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Editorial: The very model of modern scholar-athletes

On Monday, Brown Athletics announced that the women’s rugby team will finally receive varsity status. This designation is well-deserved and represents the culmination of a decade-long drive for recognition. Even before the change to varsity status, the women’s rugby team has been a model for how an athletics program can excel on and off the field. We believe it is both appropriate and overdue that such a successful team with accomplished individual players be recognized as a varsity organization, and we are heartened and excited to see it join the University’s 37 existing varsity athletics programs.

Given Brown’s expansive athletics program, it is only appropriate that women’s rugby, which has built up a very successful reputation, should join the ranks of the varsity teams. President Christina Paxson acknowledged the women’s rugby team’s success yesterday when she announced that “women have been playing rugby at Brown for more than 35 years and are strong competitors at the national level,” as the Providence Journal reported. She congratulated the players and the alums for their achievements and for their “persistent and successful effort.”

Since its inception in 1977, the team has become a top performer at the Division I club level. The program has won six Ivy League championships in the past nine years, has earned a place in the national championship tournament for the past nine and has also reached the semifinal national championship game in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2012. During this time period, the program has generated 19 All-Americans, eight national team players and two World Cup players.

The University has struggled to maintain its large and expensive athletics program, as manifested by the Corporation’s proposal to cut four teams — the men’s and women’s fencing teams, the wrestling team and the women’s ski team — back in spring 2011. In the midst of arguments over budget cuts for athletics, the women’s rugby team has been unsuccessfully seeking varsity recognition for over a decade. Members of the team stepped up their efforts to gain varsity recognition in 2011, creating a Facebook campaign page and handing out fliers to members of the Corporation to garner support.

The recognition of women’s rugby as a varsity team is a celebration of the progress of women’s athletics at the collegiate level. Women’s rugby players have demonstrated excellence in all areas before gaining the resources of a varsity team, and we look forward to seeing the progress of the team going forward.


Editorials are written by The Herald’s editorial page board: its editors, Matt Brundage ’15 and Rachel Occhiogrosso ’14, and its members, Hannah Loewentheil ’14 and Thomas Nath ’16. Send comments to


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