Naval Academy Elevates Men’s and Women’s Rugby from Club to Varsity Status

ANNAPOLIS, Md.—Naval Academy Director of Athletics Chet Gladchuk announced Monday that the men’s and women’s rugby programs are being elevated from a club sport to varsity status.  With those two additions, Navy will field 35 varsity sports teams next year which is the third most in the country among schools that sponsor FBS football (Ohio State and Stanford sponsor the most with 36).
“Rugby is a warrior sport and belongs in the forefront of varsity athletics at the Naval Academy,” said Gladchuk.  “Rugby has always been successful as a club program and now through our varsity ambitions, a proven track record of on-field success, outstanding leadership by our coaching staff and the generosity of alumni, we are elevating both men and women to the highest level of national competition.  We have outstanding facilities in place, resources to provide margin of excellence funding and a talented contingent of athletes within the Brigade of Midshipmen eager to represent the Academy and our alumni wearing blue and gold.  Today will go down in history as an NAAA ambition finally realized.  The process has spanned many years, but the goal line was always in our sights.  Perseverance, vision and alumni generosity prevailed. It is a proud day to be a Rugger and even better days ahead as we focus on national stature and success for Rugby at Navy.”
“We are thrilled to be elevated to varsity status,” said Gavin Hickie, the Director of Rugby at the Naval Academy and the head men’s coach. “This is the culmination of years of hard work from our alums, supporters, players and NAAA administration. I would like to sincerely thank our Navy Rugby Alumni Association, all our friends of Navy Rugby and our Athletic Director Chet Gladchuk for making this dream a reality.”
The first rugby game played at the Naval Academy was in 1963 when the Naval Academy Rugby Battalion Championship took place.
Navy has had 42 All-Americans named by USA Rugby and was the D1 runner-up in 1994.  Mike Flanagan served as the men’s head coach for 27 years before Hickie was appointed the first full- time Navy rugby coach in 2017.
In 2018, Connor McNerney won the Rudy Scholz Award (the Heisman Trophy of rugby) for the best collegiate rugby player in the United States.
The Mids currently play in the Rugby East Conference and finished second this year. The conference will expand to 11 teams for the 2022-23 season and will be made up of the following schools: Army, Navy, Penn State, Virginia Tech, St. Bonaventure, Kutztown, Mary Washington, Mount St. Mary’s, Notre Dame College, Queens College and Southern Virginia.
The Navy men have posted a 40-13 record over the last five years under the direction of Hickie.
Women’s rugby was established in 1996 at the Naval Academy and head coach Murph McCarthy was hired the first full-time coach in 2019.
The squad was the 15s D1 national runner-up in 2019 and then won the 15s D1 National Championship this past fall.
Current co-captain Sarah Skinner is a two-time finalist for the M.A. Sorensen Award, which is presented annually to the best collegiate women’s rugby player in the United States.  She will be attending Oxford in the fall on a Rhodes Scholarship.
Most Varsity Sports with Schools that Play FBS Football
Ohio State: 36
Stanford: 36
Navy: 35
Penn State: 31
California: 30
Michigan: 29
North Carolina: 28
Army: 28
Duke: 27
Virginia: 27
Air Force: 27