Hilltopper rugby team ties U of L in first D-I exhibition

Sophomore Jaylen Johnson is tackled during the WKU rugby team’s first Division I game against the University of Louisville on Aug. 30. Harrison Hill/HERALD

Billy Rutledge

The WKU Rugby Team has joined men’s Division 1-AA for the first time this season, and in its first friendly on Saturday against the University of Louisville, the team earned a 22-22 draw. The team’s first regular season game will be played this weekend at Middle Tennessee State.

The team will be participating in the True South Conference, which includes 10 other teams, such as the University of Kentucky, Auburn and Middle Tennessee State.

“It’s kind of a purgatory place for us right now,” Junior Captain Jacob Schwandt said. “We are seen as a club sport, but we are playing with teams that are sanctioned and have scholarships and locker rooms. We are hoping we can earn that extra help from the university and prove ourselves.”

After a trial season last year proved that WKU could field a full team and not break team rules, the Hilltoppers were promoted to the new division. With the new title, the sport of rugby is starting to grow on campus.

“Last year, we did really well and ended up getting accepted into D1-AA, a self-independent rugby conference,” Schwandt said. “We are a USA Rugby sanctioned team and it’s picking up more and more steam each semester and having that D1 label attracts more prospects.”