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Rugby Scholarship Endowed at South Carolina

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Rugby Scholarship Endowed at South Carolina

Sean Rayford photo.

Columbia, SC - University of South Carolina Student Life announced today a significant gift from the Smolka Family to the men’s rugby program. The gift fully endows a men’s rugby scholarship fund in the name of former player and current Carolina Rugby Foundation board member Jeffrey Smolka, contributing to men’s rugby program and recruitment enhancement.

"The Smolka Family is a special part of Carolina Rugby," South Carolina men’s rugby Head Coach Mark Morris said. "Their gift will give our program the opportunity to continue to compete at the highest level."

The Smolkas live in Columbia and are long-time supporters of Carolina Rugby. Jeff is a 1988 and 1990 graduate of the University. Their gift marks the first fully endowed scholarship fund for men’s rugby, offering recipients with a minimum $500 annual cash award and a 45% reduction in their non-resident tuition rate. Based on 2015 tuition prices, that is a savings of more than $54,000 over the student’s four year stay.

"A gift this generous could not be given in a better name than Jeff Smolka," Morris said. "Jeff is the embodiment of Carolina Rugby and has made it his life goal to advance the sport in so many ways. From his playing/coaching days, to creating the South Carolina High School League, to his involvement at the regional and national levels, to his 15 years of dedication to the Carolina-Clemson Blood Drive, so many lives have been affected by his generosity, and we are proud to call him one of our own. This endowment is just one more way that Jeff will have a lasting legacy with Carolina Rugby.”

With the newly established endowment fund, Morris currently has eight scholarships available for next season to be used between current and incoming players. With commitments to be announced this month, Morris looks to reward those who have contributed greatly to the program’s success over the past few years, as well as attract top talent from established programs across the nation. The Gamecock’s back-to-back Southeastern Rugby championships and their renewed commitment to the seven-a-side game, to include their participation in last year’s Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship, have helped to raise USC’s recruiting profile outside of the Palmetto State.

“Some of the doors that were closed shut to some recruits, some prospects, have been reopened in a positive way. I think for South Carolina, we’ve put ourselves in a position where we’re becoming a popular choice for accomplished rugby players,” Morris said. “When you’re able to win championships and compete at the national level, they want to be a part of that. The ability to offer scholarships that provide a substantial financial impact will boost our recruiting nationally and allow us to attract some of the best talent across the country."

With the honor of a scholarship fund in his name, Jeff Smolka will play a vital role in choosing who the scholarships are awarded to, though, according to him, his work will not end there.

"I am grateful to my family and the University to be recognized in this way," Smolka said. "This is certainly an honor that will last a lifetime, though when someone leaves a legacy like an endowed scholarship in your name, your responsibilities do not end there. Going forward, it will be my goal to see this fund grow substantially over the next few years and to honor others in a similar fashion. Carolina Rugby has a rich legacy of success that has been made possible by individuals across the generations. It is my wish to gain the support of our parents, alumni, foundation supporters, and community to raise funds and create new scholarships in honor of their contributions while continuing to elevate the current program and provide them with the resources necessary to achieve new heights.”

Recipients of this year’s scholarships are expected to be announced this month. “Any player who receives this award will certainly have big shoes to fill when it comes to their actions both on and off the field,” adds Morris. “The future of Carolina Rugby is bright and we’re grateful to have the support of the Smolka Family to get us there."

Click here to learn more about the Jeffrey S. Smolka Rugby Scholarship.

Click here to make a donation to the Jeffrey S. Smolka Rugby Endowed Scholarship Fund or to the Carolina Men’s Rugby Endowment Fund.

Click here to learn more about Jeffrey Smolka and his contributions to the sport and to Carolina Rugby.