MEMPHIS, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) – The University of Memphis rugby team may not be as well-known as the basketball team, but this year they are making history.
For the first time ever, they are in the “Sweet 16 ” of rugby. But getting there will be half of the challenge. The team needs about $12,000 to pay for travel expenses to and from the tournament. They have started GoFundMe page hoping to raise the money.
According to the GoFundMe page, the team is ranked 27th in the country, but because it’s a club sport and not a varsity sport, it does not get much funding from the university. That’s why the team is raising money to get to the playoffs.
“The fact that we are traveling next weekend to Greenville, South Carolina, to compete in the Division II Sweet 16 – we need money to get there,” said coach Marc Holley.
Holley played on the team 35 years ago, and says this year’s team has gone undefeated in the Southeastern Conference, beating GA Tech, Ole Miss, MS State, and MTSU to win the Division II championship.
“For Tiger Rugby, we have a culmination of kids that played in middle school, high school, and they’ve just come together and it’s the kinda the perfect storm for this program right now,” said Holley.
“With more success, you need more resources of course, and it’s kind of bittersweet. It’s nice to make it this far and hopefully continue, but that does require allocating more resources and more support,” said Team Captain Musa Banat.
Banat hopes the community will help them get to the tournament, and they can bring home a big win.
“This is going to be a very challenging few weeks ahead of us. It’ll be one that tests everything we’ve been working for, but we hope to come out victorious,” said Banat.
If the team wins the “Sweet 16” game, they will play in the “Elite 8” game the next day.
The national championships are the second weekend in December.