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Colton Cariaga Announced as New Head Coach of Harvard Men's Rugby

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Colton Cariaga Announced as New Head Coach of Harvard Men's Rugby

Cariaga consults his notes at the 2018 D1A final. David Barpal photo.

Longtime Life University Head Coach Colton Cariaga has announced his resignation from his position in order to take the new Harvard Rugby Football Club head coaching post.

Cariaga as the first full-time head coach of Harvard Men's Rugby in the club's 150-year history. He led Life University to two D1A 15s national championships and two D1 7s championships (those in the last two seasons). He served as assistant coach on two other national championship campaigns.

As a player, Cariaga was a three-year captain and led the Life University team to two national championships. He earned collegiate All-American status twice.  In addition, after graduating from Life with a degree in Business Administration (magna cum laude), he played for Trinity College (Dublin, Ireland) in 2013-14 under highly regarded international coach Tony Smeeth and was an assistant coach at Blackrock College secondary school. 

At the USA Rugby national level, Colton has served as the USA U23 7s head coach and as an assistant coach of the USA U20 15s team.

"It has truly been a privilege to watch and learn from Colton over the course of his time as a head coach." said Life University Director of Athletics, Jayme Pendergast. "He is a very skilled coach, a responsible CEO, and a servant leader. Most importantly, Colton is a great human being – someone you want in your department and someone you want mentoring your student-athletes.  He has elevated our department in so many ways beyond just his rugby contributions.  We wish Colton the very best and continued success."

"Words will not describe the deep gratitude I have for Life University and the many people I've had the pleasure of working with throughout the years," said Cariaga in a statement. "I first arrived as a student-athlete fresh out of high school, but over time was challenged enough and given the support I needed to grow into a leader and coach. I cherish the tight knit community of student-athletes, staff, faculty, administration, and alumni and appreciate the collective dedication to the grand vision of performing at the highest level in every discipline on offer.

"I am excited for the current team in regards to the opportunity they have to carry on the legacy of Life Rugby and evolve the program to new heights. I anticipate this team, comprised of a strong core of seasoned veterans, dynamic leaders, and a talented group of underclassmen and incoming freshmen, will leave their mark on the chapters ahead of them." 

RMA Podcast: Colton Cariaga on Coach Talk

Harvard alumni launched a campaign this year to further fund the program and pay for a full-time coach and a coaching staff. Keith Cooper, Class of 1983 and leader of the Harvard Rugby alumni organization for decades, said this is all part of a series of long-term plans.

“Our first goal was to build a stadium and with the help of Roberto Mignone and many generous alumni, we accomplished that in 2016," said Cooper. "Our next goal was to hire a full-time head coach. The quality of the candidates who applied from around the world far exceeded our expectations. Colton is among the best of the best. His strength of character and proven coaching skills stood out to both our current student leadership and the broad alumni group that participated in the hiring process.  We look forward to a long and successful relationship with him as he builds on the 150-year-old Harvard Rugby Football Club legacy as its first full-time head coach.”

“It’s an honor to take on this role and I’m eager to begin my time with the Harvard Rugby Football Club," added Cariaga. "When the vision to grow the club and compete was presented to me by alumni and team leadership, I was confident it would be a great fit for myself and the club. This vision, underpinned by an ethos of developing leaders and building community, is supported through strong alumni involvement, access to first class athletic facilities, and is evident through recent achievement of growth initiatives. I’m excited to help create an environment in full pursuit of excellence on the field and off.”

“We are excited to welcome Colton to the HRFC! Colton is one of the most talented and accomplished figures in American college rugby," added graduating senior and two-time Harvard Rugby captain Ryan Santos. "The program is beyond lucky to have his championship experience and world-class knowledge in Cambridge. We look forward to seeing Colton drive the HRFC to new heights! As Colton becomes the HRFC’s first full-time head coach this summer, we express our sincerest gratitude to Coach Mike Diamantopoulos and Coach Anthony Adam who have led the program from strength to strength over the last decade.”

Harvard Rugby Football Club’s history since the advent of US collegiate national championship tournaments in 1980 includes multiple Ivy League championships and four trips to the National Final Four (’81, ’84, ’93, ’03), reaching the Championship game three times (’81, ’84 and ’03) and winning in 1984.