Sign Up for our Rugby Newsletter
The shared sense of belonging that rugby instills in its community, leaves older and current generations of rugby players yearning to carry on the rugby legacy. Nowhere is that more evident than at the country’s oldest institution of higher learning, Harvard University. The Crimson hosted the first ever rugby game in the United States in 1874 and have been building its rugby legacy ever since.
For some time, the alumni have been working to improve the standard of rugby at Harvard and continue the tradition of excellence. The Crimson alumni recently spearheaded a three pronged effort to enhance the rugby experience at the University.
“We really wanted to be nationally competitive and thought that would take a significant financial investment,” said Keith Cooper, the head of the Harvard rugby alumni and leader of the financial effort. “We set up a plan and broke it into three phases. We wanted to provide a rugby specific field for the club, hire a full time coach and support the club’s operating costs.”
The whole process required serious financial planning. The rugby alumni partnered with the Harvard Business School and the Development Office to raise capital for the investment and worked with the Athletic Department on a strategic plan.
“We had to go through a serious vetting process before reaching out to perspective donors,” Cooper added. “We were targeting an anchor donor for each component of our strategy.”
The joint effort proved successful as they were able to raise a significant amount of money for the project. While a little more than half of the funding came from a group of donors, the Harvard rugby community was also able to get support from a good percentage of its alumni base. Through it all, there have been a myriad of obstacles to overcome but the Crimson christened Roberto Mignone Field with a match against rival Dartmouth in the fall of 2016.
With a number of moving parts and real estate limited in Cambridge, the whole process took over three years. Getting buy in from the Administration, the Athletic Department and commitment from the alumni was a challenge. Being able to secure logistics early on proved to be a key part of the endeavor.
“It was a long term process. You have multiple stakeholders from the program, including the alumni and varsity athletics. Plus, finding a footprint in Cambridge is not easy,” said Cooper. “We had to fit into the overall plan for the Athletic Department and that took some time to get everyone on board.”
The impetus to complete this project really came from a sense of building a lasting legacy. The Harvard rugby community hoped to attract top tier rugby athletes and create a state of the art facility where one day it can host test matches.
“Legacy is everything to Harvard,” head coach Mike Diamantopoulos told Penn Mutual.” We were the first rugby program in North America. Perpetuating that legacy with a field that is worthy of our history and plans for the future is really important to us.”
In its first season with the new facility, Harvard is already reaping the reward. The Crimson was welcomed into the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup and hosted a first round matchup with Penn State.
“With the change in facilities, we wanted to take our program to the next level. Getting outside the Ivy League Conference and branching out to play some better competition was very important to us. The Varsity Cup has been the standard of rugby over the last four years and we wanted to be a part of it,” Diamantopoulos concluded.
A strong rugby alumni network and group of dedicated leaders that are committed to building the rugby program at Harvard, has supported the country’s oldest university’s mission to becoming a major player in the collegiate rugby space. Having a solid financial plan went a long way in helping to reach Harvard’s financial goals.
Whether it is an individual, a small business or a rugby program like Harvard, having a sound financial plan will put you on the right path to creating a lasting legacy.