I suspect many of you never saw the story that the New Mexico Tech rugby team finished second in the national finals for small colleges in December.
They finished one place higher than the New Mexico State University rugby team I coached in 1981 to finish third in the final four of collegiate rugby.
Truth be told, we would have finished fourth, except that the University of Michigan cheated and illegally played graduate school players in the tournament and were disqualified. Still, the fact that we made it to the final four was pretty impressive. I wish I could say that it was because of my coaching that NMSU got as far as it did, but I inherited a bunch of great (but often goofy) young athletes who pretty much did it on their own.
But more about NMSU rugby later.
The NM Tech team lost to Christendom College of Virginia 34-29 in what was said to have been a very close game.
Back in the dark ages when I was playing and coaching rugby, the New Mexico Tech team was also a strange group of guys — engineering nerds is virtual isolation from the world at NM Tech in Socorro. Among them was their leader, Phil Pourier, who we nicknamed “The French Tickler” and who reportedly lived in a cave during his time at Tech. They always hosted a tournament every St. Patrick’s Day, which marked the unofficial beginning of the spring rugby season.
The team, apparently now known as the Miners, were known as the Pygmies at that time. However their colors are still black and blue, very fitting for the sport.
I was very glad to see that the team still existed and has been flourishing. I’m not even sure what the status of the NMSU team is these days, given that the campus was virtually shut down for so much of the last year. I’ll have to make a trip out to the pitch (which appears to have been temporarily converted into a soccer practice area) this spring to see if the Chiles are rucking and mauling their way down the field at the corner of Williams and Wells on campus. I’ll post an update if I find out more.