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What Colleges Are The Best Title IX Rugby Targets?

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What Colleges Are The Best Title IX Rugby Targets?

Fans pack the stands at the 2021 NIRA final. Mark Washburn photo.

Following the 50th Anniversary of the signing of Title IX, it seems appropriate to look at where we are in women’s collegiate rugby in the context of that landmark legislation.

Designed to ensure proportionate opportunity for female students in activities, Title IX should have been a huge opening for women’s rugby in college. There’s no football, after all, and rugby is a high-participation, low-cost contact sport that ticks a lot of boxes when it comes to showing progress toward Title IX compliance.

But rugby has been its own worst enemy at times and the social aspect of the game, especially in the two decades following Title IX’s signing hindered most drives to legitimize women’s rugby on campuses.

But it’s a different world now. Respected institutions around the nation have embraced rugby as a school-supported sport. It being an Olympic sport doesn’t hurt. It being an NCAA sport is good, too, although rugby has yet to meet the threshold of 40 teams that would mean the NCAA would pay for a postseason.

But we should be there, shouldn’t we? It’s not as if every college has achieved Title IX compliance. In fact, far from it. According to, a survey of over 2,000 colleges and universities found about 90% get a failing grade in Title IX compliance, measured by equality in numbers, scholarship dollars, and recruiting support.

(There’s no such thing as partial equality, says their website, but they do have some wiggle room, and do give some institutions overall passing grades if they are close in some metrics.)

About our source: publishes a data base of over 2,000 colleges and how they measure up to Title IX benchmarks. The data is accrued from the US Government's Office of Postsecondary Education, and then judged under the watchful eye and tireless work of Nancy Hogshead-Makar, a three-time Olympic gold medal-winner in swimming who became a lawyer and advocate for women's athletics. She has served on committees on gender in sports for two presidents and is a founding member of the Florida Coastal School of Law Sports Law Center. She is the founder of Champion Women, a non-profit that provides legal advocacy for girls and women in sports.  See a PBS interview with Nancy Hogshead-Makar here>>

Running the Numbers

Now here’s the opportunity. Many of those schools with failing grades have rugby teams. What we need are activist student-athletes to take up the cause and push for varsity status. Why? Because it only helps your school.

At GRR we took the list of 2,023 colleges and identified out of that list 532 with a good women’s rugby presence OR, in a few instances, a very strong men’s rugby presence. (We did this from memory to save time so we probably missed some).

Of those, 23 received an overall passing grade from, so we’ll put them aside for now. A further 30 already have varsity women’s rugby (and all are getting a failing Title IX grade by the way), and we’ll put them aside. (That varsity number includes two NAIA schools, Aquinas and Life; it does NOT include several colleges that basically operate as varsity but do not, in fact, have full varsity status.)

That leaves us with 479 colleges who could field a women’s rugby team, whose school is failing in Title IX compliance in some way, and thus are ripe for a push from the women’s rugby student-athletes to make their program varsity.

We are especially interested in participation, because the first thing you as a rugby advocate can promise for a school is a boost in their female participation numbers. Of the 479 colleges on our list, 50 don’t have participation information. We’ll worry about them in a second.

We identified 55 schools that get a passing grade in participation numbers, but really only 13 of them have a good buffer. Most are just squeaking by.

So now we get a list of schools that are failing Title IX compliance, and either failing or passing by a small margin in participation—our range is -60 to +60.

See our list of Top College Rugby Title IX Targets Here>>

That gives us a list of 124 colleges that we think are ripe for a campaign to make women’s rugby varsity. 

  • The school is failing in Title IX compliance.

  • They are failing in part due to sports participation numbers or…

  • they are passing in participation numbers by such a small margin they should be worried

and …

  • there is a women’s rugby presence on campus OR a strong men’s rugby program on campus.

Several of these universities have seen their women’s college rugby teams find significant success. But … it is up to the students. You, as the student rugby players, must raise a stink about this. You must petition. You must show your numbers and your diversity. You need to show how varsity rugby will increase your college’s reach in recruiting. And you need to insist they follow Title IX.

Lighting a Fire

Other notable names not in our parameters.

Marian University. Has a men’s varsity program, but is failing the women’s participation metric by over 500 students! Rugby can help.

Howard University. The push is on to get Historically Black Colleges and Universities playing more rugby, especially women’s rugby. Howard University is short in participation by over 400 student-athletes.

Grand Valley State. GVSU’s women’s team is a really good. GVSU’s women’s sports participation numbers are not. It’s a match!

University of Notre Dame. They have the infrastructure there already. All they need is a push. Again, UND is failing on numbers. 

Vassar. Supported through the athletics department but not technically varsity, Vassar could flip that switch fairly easily. Vassar falls short in all of the metrics.

Cornell. Seriously? Cornell? Come on, you can do better.

Belmont Abbey. Men’s varsity program just recently started. Women should be next.

OK, so here we go, here are the 124 colleges with robust women’s club rugby, or with sufficiently robust men’s rugby that we think they can use that as leverage, who are failing in Title IX proportional participation OR are just barely passing.

How to do something.

Protesting, sending sternly-worded notes, or just complaining won’t do it. There’s a process that has succeeded. Among the organizations that can help is NIRA, the National Intercollegiate Rugby Association. NIRA is a competition management organization but also an advocacy organization with experience in this sort of thing.

To contact NIRA about getting your NCAA varsity campaign going, email:

See our list of 124 Top College Rugby Title IX Targets, and 30 more Likely Targets Here>>