45 Years of Rugby
Why was the Rugby Alumni Association formed?
For many years Joel Diemer sought the guidance and assistance of a relatively small group of alumni — though he retained much of the responsibility for the funding, relationships, politics, and initiatives of the Club. With his retirement, the program lost some of its ‘connective tissue’ between alumni and the campus administration, its operational capability, its fundraising ability, and mechanisms for communication. In the immediate wake of his retirement, a few people really stepped-in to triage the situation, at a critical time. Through this turmoil came some conversations about how we prepare NMSU Rugby for the future it deserves:
- Continuing the ethos of our club
- Sustainable structure and finance
- Competitive on the field
- Respected by students, the administration and opponents
- Unique opportunities for student-athletes interested in rugby
Why does NMSU Rugby need an alumni association?
Not too many years ago the key stakeholders in NMSU Rugby were:
- Our student advisor, Joel Diemer
- Students playing rugby
- NMSU Campus Recreation
While some alumni and sponsors had particular interests, Joel Diemer held unique positions in the club, community and the university, to keep a balance among these few constituencies. Not that the work was easy — but the dynamics were straightforward.
Now the dynamics of campus, college athletes and rugby have evolved, and will change further at an extraordinary rate. This will challenge the alumni to work interdependently with other groups.
Today, students are increasingly choosing universities with rugby as their very-first priority. Unlike the days when nearly every new college player was also new to rugby, this fall we enroll new freshmen or transfers— some of them with prior high school rugby experience. Some of them could be national level age-grade players.
As the visibility and stature of rugby grows, the program is also welcomed other “rookies” from the general NMSU student body. As college rugby has grown in competitiveness, and 7s has begun to occupy the calendar, NMSU now has several students making a varsity-level commitment to train & play as Aggies.
- Rugby is now a varsity sport and/or full-time coaching assignment at scores of universities. NMSU’s ability to attract and retain committed players and quality coaches, long-term, is function of the steadiness and professionalism of the organization we help create for professional coaches.
- We need key sponsors/families now to step-in with many thousands of dollars annually. As their stake gets bigger, they expect to see more stability and consistency in the organization we help create.
- With an opportunity of NMSU Rugby being broadcast nationally and on cable, in affiliation with varsity sports league properties, the Athletic Department will have an interest in making sure rugby represents the qualities of the NMSU brand.
- Tuition-paying parents (who have poured years and resources into their student athlete’s interests and talents) will hold NMSU accountable for a rugby program that reflects the interests and abilities of their students.
- The University Administration is challenged to attract high-quality, out-of-state students with programming tuned to their needs. As rugby explodes at the high school level, Admissions has taken an interest in how rugby helps the school compete for talented students.
- NMSU could become an employer of a paid coach, and so takes an interest in the functioning of the Club, (as all employers would).
- As we reach further and deeper into the community for financial support, The NMSU Foundation is more involved. Our efforts have implications related to policy, data privacy, fund administration, branding and donor fatigue.
- Finally, we alumni have a heightened interest in the program, to maintain the culture of competitiveness and rugby opportunity – different from ‘New Mexico.’
Clearly, there are many more audiences today. And as the stakes grow higher, each constituency’s interest in the program is amplified.
In short, we alumni need to work proactively and cooperatively with each of these many constituencies in a positive, productive, coordinated manner. And – of course – The COVID pandemic is placing an unprecedented pressure on the program, in every respect. Alumni are needed to mount a response again, like no other time.
How do the changes in collegiate rugby affect the Club?
Our meetings with the club representatives and NMSU Campus Recreation made a few things clear:
- NMSU Rugby will continue to welcome rookies and integrate new players, at all levels, into our tribe. (or shall we say, “chile patch”).
- NMSU Rugby will continue to be a student-run club, though welcoming guidance requested from alumni.
- NMSU Rugby will welcome and include alumni as coaches and volunteers, for their skills, experience and their stewardship of our values and culture.
- NMSU Rugby will continue to aspire and play to the highest levels of USA Rugby’s collegiate competition.
- NMSU Rugby will honor its relationships with traditional rivals (UNM, UTEP, etc.) and emerging programs that share our heritage (Grand Canyon).
Clearly, NMSU Rugby won’t remain unchanged in this rapidly changing collegiate landscape. New challenges will require new responses. However: While under the direction of student-athletes, Coach Justin, Coach Alicia and their staff – and with alumni help – it will remain true to the ethos that evolved from the desert over its initial 45 years.
How is the Association organized?
Founded in 2020, the NMSU Rugby Alumni Association is a not-for-profit organization, governed by a volunteer Board of Trustees, consisting of at least 4 (and no more than 8) members, who are elected for two-year, staggered terms. Trustees are nominated from among the membership and elected by the board.
The Trustees hold a monthly conference call and an Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Las Cruces. COVID has introduced some challenges to our schedules, to be addressed in our next meeting.
What alumni are involved in the NMSU Rugby Alumni Association?
The 2020-2022 Trustees are:
Shawn Loudenback – Chair, Executive and University Relations
Keffory Levy – Co-Chair, Secretary and Membership
Paul Mondragon – Co-Chair, Fundraising and Treasurer
Amanda Reyes – Co-Chair, Communications & Club Relations
Tim Worley – Trustee, Co-Treasurer
Aaron Cardiel – Trustee, Co-Treasurer
Brent Jacques – Trustee
John Taylor – Trustee
Kelly Neville – Trustee, (Women)
___________ – Trustee, (Women)
There are a great number of alumni supporting the NMSU today. Some in formal roles, other informally.
What does the Rugby Alumni Association do today?
- Organizing the group’s bylaws, establishing our role and working relationships with the Club, campus administration and NMSU Foundation.
- Working with the coaches and Club officers to establish a unified vision and aligned roles.
- Expanding participation in the Association board, to better reflect the generations of NMSU Rugby players.
- Developing a meaningful and accurate list of all past rugby alumni.
- Establish business routines between alumni fundraising, the Foundation and Club, to recognize donations made to the Club.
- Continued to solicit funding, while organizing a focused alumni membership campaign and endowment.
- Run the annual fundraising event(s), honoring the legacy of “Chiles Rugby.”
- Host a Golf Tournament and/or Conduct the Hall of Fame and Dinner.
NMSU Rugby Alumni
ShawnLoudenback (at) gmail.com
NMSU Alumni Relations
575-646-3616 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Dove Hall, Room 227 | 1305 N. Horseshoe Drive
Las Cruces, NM 88003