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University of Utah Rugby Club in Final Four

May 5, 2002 — Rugby is not a game widely played in America, and most colleges and universities, including the University of Utah, don’t recognize it on an official team sport. But that didn’t stop the U’s Rugby Club from playing teams from all over the country and making it all the way to the Final Four. The squad is in Virginia Beach, Va. this weekend May 5-6 to battle it out for the Division I Collegiate Men’s National Championship. The other three teams who made it to the Final Four are defending national champion Cal Berkeley, Wyoming and Army.

The University of Utah Rugby Club advanced to the Final Four even though the team lost an Elite Eight game to San Diego State. The Aztecs were eventually forced to forfeit that match against Utah after the USA Rugby Disciplinary Committee determined the team had used ineligible players to advance through the tournament. “Obviously this is not the way we had imagined ourselves getting to the Final Four, but we’ll take what we can get,” said Utah team captain Larry Gelwix. “There are not a lot of times in life you get a second chance at things like this.” See the following link for further details on the decision by USA Rugby:

The road to the Final Four was not an easy one for the Ute club. The team first advanced through the regional playoffs April 6-7 in Sacramento by defeating the University of Nevada-Reno 41-18, and the University of California-Sacramento 46-31 in overtime. Utah then traveled to Penn State University April 20-21 for the Sweet 16. There the club defeated Penn State 24-10 and played San Diego State in the round of eight, losing 26-7.

The Utes will now face the University of Wyoming on Saturday in the semi-finals. Wyoming beat Utah 20-10 at Laramie in the teams’ last meeting this year. If the Utes get past the Cowboys, they will advance to the national finals and play the winner of the game between Army and the University of California at Berkeley.

The California Golden Bears have won the last 11 Division 1 National Championships. Rugby is a varsity sport at Cal, whereas remains a club sport at most universities, including Utah. This is the Utes’ first appearance in the Final Four.