How the game that inspired football is making a comeback.
Long before the Super Bowls, million-dollar stadiums, and billion-dollar television contracts, Americans played rugby….fifty years before they would play what is now referred to as American football. Rugby started to grow it’s roots in the middle of 19th Century and by the 1870’s was a prominently featured sport at Ivy Leagues schools and at universities on the west coast.
As American rugby’s popularity began to grow, rugby was soon included as a sport in four Olympic Games (1900, 1908, 1920, 1924), and the United States claimed the gold medal in both the 1920 and 1924 Games. Shortly after the 1924 Olympics, however, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) removed rugby as an Olympic sport. Without the Olympic incentive, the sport’s growth in America collapsed and the game remained dormant for the next half century. However, during the 1960′s and ’70′s, the sport enjoyed a renaissance. With this renewed interest, there became a need for a national governing body to represent the USA in the International rugby community. In response to the need for a centralized national structure, four territorial organizations gathered in Chicago, Ill., in 1975 and formed the United States of America Rugby Football Union (now known as USA Rugby) to serve as the game’s national governing body.
More than 30 years later, USA Rugby is an official member of the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) and the International Rugby Board (IRB). The organization has approximately 90,000 members and is responsible for the development of the boys, girls, high school, collegiate and club rugby programs, and ultimately all of the national teams representing the U.S. in international competitions.
It is now widely viewed, along with lacrosse, as one of the fastest growing sports in America and has since been added back to Olympic competition.