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Club History

Towson Rugby is for all those who want to either continue playing from a previous organization or experience something new. Our club provides an avenue for stress release, high intensity activity and a place to attain exceptional physical fitness. You will be part of the T.U Rugby family and will find a place to call home away from home. As a team, our objective this season is to win in our Division and bring home the trophy. Personally, each and every one of us wants to better themselves in all possible ways to become great team players and members of society. No matter how big or small you are, experienced or have never played, come on out and give Towson Mens Rugby a try!!

The Origin of the Towson University Men's Rugby Club


Spring 1975: Craig Dobkin, a staff member of Towson State University, and a rugby player for the Baltimore Rugby Football Club, along with Ron Stringer and Matt McGlone, promoted starting a rugby club via word of mouth and an advertisement in the Towerlight. About 20 guys show up for the first meeting in Burdick Hall and practice, including Bill Berault, Russ Clark, Bruce Stein, Bob White, Larry Esten, Jeff Opieken, Ken Kitchelt, Tim Chestnutt, Tom Medicus, Tom Dillon, Dan Badolato, John Dillon, Peter Gorman and Mike Leonard. The Towson State Rugby Football Club is born.

During the first season, Towson State RFC plays as the Baltimore RFC C-Side. The first game is played in gold and white vertical stripe short-sleeve soccer jerseys. Black rugby jerseys are delivered later in the season. Yellow windbreakers are also ordered, and the printer spells Rugby as "Rubgy" on the crest. The club has a good laugh and the printer makes a patch to cover the
misspelling. The club finishes their first season 4-7-1.

Fall 1975: A women’s team also forms and the Men’s team includes the women’s side as part of the club as they get their footing.

January 1976: The club’s first tour. Students receive 3 credits for going. There are six games; four in England and two in Wales. Though winning their first 2 games in England is a big accomplishment at the time, what is more important is the learning that takes place on the tour.

Spring 1976: the club finishes 9-0-0.

1977: TSU Men's Rugby wins the Potomac Rugby Union (PRU) Division-2 championship and moves up to Division-1. At This point in time the club is a combination of Towson State students and players who did not attend the school.

Spring 1978: On May 28th, as  part of a campus sports festival, Founder/Coach Craig Dobkin organizes Towson State to host an international test match between the USA Rugby Eagles and the Canadian Rugby Canucks. The match takes place
on what is now the University Union field (then called Burdick Field). The Eagles defeat Canada for the first time ever, 12-7. To our knowledge, Towson is one of the only Universities on the East Coast to host an international match. ABC Wide
World of Sports covers the event.

Towson State beats the best men's club on the East Coast, MOB (Maryland Old Boys), for the Division-1 championship.

Peter J. Gorman III, one of the original members and a leader of the club, dies in an auto accident.

1979: The club tours again to England, Wales & Scotland. The club still has non-students as part of the club, but times are changing.

1980: USA Rugby officially organizes the National Collegiate Championship, and divides the country into seven territorial Unions. As collegiate rugby develops more organization, the need for separation for “student-athletes only” becomes more apparent. TOM (Towson Old Men) is formed for all non-students. This makes Towson State RFC exclusively a college student club. The founders and
early members pass down the following mantras for the club:


1) Go on tour to play outside your regulars and learn from others
2) Learn the songbook, and represent both off and on the pitch


This becomes a theme for the decade to come...

1981: Dan Agley (Faculty Member) takes over as Head Coach, as Craig Dobkin leaves Towson for career opportunities out west.

Spring 1984:  An enjoyable if not completely successful week-long Spring Break Tour to Ft. Lauderdale, as the club goes 1-2, losing to Boca Raton RFC 12-6 and U of Miami 36-0, but salvaging the trip with a 12-3 win over Ft. Lauderdale RFC. These trips always provide lessons on and off the pitch.

TOM goes through some rough times and merges with Chesapeake RFC, a local men's club. This leaves Towson State RFC the lone remaining club with the “Towson” name.

Spring 1985: Another Spring Break, another tour, this time to a tournament in Freeport Bahamas. The team represents well on the pitch, but learns more from losses and lessons from better teams like Loughborough College, at that time the #1
College (prep school) rugby program in England. Loughborough’s coach generously leads Towson players in a post-match clinic, and consequently the club returns home a more formidable opponent.

However... allegations about some of the club’s players’ conduct off the field lead to a scandal upon returning home. Despite a lack of evidence and in the absence of any formal charges, the Student Government Association (SGA) pulls all funding from the club; The team is allowed to remain part of “club sports”, but University support begins to erode. The team soldiers on...

Spring 1986:  Chris Schmidt takes over as Head Coach from Dan Agley in an effort to breathe new life into the team. True to form, the team travels to Daytona Beach for another tournament.

The Women’s Club, up to this point connected to the Men’s Club, disbands due to lack of players and interest.

1987: As college rugby’s popularity grows, and despite an ongoing “probation” that prohibits funding from the school, Towson State’s rugby program becomes more prominent. The club produces it’s first D1 All-American, John Malcolm (2nd Row)

1988: Despite the passage of time, and an appeal from alumnus Don Stone to establish an “oversight committee”, the club is again denied SGA funding. The Club wins the collegiate division of the prestigious Cherry Blossom Tournament in Washington DC.

1989: In another blow to the program, “Recreational Sports” strips the club of its club sport status. However, the policy is not enforced and Towson continues to practice on-campus and represent the University. Burdick field, unofficially named the’ Peter J. Gorman Memorial Pitch’, is re-purposed for a new parking garage.

1990: Without a field or school support, TSU Rugby enters the new decade building on reputation, talent and depth, continuously fielding 3 full sides and approximately 45-55 players.

1991: TSU Rugby produces its second D1 All-American, Ray Green (Center). As a wild-card, the Tigers beat established D1 school Kutztown, but lose to Harvard in the Rugby East quarterfinals (national 32) round.

Fall 1992: The University finally allows the club to play two home games on Union Field. In a heartbreak at the end of the season, Towson loses the PRU title to Navy on a last-minute try by the midshipmen in the second of those home games.

1993: Towson’s talent produces three D1 All-Americans: Dave Skinner (Fullback), Jon Holtzman (#8), and Earl Brownell (Center); Former All-American Ray Green is recruited and transfers to Cal-Berkley.


Spring 1994:  After 11 years as player, captain, club president, and Head Coach, Chris Schmidt leaves Towson State Rugby to coach cross-campus rival Loyola University.

Earl Brownell (Center) repeats as D1 All-American; Ray Green (now with Cal-Berkley) also repeats as D1 All-American.

USA Rugby re-organizes territories, and the Potomac Rugby Union (PRU) becomes part of the larger Mid-Atlantic Rugby Football Union (MARFU). This lays the groundwork for larger regional programs to face Towson on a regular basis.

1995: Spearheaded by Club VP Mark Shaver, The Rugby Club begins to re-establish a relationship with the University that includes acceptance back into “Recreational Sports” and SGA funding.

Alumnus Tim O'Donnell creates the Towson State Old Boys as an alumni-side for participation in local tournaments, which helps bring many older Towson ruggers back under the banner of Towson State. This becomes the backbone of what will become the current Alumni Association.

July 1997:  The school drops the designation "state" from its name to become Towson University - thus changing the name of the club as well.

Fall 1997: A new regime begins as the club welcomes a new head coach in Rusty Cross, an Irish native with a family history of rugby generations long. This along with a new fresh wave of student athletes sets up a promising future for the club.

1998: Alumnus Scott Marchakitus and Head Coach Rusty Cross begin the enormous task of organizing the first annual Towson University Rugby Reunion.

Spring 1999: In a pre-season match on Burdick Field, the club defeats Army. In his very first game, Freshman Jan DeBrunkyops (high school All-American) scores every single point in the match.

April 24th, 1999: The first ever Annual Rugby Reunion. Beginning with games on Burdick Field and a dinner ceremony at the Auburn House on campus. The ceremony featured speeches by past coaches, alumni and University President Hoke Smith. To this day, this reunion remains the largest single alumni event in the history of the school.

Fall 1999: The TU Rugby Alumni Association Committee is formed to organize future annual reunions.

USA Rugby continues to reorganize the local area unions, and powerhouse programs such as Penn State now join the PRU, increasing the competition level in the division.

Spring 2000- April 29th, Rugby alumni from 4 decades celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Towson University Rugby Football Club at the second annual Rugby Reunion - once again with games, dinner and a ceremony.

Fall 2000: The Rugby Enhancement Fund is established through the University to give Alumni and other supporters a way to financially support the club directly. This begins a new chapter of positive relations with the University.

Winter 2004: The first international rugby tour in many years with a trip to Ireland. Head Coach Rusty Cross and a band of 11 students travel to Limerick and blaze a 2 week trek across Ireland playing rugby matches and visiting local tourist and cultural attractions.

Spring 2005:  the 30th Anniversary of TU Rugby. This reunion weekend is by far the most event filled yet, with a full day of alumni golf organized by Alumnus Tony De Cesare at Pine Ridge Golf Course on Friday; followed that evening with a happy hour at the Rec Room with an hour long slide show presentation of 70's and early 80's rugby photos. The next day is the first rainy reunion match in 7
years, but alumni played through the weather until 3:30 PM when the Peter Gorman III Memorial Bench dedication begins.

Bagpipes played. Family and friends gather on the former location of the old memorial pitch to honor the memory of Peter. Later in the evening, the 30th Anniversary Dinner and Presentation is held at the Auburn House. Alumni from all decades speak about their past experiences, with slide shows and award presentations. Coach Rusty Cross is honored with the TU Rugby Club & Alumni Loyalty Award for a decade of commitment to the club. Many current players and supporters receive awards for their contributions. Alumni finished up the weekend reunion later that night, back at the Rec Room in Towson.

Summer 2005: The 10th year the Towson State Olds Boys Est. 1995 (TSOB) participates in the annual Slug Sevens Tournament in Maryland.

Fall 2005: After 10 years at the helm, the club parts ways with Head Coach Rusty Cross. Nate Bell takes over as interim Head Coach with former club officer Peter Holland.

Spring 2006: The club officers, with the support of current coaches, voted in head coach Jan Pretorius (Jan pronounced "Yohn") for Fall 2006. Originally from South Africa, Jan has decades of rugby experience and was introduced to the club by alumnus Don Stone, who is Rugby Alumni Advisor for the TU Rugby Alumni Association. Many alumni were introduced to Jan at the Eighth Annual Rugby Reunion on May 12 & 13.

Fall 2007: As college rugby continues to grow and reorganize, the club’s senior leadership votes to move down to the Division 2 Potomac Rugby Union (PRU), part of the Mid-Atlantic Rugby Football Union Conference (MARFU). This ends a 32-year run of Division 1 presence. Jan Pretorius steps down as Head Coach at the end of the season.

Spring 2008: John Burke becomes interim Head Coach, but leaves within the year, leaving the team again without a coach.

Spring 2009: Alumnus Don Stone returns to the Club to take over as Head Coach, recruiting Towson Rugby alum Paul Redding as Assistant Coach Don’s return brings stability and accountability to a program after five years of coaching turnover.

Fall 2010:  Head Coach Don Stone recruits Towson Rugby alumnus Tony De Cesare as Forwards Coach; Towson finishes 2nd in the D2 PRU Conference, qualifying for the MARFU playoffs, losing to St. Joseph’s University in the first round, but beating Mary Washington University in the consolation match.

Fall 2011:​ USA Rugby creates an elite division of schools known as the College PremierLeague- This eventually becomes Division 1-A. Division 1-AA & Division 2reorganize as well.


Coach Matt Ford from Canterbury Rugby Club (UK) joins the coaching staff as Forwards Coach. Towson once again finishes 2nd in the PRU, qualifying for the Mid Atlantic Rugby playoff, losing in the first round to James Madison University.

Towson focuses on recruiting and finishes the season with a roster of 55+ players and institutes a formal off-season strength and conditioning program between the fall and spring semesters.

2012: Towson expands its roster to 60+ players and finishes the season as runner up in the PRU for the 3rd consecutive year qualifying for the new USA Rugby D2 Playoffs at Dartmouth University. Towson wins the East Regional bracket beating Colgate and Boston University to qualify for the USA Rugby D2 Final Four in Salt Lake City, Utah. Towson loses in the first round to rival Salisbury University to finish the season ranked #3 nationally.

Spring 2013:  Tim Cahill (Mt. St. Mary’s) joins the Towson Coaching Staff as Assistant Forwards Coach increasing Towson Rugby coaching staff to 5. Towson hosts USA Rugby Coaching and referee courses for the first time.


Towson finishes the season as runner up for the 4th consecutive year, qualifying for the USA Rugby D2 Playoffs. Towson travels to Knoxville, TN going on to beat Illinois State University and University of North Carolina - WIlmington to win the South Regional and advance to the Final Four for the second consecutive year. Towson travels to Bowling Green University to lose in the first round to
PRU Rival Salisbury University and finish the season ranked #4 nationally in D2.

Fall 2013: USA Rugby reorganizes (again). The PRU will consolidate with the Virgina to host the National Playoffs in the fall beginning in the Fall of 2013. Towson finishes the regular season as the Runner Up in the PRU to advance to the USA Rugby D2 Playoffs. Towson beats University of North Carolina Wilmington in the first round, then loses to University of Wisconsin Whitewater in the Elite 8 to end
the season ranked #6 nationally.

Spring 2014: After years of evolution, The Towson Rugby Alumni Association, Inc. is granted 501(c)(3) charity status, and officially becomes a non-profit charity organization run by Towson rugby alumni to support the current club as well as keep previous alumni in contact with each other, the club, and the sport.

Fall 2014:  In the final regular season game, Towson beats Salisbury on the road 25 - 14 to go undefeated in D2 . Towson would go on to lose to Salisbury in the Capital Rugby Conference Championship, finishing runner up once again and qualifying for the USA Rugby D2 Playoffs. Towson beats VMI in a “play-in match” to travel to James Madison University for the Sweet 16. Towson beats Grand Valley State University to advance to the Elite 8, then loses to top ranked James Madison to finish the season ranked #6 nationally in D2.

2015: Coach Anthony Ngaata (Hutt RFC - NZ) joins the coaching staff as Assistant Forwards Coach. Towson expands the roster to 65+ players in the fall.

In its final year of the Conference before more changes, Towson wins the Capital Rugby Conference, beating rivals Salisbury University in the championship match. This earns the club a #1 seed in the playoff bracket. Towson travels to Pittsburgh, PA beating the Coast Guard Academy and Towson University to advance to the D2 Final Four for the 3rd time in 4 years. Towson traveled to Furman University to lose in the first round to eventual National Champion University of Wisconsin Whitewater, finishing the season ranked #3 nationally in D2.

Spring 2016:  Amid more USA Rugby Changes, Towson joins the newly formed D1-AA Chesapeake Collegiate Rugby Conference.

Fall 2016: Back in Division 1, the club finishes a respectable 5-3, with wins over Maryland, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Georgetown, and Salisbury. The club fields 65+ players for most of the season.

2017: Towson continues to compete in the Chesapeake D1-AA Conference competing against many programs that receive “Varsity” status benefits, including recruiting overseas players and offering scholarship assistance.

Spring 2018: With Towson re-established, Head Coach Don Stone turns over Head Coaching duties to Assistant Coach Tony De Ceasare, and steps back to the Assistant/Backs Coach.

Towson continues to compete in the Chesapeake Conference against a growing list of “Varsity” level programs creating a large disparity within the conference between these “Varsity” teams and those team that have “club” status with much
less school assistance.

Spring 2019: A Rugby re-aligns several elite college programs in the Mid-Atlantic region into the D1A “Rugby East” Conference. This leaves a void in the Chesapeake Collegiate Rugby Conference. Towson leaves the Chesapeake Conference and moves to the D1-AA MARC (Mid-Atlantic Rugby Conference). This new conference is made up of college programs from both D1 and D2.

Head Coach Tony De Cesare begins teaching Rugby as an official course through the Exercise Science Department, and starts the Tuition Exchange Program with 6 Universities in the UK.

2020: Rugby is canceled 3 weeks into the 2020 Spring season and all of the Fall 2020 Semester due to the Covid-19 Pandemic.

April 2020: USA Rugby declares bankruptcy. National Collegiate Rugby (NCR) takes over as the majority governing body for College Rugby. There are four major divisions within NCR: D1, D1AA, D2, and Small College. Towson joins NCR as a D2 club in this new governing body, as part of the MARC’s decision to move from USA Rugby to NCR.

June 2020: A social media post regarding hate speech within the club creates an on-campus scandal: One player leaves the team, and Tony De Ceasare resigns as Head Coach amid the controversy.

2021: Tony Maranto begins as Head Coach.

Spring 2021: In Towson’s first organized conference Sevens format, Towson makes
the MARC playoff as the 8th seed.

Fall 2021: Towson goes 3 - 3 in a D2/Small College Hybrid game schedule, as Rugby re-starts post-pandemic with fewer players and a return to Division 2.

Fall 2022: Towson finishes 4 - 2 and 4th overall team in the D2 MARC conference.

Spring 2023: In Sevens, Towson finishes in 3rd place and qualifies for the Collegiate Rugby Championships that occurs in Rockville, MD. They finish as the 10th best team in the nation in D2 Sevens.

The first class of the Towson Rugby Hall Of Fame is inducted at the alumni weekend banquet event.

With Craig Dobkin, Peter Gorman, Matt McGlone, Jeff Opiekun, Don Stone all being inducted. 

Fall 2023: Alumnus Mike Flanagan is inducted into the U.S Rugby Hall of Fame as a coach, primarily for his tenure as head coach of the United States Naval Academy; his first coaching position is coaching Towson State’s Women’s Rugby Club

Plans for the 50th anniversary of the club begin.


Towson finishes 4-2.


Special thanks to Mike Flanagan, Russ Clark, and the rest of Towson Rugby Alumni for contributing to this piece.

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