Rugby teams secure home field in Pittsford after alternatives fall through

On Wednesday, Student Association unanimously approved a budget increase of $400 to be used for the men's and women's rugby teams to rent a field in Pittsford after the New York State Rugby Conference deemed Onondaga Field unfit for competition last October.

Prior to the passage of the reading, neither team had been able to play any home games. The funding was approved after a motion to waive the usual two-week reading process.

"In most cases, organizations have to wait two weeks for a reading for funding, but Rugby's been waiting for a year," said SA vice president, senior Thomas Sochia. "This has been a long process; it's not really a one week thing."

Senior Will Labate, director of student affairs for SA, said that the $400 price tag is "extraordinarily cheap" compared to numerous other rental agreements explored.

"Paying for the field is actually cheaper than the gas money that we would need to play a schedule of exclusively away games," said senior Brendan Filardo, president of the men's rugby team.

The $400 will pay the rental fields. The teams will still have to transport themselves to their home games and will have to line the fields and bring pads for the goal posts themselves, said senior Meghan Brill, captain of the women's rugby team.

"Last October, after we won our division and made the playoffs, New York State Rugby told us that [Onondaga] field was no good," said Brill. "So we played two playoff games - in the first we won the Division II New York State championship and in the second we played in the northeast region championship game against Harvard - away from our home field."

"We agreed that the field was dangerous," Brill added. "We knew New York Rugby was right." The first attempt to rectify the situation was to find out if SA could renovate Onondaga Field, said both Brill and Filardo.

"SA cannot invest in infrastructure on college grounds, so that was not something we could do," said SA President Doug Sinski, a senior.

Filardo said that the college itself could renovate the field, but that wouldn't be financially feasible at this time.

"We have the highest athletic fees in SUNY," Sinski said. "So they're not in a position to just raise money [by raising fees]."

According to Sinski, the next attempted solution was to utilize Letchworth Field, which is normally used for intramural sports. "There's a trailer parked on it and facilities can't move it until mid-November, so that turned out not to be an option," he said.

"We also looked into fields around Geneseo, like at the armory or Highland Park," Brill said. "But the high school uses the armory field and there isn't space big enough in Highland Park."

Brill and Filardo also said that the rugby teams looked into fields used by leagues in Rochester, but scheduling conflicts between them and the teams already using the fields made that option unattainable.

Additionally, SA looked into using field space from American Rock Salt, which had extra land it wasn't using in its possession. "It wouldn't be feasible to grow grass and play on it this season," Sinski said.

On Sept. 7, however, Brill and Filardo attended a New York State Rugby Conference meeting where they ran into a Geneseo rugby alumnus, Peter Tuzzolino. Tuzzolino is currently a rugby coach at Pittsford High School and recommended that the teams consider Mendon Ponds Park a possible home field.

Now that they can rent a field in this park, both the men's and women's teams have expressed satisfaction at having schedules which are not purely filled with away games. The push to finding a more Geneseo-centric home field will not be abandoned though.

"The situation is better, but not ideal," Brill said.

"[Mendon Ponds Park is] not really a home field at Geneseo," Filardo said. "It's good to be able to play, but it's not good for recruitment or team publicity."

Both teams are considered club sports rather than varsity sports which are governed by NCAA rules. The NCAA prohibits club sports from practicing on varsity facilities, making it impossible for them to share any of the varsity fields.

Within the realm of club rugby, though, the women have two teams: Geneseo's only Division I sports team and a Division III team. The men have a single Division II team. The records and competitive levels of the teams in the New York State Rugby Conference determine these divisions.

"We're looking forward to a wonderful season," said Brill. "And we're looking forward to playing teams like Syracuse and Cornell."