. I would like to remind the St. Thomas administration and community of a story from our own athletic history, in hopes that they will consider it carefully before doing any more to strain their relationship with the Blue Ox. In 1901, a St. John’s freshman football player named Ignatius skipped a required chapel service to go to a party with some friends. Promptly, Ignatius and his friends were expelled.
    Afraid to face his parents after his expulsion, he opted to travel from Collegeville to St. Paul, and plead his case before St. Thomas. The administration accepted his admission of past wrongdoings, and admitted him as a student. Ignatius went on to become the captain of the Tommie football team in 1905, and completed his Bachelor’s degree.
    Fast forward a few decades, and the man once overlooked and expelled by St. John’s went on to become a prominent, wealthy businessman as the founder of the Globe Oil Company. Feeling fairly generous, and still grateful for the second chance he received at St. Thomas, he made a few donations towards his alma mater. What difference does this make today? Well, Ignatius’ full name was Ignatius Aloysius O’Shaughnessy, whose name may just happen to ring a bell, as it seems to be fairly prominent on this campus. Ultimately, St. Thomas would not be the place it is today without the contribution of someone who had once been shunned, but given a second chance here at St. Thomas. The Blue Ox Rugby Club deserves this same hospitality, indeed, perhaps even to a larger extent for the indiscretions they are suffering for were not their own doing. And maybe…just maybe…the name of one of today’s players will be inscribed on a bronze plaque outside of a new St. Thomas building. The University should be so lucky.

  7. Something to consider in this matter is that, when St Thomas banned the rugby team from campus forever, rugby had a far different character than it does today. In many ways it could be another form of a fraternity, whose members embraced the culture of drinking, partying, and dangerous behavior. The actions taken by St Thomas to ban rugby from campus were likely merited.

    Now, consider this. Rugby became a professional sport IN 1995! 14 years ago. Since then, the sport has bloomed into the highly professional form it takes today. Rugby is RADICALLY different now than 15-20 years ago. The league in which St Thomas competes is full of teams whose focus is on rugby as a sport, not an activity or a euphemism for mayhem. The sport is inclusive, see for example the Gay World Cup aka Bingham Cup (www.binghamcup.com) being held in Minneapolis this summer.

    The St Thomas guys should be commended for overcoming the obstacles they have surmounted for their love of the game. They have provided an opportunity for guys not attending schools with rugby programs to play (MCTC, Augsburg, etc.) and have done so without the support to which their peers are accustomed. St Thomas should put its pride aside and recognize that circumstances have changed dramatically with the sport in general since the rugby program was banished, and that the men responsible for those actions are now in their 30’s.

    St Thomas has the support of the Minnesota rugby community for being a classy bunch of young men playing a classy sport.

  8. I’d firstly like to draw attention to the difference in quality of the pseudonyms used, Johnny Johnson, and A.J. Hunter. There is definitely an element of creativity, subtlety and fun in choosing a pen name. There is an art in cheekily, slightly masking one’s identity; leaving a likely clue so that your hard work, thoughts, and genius will not be completely anonymous. The alias ‘Johnny Johnson’ is lacking in creativity, subtlety, and fun. Just as his argument is. It is nothing more than a rant. It is offensive and obnoxious. As a current member of the Blue Ox, I would like to distance myself from the comments, especially the response regarding Ultimate. Such abuse is likely to cause a lot more harm to the Blue Ox reputation. We are much better off without it.
    A.J. Hunter’s story of Ignatius is brilliant. It makes the point that St. Thomas stands to gain something from allowing rugby be a part of campus life. The point I would like to make is, had St. Thomas not allowed Ignatius Aloysius O’Shaughnessy enroll, he would probably have done just fine for himself. The Blue Ox Rugby Football Club, I’m sure, will do just fine for itself without St. Thomas endorsement too. The club will take on St. Olaf in the Division three semi-final tomorrow as favorites. Matt Linden’s article also mentions sponsorship, a full-time, voluntary coach, and a record of 3-0. If the club can overcome St. Olaf tomorrow morning, they are in with a chance of lifting the Division Three Championship this Sunday. The problem is what would happen after that. The Blue Ox would be denied entry into the National competition because they are not sanctioned by a school. The Blue Ox would have to settle for doing fine over being great. This proud, student-run organization would be forced to end their season unbeaten, but with a heart-breaking off-the-field loss.

  9. What steps have the club taken to get approved recently? Who have the leaders of the club talked to to figure out how this problem can get fixed?

  10. Go Blue Ox Rugby. Win your first D-III National Rugby Championship! Congratulations to Sam Glynn on all you have done to develop your lethal foot, and your organizational skills. As always, we suggest that you keep them inside 22 meters, be creative, and share the love. Your alumni at Holy Family, and your Tigers Rugby Football Club brethren will be waiting for you to get back to Facebook on Sunday to post the results.

  11. Just an update for everyone following the Blue Ox RFC beat St.Olaf today 29-11 and play in the DIII Championship game against Viterbo at 1pm tomorrow at Eagan Community Center

  12. Another update: The Blue Ox defeated Viterbo from LaCrosse WI 3-0 to become the MN DIII Champs!!!

    Oh what a match it was!!

  13. I’m proud of the Blue Ox RFC after today’s well earned victory against Viterbo. Congratulations to my fellow teammates, and congratulations to the organization as a whole. It was the finest game we’ve played this season, and I’m honored to have been apart of the Blue Ox RFC’s first D-III championship.

    The score was 3-0, and we earned everything that we got. Congratulations once again, and on behalf of the club, I’d like to thank everyone for their support.

  14. Just a note – I believe that St. Thomas can go forward to the D-3 MW championship in the spring and then hopefully onto the D-3 National Championship. This is an “Unofficial” Nationals – not recognized by USA rugby but it does happen every year on the east coast where there are more small schools playing. Well done UST on the win yesterday. We would love to see you up in D-2 (not able to now needed the sanction of the University).

    Tammy Cowan
    Head Coach of St. John’s University – Minnesota D-2 Champions

  15. I am a St. John’s graduate whose son is a freshman on the Blue Ox rugby team. I am all to familiar with the reputation of rugby at the collegiate level. In fact, my brother attended St. Thomas at the time that the notorious incident occurred. I can tell you that the reputation is a relic of the past. I attended Saturday’s game between the Blue Ox and St. Olaf. What I observed was a group of young men who played exceptionally hard and displayed the utmost in good sportsmanship. St. Thomas should be proud of the affiliation. The notion that these young men should pay for the sins of a prior generation is foolish. I strongly encourage the administration to reassociate themselves with the rugby team. The team will do St. Thomas proud.

  16. I also witnessed the victorious Blue Ox this weekend! Great game, gentlemen! You made us all proud. Since graduating from UST, I’ve joined the Eastside Banshees (Division II Men’s Rugby Club) and was helping host the college tournament. The pride and passion you exhibited were a testament to both your players and your team as a whole. Keep up the great work! I hope to see some of you at our practices down the road, but even more than that, I hope to see you at nationals someday soon!

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