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UNC Chapel Hill Names Rasmus New Men's Head Rugby Coach

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UNC Chapel Hill Names Rasmus New Men's Head Rugby Coach

Joe Rasmus has found success coaching at Illinois, Chicago Northshore, and LIU. He now returns to his alma mater.

CHAPEL HILL, NC– The University of North Carolina Tar Heels men's rugby team has made an early offseason coaching move, appointing Joey Rasmus as Head Coach of the rising club program.

Rasmus kicks off a new era of professional coaching at his alma mater, bringing with him a reputation as a program builder. 

Rasmus sprung onto the college rugby scene in 2019 with the University of Illinois men, an outfit that had struggled to find its footing since joining D1A in 2012. In Rasmus’ first season, the Illini achieved their first-ever D1A Top 25 ranking and got a little love from GRR on being the biggest surprise of the 2019 season.

The Illinois 1st XV had been top dwellers on the Big Ten table and the 2nd XV have been perennial Big Ten title contenders. Coming out of COVID, Rasmus innovated a campus-union model whereby new-to-rugby participants could play intramural rugby; learning the game and developing a passion for the sport until they were ready for promotion into the inter-collegiate teams.

This helped Illinois expand into one of the largest collegiate programs in the USA.

Rasmus’ experience and success extend beyond the collegiate club space. After leading Chicago-North Shore out of COVID and to its best-ever finish in the Women’s Premier League, Rasmus plied his trade within the NCAA DI athletic department at Long Island University. During his tenure, the Sharks achieved their most successful period in program history. LIU earned its first-ever NCAA DI win and its first-ever postseason bid.

“I could not be more optimistic for the future in Chapel Hill,” said Rasmus. “Claude Huges and his assistants, Sam White and Luke Texeira, have done a phenomenal job facilitating a professional team culture. I cannot overstate how happy I am that we are retaining them in coaching capacities next year. I have been blown away by student leaders like James McLoughlin, Tye Mendenhall, Jaran White, their peers, and their predecessors, who have built the club back so strong out of COVID.”

The men of North Carolina and their supporters are taking several steps to complement the appointment of Rasmus. Starting next Fall, the club will offer an opt-in five-day-a-week high-performance training environment; approaching the resources and holistic programming enjoyed by varsity student-athletes. The club will continue to run its two-day-a-week performance environment; maintaining a space for new-to-rugby UNC students to fall in love with the game.

“We're all really excited to work alongside Joey and advance the state of the club," said Club President James McLoughlin. "His background and expertise are paramount to both our short-term and long-term goals for the club, namely, increasing our engagement with our surrounding community and becoming an elite rugby team. We hope to see not only more students join the team, but also a growth in support from our peers, alumni, families, and Tar Heel fans. There's definitely a lot of potential for us all to grow as people and players, so it's truly great to be in a position where we can finally make this come to fruition.”

Supporters of men’s rugby at UNC – alumni, parents and family, and fans – are working alongside the club on the #EarnOurBlues strategic planning initiative. They endeavor to create organizational infrastructure and resource development plans that sustainably support the club’s expanded and enhanced programming.

“Rugby was such a defining part of my time at UNC; the strategic planning process offers a great way for alumni to continue their relationship with the club, to help support current players, and to provide a place to celebrate and reinforce the lifelong friendships made on and off the pitch,” said Ryan Michaels, Class of 2018 alumnus and committee member. “Events such as alumni weekends and watch parties where current and past players interact help to showcase UNC Rugby’s rich history since its founding in 1966. I and other alumni look forward to this new chapter working alongside the current players, coaches, parents, and fans to help the club be the very best it can be and exemplify Tar Heel greatness.”

Amanda Davis, committee member and parent of a current player, added: “It is an exciting time to be a part of Carolina Men’s Rugby. As a parent, it has been a great experience to see our son challenged to grow on and off the pitch. The commitment to excellence and drive for success, provided through the coaches and officers, has contributed greatly to the success of the team. It’s an honor to be a beneficiary of the vision of Coach Rasmus and Coach Hughes. We are looking forward to a great future in this program.”

In the meantime, Rasmus hopes his appointment will drive enthusiasm among prospective student-athletes. 

“High school ruggers looking for high-performance development opportunities at an affordable, academically-elite institution are starved for options. With the planned enhancement to our programs, I hope we will create an excellent option for young men with these priorities.”

Interested prospective student-athletes may connect with Coach Rasmus on  NextPhaseRugby or by completing the club’s prospective student-athlete questionnaire.