Franck Boivert wrote:
On Saturday March 10 2001, Stanford Rugby held a meeting with the members
of the Stanford Rugby Foundation, the Stanford Athletics Director Ted Leland ,
the club President, Captain and leaders of the Stanford Rugby Club and myself.
We discussed among other topics, the issue of the forfeit against Cal this
coming April 7. There was no unanimous opinion by all participants. However
the Stanford Rugby Foundation Board, the Athletic Director and the Coach
agreed that the decision belonged to the players and to the team only, and
that whatever the decision was they would support it.
The team had another meeting the next day and again decided that it was
best to forfeit the game. They asked me to be their spokesman to Cal Rugby,
the Northern California Rugby College league and the Stanford Rugby Alumni.
All of us at Stanford are deeply disappointed not to be able to carry the
traditional game of Rugby between the two schools.
The team honestly thinks that it will be detrimental to the tradition to
challenge Cal this year, as we would be unable to field a starting 15 that can
play with the Cal team. Every year (even the years we played Cal in the final
of Nationals, and the year we beat them) we carry only 16 to 20 capable first
team players. This year was worse with only 11to 12. Unfortunately we suffered
injuries that ruled out for the rest of the season 5 first team players. We do
not have the replacements for these players. The team has struggled physically
all year, as all the sides we played are much stronger physically. Therefore
the majority of players played hurt the whole season, and now they are burned
out and do not have the heart to play a team vastly superior to them in size,
weight and speed.
Taking the field against Cal this year would make a mockery out of the
so-called "Big Game". The Stanford Rugby players have too much
respect for the tradition and their predecessors from Stanford and Cal to
ridicule this tradition. When there is a rivalry both rivals are on a similar
level of competitiveness. When a feather weight is to fight a heavy weight,
there is no rivalry, it is a farce, just like if a VW Bug was to race against
a "Formula 1" car. Stanford playing Cal in rugby has reached this
farcical stage, and Stanford Rugby wants to be no part of a farce.
Cal has offered to "dilute" their team in order to make the game
competitive. This proposal has provoked much controversy and several sources
very close to the Cal team pointed out that it would make no difference as the
Cal second team may be the second best team in the Nation. Cal has also
offered to look at this game as a learning experience. The Stanford players
see no learning in being physically overrun and outmatched by a huge team, and
views it more as a miserable afternoon.
Cal and others have pointed out that the fear of losing should not be an
excuse for a forfeit. Stanford has no fear of losing versus Cal as they have
done so every year but one for the last 20 years. They are, however, very
afraid to get injured and indeed fear for their safety. The Stanford Rugby
players are all recreational athletes and the injury toll they had to pay this
season is just too much.
Stanford also requests the league to allow them to play second division
next year, even if Davis loses to Chico (Davis would go down) as our roster is
nowhere as impressive as UC Davis' current roster of 3 teams with very capable
So what about the future of the rivalry between Stanford and Cal? I am
afraid the two programs are going in two different directions. Cal has
professionalised their organization to a point of excellence similar to other
varsity sports college programs. Stanford is still a Rugby club for students.
The impressive presentation from Ted Leland last Saturday reinforces that
perspective. Stanford provides outstanding services to its rugby players, but
it will never be in the foreseeable future a varsity program that can engage
in recruiting athletes for rugby.
The only argument that concerns the Stanford Rugby players is the
commitment that is expected from them if they are part of the first division
league. As members of the first division they are to play Cal like all other
teams. The answer is that in fact Cal is not in the same league. There is no
parity between the programs, and not between Stanford and Cal. Who would
imagine a college sport like football where one team has varsity status and
basically recruits the best players and other teams in their league would be
just club sports who recruits through flyers on their own campus? Every body
would laugh at that, and would not take it seriously. Well this is exactly the
situation in College Rugby. In Ice Hockey, Lacrosse, college championship is
divided in club sports championship and varsity championship out of fairness;
it will have to be the same in Rugby.
The question of the future of the Cal- Stanford game still remains. Maybe
some year Stanford will have a team physically strong enough to challenge Cal,
or may be one-day Rugby will be again a sport for the students.
Stanford Rugby Coach
Reply from: Jack Clark [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Friday, March 16, 2001 5:11 PM
To: Franck Boivert
Cc: rugby@lists.Stanford.EDU; <MAILTO:RUGBY@LISTS.STANFORD.EDU;
Subject: Stanford letter of forfeit
On behalf of the University of California rugby program we acknowledge
receipt of your March 14, 2001 forfeit of the Cal v. Stanford fixture slated
for April 7, 2001 at Stanford. As I have shared previously, my personal
disappointment is immense. To cancel a match that has been played through the
Great Depression and World Wars is a consequential decision. This unease must
also be felt in the Stanford student body, alumni and athletic administration.
We were hopeful that respect for this tradition would prevail in your Rugby
Foundation meeting of the 10th of March, but are understanding of their
position. How can you demand that a team contest a match, if the team doesn't
want to? I'm sure it is a position that these proud individuals could never
We are similarly non-judgmental towards your players who were asked to vote
on honoring this fixture. I can only imagine the confusion of those team
members who desired to play. As custodians of this tradition, our approaches
differ. I would have regarded the players' uncertainties in honoring this
match as a significant coaching opportunity. But again, as stated in my
earlier correspondence, I believe that coaching is a medium for life's
lessons, not merely an exercise in winning and losing.
We do however take great umbrage at the content of your letter of forfeit.
To suggest that your forfeiture of this match is in any manner helpful to the
tradition, safety related, prudent or respectful is disingenuous. I found this
to be a pathetic 'spin job'. I am in awe of your ability to continually lower
the setting of the bar for Stanford rugby, without being challenged. To
repeatedly insist that there are insurmountable structural advantages between
our programs is a ridiculous overstatement. You have made an unpleasant habit
of falsely detailing Cal's rugby advantages over Stanford. Naturally, we are
proud that our players receive a varsity letter as the symbol of the 'Big C'
is prestigious, but it is only symbolic. The similarities between our programs
that you refuse to witness are far more essential. Neither program offers
rugby scholarships or rugby specific financial aid of any type. Both
institutions have lofty admissions requirements. We both likewise enjoy long
successful histories, loyal generous alumni support, meaningful on campus
support, good facilities and a paid coaching position.
Does Stanford have a smaller student body? Yes. Is Stanford's tuition more
expensive? Yes. But, let's be clear, we are building a rugby program at Cal
with student athletes who are academically and in many cases financially
eligible for Stanford. With Stanford's wealth of rugby resources your
continual 'poor mouthing' has grown old. A quick glance at this season's
comparative results would suggest Cal as the favorite in a competitive 2001
match. We make no apologies for our recent success in this fixture; it is
inherent in our University's culture to 'front up' to Stanford wherever a
contest exists. We acknowledge all too often Stanford as the deserving victor,
but never fail to compete.
Lastly, I found your closing comment concerning rugby one day being
"again a sport for the students" insulting to the very ethos of
sport. How dare you not compete and belittle the accomplishments of those who
Jack E. Clark
Head Rugby Coach
University of California