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Naval Academy to Unveil Rugby Complex

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Naval Academy to Unveil Rugby Complex

This fall the US Naval Academy rugby programs will unveil some very nice new digs as the Prusmack Rugby Complex will be completed and open for business.

The facility, funded with private donations, mostly from alumni, will be ready for this fall’s schedule and will include locker rooms for the men’s and women’s teams, a weight room, staff offices, meeting spaces, and equipment rooms.

The complex will also have three full-size rugby fields, with two of them side-by-side with a triangular seating structure between them - so fans can view action on either field with minimal difficulty.

The fields will have lights and scoreboards.

For Navy Rugby, this is a big move. They have grown out of the Hospital Point fields, where most intramural sports are held, and found their own home. Rugby may still be a club sport at Annapolis, but that, said Athletic Director Chet Gladchuck, is immaterial.

“At the Naval Academy most everyone here breaks a sweat every afternoon as part of our commitment to our mission, which is development of leadership morally mentally and physically. All three dimensions of that mission are equitably important. Our goal is to commission officers in the Navy, leaders in the fleet and war fighters who serve our nation with distinction. That’s the reason why we have one of the most broad-based sports programs in the country. While there’s intercollegiate and there’s club sports, we try to provide resources comparable to some of the best in the nation. And whether it’s tennis, swimming, football, baseball, rugby, or ice hockey we’re going to generate the revenues to field successful teams, and provide extraordinary facilities.”

Gladchuck said the Naval Academy has raised and invested about $200 million into athletic facilities, and he said the Prusmack Rugby Complex does perhaps elevate the status of rugby on campus, but it’s a status the program has earned, and a status other club sports have earned.

“There’s a lot of pride in the rugby program - they demonstrate great teamwork and camaraderie; they are always working,” said Gladchuck. “But you could say the same of other sports. There’s a central theme in rugby, rifle, swimming, tennis - pride and passion in the sport, teamwork and commitment, and confidence, toughness and attitude.”

Naval Academy alumnus Jon Prusmack, the backing behind the USA 7s and CRC, was instrumental in raising and providing funds for the complex, but so were others.

As a result of parallel fundraising efforts for the Rugby Excellence Fund, three new rugby pitches will be located adjacent to the Brigade Sports Complex. The Rugby Center is named in honor of Prusmack, class of 1966, and Patrice Prusmack, recognizing their leadership gift.

There will also be the Ernie Blake Field. The two lighted competition pitches will be named in honor of Ernie, class of 1964, and Sharon Blake, in recognition of their leadership gift. The practice pitch will be named Malek Rugby Pitch, in honor of Frederick W. Malek, class of 1988, in recognition of his leadership gift. And the scoreboard will be called the Marc C. Baliotti Scoreboard, in honor of Marc C. Baliotti, class of 1992, and Katherine Baliotti, recognizing their leadership gift.

For Men’s Head Coach Mike Flanagan, the new rugby complex is a big step forward.

“It gives us a home,” said Flanagan. “We have offices for the staff and storage and it’s rugby only - lined for rugby. I think it puts s in the right light and the right place, away from Hospital Point where the intramural games are. Everyone wants a home. Soccer, lacrosse, football - they all have a home. We have one too, now.”

And while the bulk of the fundraising work was done by alumni of the men’s rugby team, the women’s rugby team is included in all of this, and that, said Flanagan, was important.

“It’s us, it’s rugby,” he said.

The women's team also benefits from the complex. Head Coach Joanne Liu said the women's program recognizes that it has mostly been alumni of the men's program that got the funding going.

"We are appreciative of the efforts and generosity of the men's alumni in organizing all of this," said Liu. "To be honest, we are riding on their coattails a bit, but with the growth of rugby especially after the Olympics coupled with the storied history of USNA rugby, it's a perfect time for it to come together. We look forward to the upgrade in facilities assisting us in recruiting varsity-caliber athletes, increasing the profile of USNA rugby and giving us the opportunity to host some tournaments in the future. As a bonus I'm looking forward to the kickoff season and related events helping the women's program reconnect with our own alumni and hopeful for more involvement in the future." 

It’s been the work of the Naval Academy Alumni Association and the USNA rugby alumni association to get this facility going. And the Naval Academy is looking forward to sharing the facility with the general rugby public. It will be available, said Flanagan and Gladchuck, for tournaments and rugby events. The layout, with standings between two teams, is perfectly suited for tournament play, as fans can stay in one central location and easily shift attention from one field to another.

“We are focused on five goals to get us there,” said  Tom Brodmerkel (USNA Class of 1980), the Chairman of the Navy Rugby Alumni Association board and a huge part of the effort to get the complex built. “(1) Creating a committed alumni association with an alumni committee responsible for executing the mission and vision, (2) building a world class rugby facility, (3) attracting and retaining a top tier coaching staff, (4) recruiting elite athletes, and (5) elevating Navy Rugby status internally to that of a varsity sport.  These efforts will lead us to winning men’s and women’s collegiate rugby national championships in 15s and 7s.

“To date, the United States Naval Academy, the Naval Academy Athletic Association, and a few rugby alumni have been tremendous in supporting the program.  However, Navy Rugby cannot get to the next level without further robust support of the alumni.  This strategic plan, if executed properly, will get us there.”