College merchandising is an American thing

By Amaya Garcia Martinez

When my friend Almudena Guerrero opens her closet to dress for class every morning, she can choose a grey or a red University of Richmond sweatshirt, long UR trousers or shorts, a green t-shirt that reads "UR in the world," a red one that advertises the Richmond soccer team, a classic grey one with the spider silhouette on it, or a more trendy blue one, which also proclaims "Richmond." If it rains, she may want to take her navy blue UR umbrella and, if it is cold, she can wear her red spider coat.

In a few days, Almudena will have to pack all her University of Richmond gear to travel back home to the Spanish city of Seville. "I don't know how I'm going to make it," she jokes. "I guess I'll need another bag, only for my Richmond stuff. And I hope they won't arrest me for smuggling UR products."

In her fall semester as an international exchange student at Richmond, Almudena Guerrero, a senior majoring in finance, estimates that she has spent no less than $ 250 in the bookstore. This number does not comprise textbooks or stationery, but just UR clothing and other merchandising.

This may not be surprising for many Richmond students, but it may be surprising for them to know that Almudena never bought any merchandising in her home university, Pablo de Olavide, in Seville, which she has attended for three years. And Almudena's case might be extreme, but her attitude is not uncommon among international students at the UR, most of whom experience a drastic change in their attitude toward college merchandising.

According to merchandising sellers, professors and students, this behavior is not an eccentricity, but rather a reflection of the different approaches to merchandising that American universities and those from other countries have, and also an expression of the values that predominate in different educational systems.

The easiest way to become integrated

I still remember my surprise when I realized that everyone at Richmond wears college apparel – not only when they go to games, but also in class – t-shirts, sweaters, pants, flip-flops, tote bags and so on. The overwhelming proliferation of college products is one of the first cultural shocks that international students at UR, or any other American university, have to face.

"Wearing stuff from your college is the thing to do," says Lauren Davis, a junior at the UR. "Everyone does it. It's interesting to think that it might not be like this everywhere."

Even if exchange students come from universities with little or no merchandising, they quickly realize that wearing college clothing is not only a convenient option, it is also the easiest way to become integrated. "I wear UR clothes because I like sports outfits, but also as a sign of identification," Almudena says.

Roger L. Brooks, general manager of Richmond's bookstore, thinks that both practical and emotional reasons explain the success of college merchandising, a nationwide growing tendency in the last decades. Richmond is a good example of this phenomenon, he says.

"We have been selling products of the university for a long time, but sales have exploded in the last 10 years," Brooks says. "This has happened because identification with colleges has become so big, and students have changed their clothing style, which has become more informal. They used to wear suits to class, nowadays for the most part they wear jeans, a t-shirt and a sweatshirt – boys as well as girls," he says.

Brooks thinks the reason clothing sells best is that it serves a double purpose. "It is practical, and it has Richmond imprinted on it, so other people can see what your college is when you are wearing it," he says.

His coworker Debbie Matze, general merchandise buyer, has also seen the consequences of the recent success of college clothing. "We have become some kind of department store," she says. In fact, Matze's job consists mainly of meeting with the salesmen and choosing among the samples of clothing, trying to get a selection that will be attractive for UR students.

The same shift that the bookstore has had is visible on its webpage,, which has two main sections of equal importance – books and merchandising. But in the categories of "featured items" and "popular items," no books appear. Instead, there are Richmond stickers, hoodies and sweatpants. UR clothing is also available at, and the official rings can be ordered at

"Although we cannot compare ourselves with Virginia Commonwealth University or Virginia Tech, which are huge, we do very well for our size," Brooks says. He estimates that UR merchandising will represent this year a benefit of $ 800,000 in sales.

A different lifestyle and concept of school

Richmond is a good example of the success of college merchandising all over the United States; has become bigger in the last decades. But this tendency has only barely started in other countries.

"This is a trend that's being imported to Europe," says Hendrik Hilgert, an exchange student from Germany at the UR. "I've seen some examples in Germany. But there's a time gap between the U.S. and Europe in the way society is developed."

What are the factors that explain the lack of merchandising in European universities? The University of Deusto is similar to Richmond yet its approach to merchandising could not be more different.

Both Richmond and Deusto are private, selective and small colleges of 3,000 students that are well-known for their business schools, but also for their arts and sciences departments. In both cases, undergraduate students predominate. Deusto and the UR are seen as colleges for serious and hard-working students, but also for rich kids. There are even physical similarities between the two universities. Their campuses are praised for their beauty and, in spite of being close to town, they are quiet enclaves.

But there are no college products in the bookstore at Deusto, only textbooks and office supplies. Even the stationary is plain – no logos or mascots.

"The one thing I noticed at Deusto that did have the name of the school on it was the bag that students carried their laptops in," says Molly Bechert, a senior at the University of Richmond who spent a semester there as an exchange student. "I did wish that I could have bought a shirt or a sweatshirt from Deusto, especially as a foreign student."

In fact, computer bags and backpacks with the college logo on them are offered by Deusto to freshmen when they buy their laptops through the university, which has an economic agreement with the technology company Dell. The only other products with the Deusto logo imprinted are the official ties that students wear for special events, such as the National Debate League, and the pens that are offered to prospective students at educational fairs.

All of these products are offered free.

"I'm not sure why Deusto students aren't interested in buying products from the university," Molly says. "For me, it seemed like college was a smaller part of their lives there than it is here. Deusto students have €˜fuller' lives outside school. College isn't as much a part of their daily lives, so maybe they don't feel the desire to proclaim their membership."

The role of athletics and industrial production

The fact that Deusto is not residential can explain a lack of involvement with the academic institution in the part of students. In Spain, most students live at their parents' house or rent an off-campus apartment with their classmates, unlike what happens in the countries with an Anglo-Saxon academic tradition, where most students live on campus.

But there are other countries in which residential colleges predominate, and yet college merchandising is not as widely spread as it is in the United States.

This is the case in South Africa, where Emily Jenchura, a senior at Richmond, studied at Cape Town. Her first impulse was to buy as much merchandising from her new university as possible. She still remembers her surprise when she realized that things were different from her American college. "Even if the student body was huge, something like 22,000 people, you realized that they had very few college products and nobody wore them," she says.

Jeffrey Hass, associate professor of sociology at Richmond, thinks that there are deeply rooted social characteristics that explain why college merchandising is such a big tendency in the United States, but not in other countries. The importance of college athletics and the power of the American industry are, in his opinion, the two most relevant.

"Sports are a great part of college life. People go to college to learn, to party and to see football games," Hass says. "People have always bought football merchandising, and college athletics in general are much more important in the United States than they are in other countries. Intercollegiate sports do not even exist in Europe."

At the UR bookstore, Brooks confirms this. "Our sales of clothing increase when Richmond teams are doing well," he says. "Virginia Tech does not only have such a huge merchandising because of its size, but also because it has good teams." But Hass says that a developed industrial system is also essential in order to produce and commercialize the merchandising. "This is the country of mass production, unlike Europe, where crafts are still a synonym of luxury," he says.

As a consequence, a more uniform style of dressing exists in America. "Jeans and t-shirts, that's the American uniform," says Rafael Huaman, an international student from Peru. "Here nobody wants to be original with their outfit, so it's not surprising that American students like to wear college clothes, just the same as their classmates."

Lauren Davis has a similar view. "There's an obsession with t-shirts in America," she says. "I think it has something to do with the fact that we don't have a sense of fashion."

Haas says: "There is a great consumer society in America. This is a capitalist country. Everything can be produced in great numbers, and people have the money to buy it. But, when people buy college merchandising, they are not only acquiring material objects, they are also consuming meaning and identity. College products are a symbol of status and competition. People want to wear their university's t-shirt to show off against other schools."

The manifestation of wealth and nationalism

Archana Bhatt, professor of culture and communication at Richmond, agrees with Hass that college merchandising is a demonstration of status. "Part of it is related to how we perform class identity and wealth," she says. "This performance is less conspicuous in Europe." This is, in Bhatt's opinion, a consequence of the fact that American wealth is "new money."

"We understand universities as a representation of class identity," Bhatt says. "People do not feel attracted to community colleges or state universities, and, therefore, they are generally less enthusiastic about their merchandising, because these institutions do not carry the same social connotations as elite colleges."

The latter is the case of most European universities, given that even private colleges have easily affordable tuition fees compared to the United States. For instance, at Deusto, one of the leading colleges for business studies, my friends in business school paid $ 8,000 a year.

"Here, access to higher education is lived as an acquired right, because it's not an expensive thing," says Nerea Azurmendi, professor of marketing at Deusto. "But in the United States, students perceive that they need to put more effort into it."

In Europe as well as in America, higher education has become a massive reality, and it is now accessible for the middle class. But this happened earlier in the United States and, therefore, a more competitive educational system has been developed. Universities had to fight to achieve social prestige, and at the same time students had to fight to get into prestigious institutions.

For Bhatt, the access of the middle classes to higher education is a reason for American pride and, therefore, it is somehow a manifestation of nationalism. "Being an American is going to Harvard or Berkeley. You are proclaiming your Americanism when you wear their clothes.

"The power of the name is a huge thing," Bhatt says. In her opinion, the relation between prestige and branding is a circular one. Prestige is the cause of branding, but it is also reinforced by branding. "One could not exist without the other," she says.

Reflecting on prestige, Miguel Ayerbe, a sociology professor at Deusto, says: "The phenomenon of merchandising is related to the recognition of American universities. In that country, attending a prestigious college gives a social credit that students want to make visible. But in general, institutions of all sorts – universities, political parties, police forces, the Church, etc. – don't have a priori a good reputation in European societies."

The more practical functions of merchandising

Hilgert agrees with Ayerbe in that college gear demonstrates American students' willingness to belong to their universities. "They show a corporative identity that is not so strong in other countries, although it is probably growing," he says. "This kind of collectivistic ideas may sound strange in a country such as the United States, that's supposed to be very individualistic, but in fact Americans usually identify themselves more with the corporations they're part of. The American society is more divorced, so they need to look for identification points."

Nevertheless, Hilgert refuses to reduce American student's involvement in their universities to its mere psychological dimension. "This notion that alumni should offer jobs to graduates from their universities not because of their qualifications, but just because they belong to the same group, this doesn't exist in Europe," Hilgert says. "And the idea that alumni should contribute to financing their former colleges is also nonexistent in Europe, where all universities receive public funding."

Azurmendi also believes in the importance of economic factors. "Given that public investments are scarce in the United States, even in state institutions, they need to maintain a high level of self-funding," she says. "The contribution of merchandising to the whole might be insignificant, but merchandising has a double purpose, as it is also an element of cohesion and support in a very competitive environment."

Hass says: "Wearing a t-shirt from my university is fun, but when you think about business, it's different. Of course that the role of alumni and financers does not exist in European universities, because they have a welfare state that gives all the money they need to colleges, and this reduces the need for universities to instill in their students a sense of attachment and responsibility toward the institution."

Azurmendi highlights the following differences: "The different shopping habits and the view of the university as a more prestigious institution in the United States and, of course, a wider offer that is possible thanks to a stronger industrial system; as well as the values of effort, commitment, compromise and pride that exists in American universities."

At the UR bookstore, Matze summarizes this entire complex phenomenon in one sentence. "It's all a question of school spirit," she says.

Michael Goodwin

By Billy Finn

A voice rumbles through the dimly-lit hallway leading to the dressing rooms beneath the stage of the Alice Jepson Theatre. It is a deep and clear baritone, reciting vocal exercises and running lines for tonight's dress rehearsal of "Amadeus." The words seem unintelligible.

The voice belongs to Michael Goodwin, this season's Equity artist-in-residence at the University of Richmond. He is starring as Antonio Salieri in "Amadeus," as well as teaching a course in acting.

Goodwin has been offering his talent and services to the University for several years and has performed in UR productions of "Gypsy," "All my Sons" and "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" Fortunately for him, his acting credits go far beyond the stage of the Alice Jepson Theatre.

Though you wouldn't necessarily recognize him on the street, Goodwin has made a successful living as a working actor. Since high school, he has traveled throughout the country, performed in repertory companies, Broadway shows, television and film. He has worked with everyone from less talented theater students to award-winners Anthony Hopkins and Clint Eastwood.

He has been on TV shows such "Law and Order" and "St. Elsewhere" and in movies including the recent "New World."

Goodwin is a man teetering on the edge of obscurity and fame, although that is not what interests him. Tucked in the corner of the men's dressing room in the Modlin Center running lines and waiting for the costumers to finish the alterations on his pants,
Goodwin is focused on his character, his work and his job as a professional actor.
Life as an actor is never easy and Goodwin admits that luck and chance play an unfortunately large part in the business.

"You go to New York these days and unless you're plugged in with a major agent, you're going to have a tough time," he said.

Every actor's journey is different, he said. Each artist must struggle to create a life for himself and to decide how important that art really is. For Goodwin, he made that decision longer ago than he will admit and has never looked back since.

Born in Virginia, Minn., Goodwin moved with his parents to Seattle at an early age.
While attending Ballard High School in Seattle "some time during the 50's," he came across Earl Kelly, the school's drama teacher.

Kelly instilled the actor's passion in Goodwin and became, as Goodwin describes it, "one of those great inspirational types." Kelly taught Goodwin and his peers the basics of acting and turned the group into a sort of miniature repertory company.

After high school, Goodwin enrolled at the University of Washington and began studying theatre there. Shortly after, however, Goodwin realized he didn't see eye-to-eye with the school's theatre department and dropped out.

Goodwin's departure from school coincided with his enlistment in the Air Force.
"I got a notice for a physical for the Army," he said. "This was during Vietnam and so I enlisted in the Air Force."

Goodwin's plan was to serve in the Air Force before moving to England to study and try his luck as an actor overseas.

Before leaving for service, Goodwin heard that the Seattle Repertory Company was auditioning for new members. Quickly, he went back to Earl Kelly and asked him if he should audition.

"[Kelly] didn't tell me what to do," he said. "But, he did tell me €˜don't come back in 20 years and complain to me about how you never auditioned.' So I went."

Stewart Vaughn, then the director of the company, auditioned Goodwin and was impressed with the young actor's work.

"He asked me where I had studied and I said, €˜Ballard High School,'" Goodwin remembered with a laugh. "He said, €˜no, I mean what conservatories have you worked in?' I said, €˜I haven't really worked anywhere.' He couldn't believe that."

Shortly after, Vaughn offered him the job, a job which Goodwin had to decline.

"I told him I had enlisted in the Air Force and was leaving the country for at least a year,"
Goodwin said. "He threw me out of the theatre and told me never to waste his time again."

A week after getting thrown out of the theatre, Goodwin got a call from Vaughn, who apologized and told the kid to keep in touch when he got back in the country.

After a year of service in the Air Force, Goodwin returned to Seattle and Vaughn quickly added him to the company.

"I never did get to England," Goodwin said. "I got the job and went to work right away."

Goodwin worked steadily with the company for a short time before leaving with Vaughn for New Orleans early in 1966, where he earned membership in the Actor's Equity Association, the national actor's union. After a year in New Orleans, Vaughn matched Goodwin with an agent in New York City.

The agent, Sean Cistene, put Goodwin to work as soon as he got to New York in the spring of 1967. The fledgling actor's first TV gig was on Walt Disney's Wide World of Color.

"I never stopped to think if I was getting in easy or what was going on," Goodwin said.
"I just figured €˜that's the way it is.'"

Goodwin's career in the City from 1967 to 1992 was a steady rise from summer stock theatre to residences at repertory companies to off-Broadway and some Broadway productions and finally to television and film.

Since 1967, Goodwin has been engaged in what he calls the "agent dance." Since Cistene's retirement, the actor has had six or seven agents in his career.

"It's all part of it," Goodwin noted after struggling to remember his latest agent's name.
"These days I'm so far off the path being down here in Virginia that they're not working too hard for me. Every once in a while I'll get a call. They have nothing to lose by keeping me around."

Goodwin's first expedition to LA was in 1974. In six months, he had managed to grab one part, a small recurring role in the well-known series "Kojak," before returning to New York disillusioned.

Back in New York, Goodwin landed a recurring role on the popular soap opera "Another World." Though some actors scoff at the time they had to spend on soaps, Goodwin remembers his almost two-year stay on the show with satisfaction.

"Working on soaps is pretty exhausting," he said. "We shot those shows like it was live theatre. It was the first show of its kind to run for an hour and we were mostly Broadway actors working on this thing. It was a good bunch of people and we had fun with it."

Goodwin said that first experiences with television is the reason why he feels a course on the subject is so important and one that he is happy to teach at UR.

"I almost tossed my cookies the first time I saw myself on film because I thought I was so over-the-top," he said with a laugh. "So I really had to edit myself and sort of €˜earn while you learn.'"

Goodwin said that the show itself required so much rehearsal and work that most of the film actors quit, leaving only the Broadway actors, who were used to the pressures of a live show.

"We shared the tape machine for that show with the evening news," he said. "I think in about a half a year of taping the show we maybe stopped filming three or four times in that entire span. It was a great training school for me."

By 1978, Goodwin had begun to make LA a regular stop again. He landed a role on the new series "Strike Force," a police drama, in 1981. The show only lasted a year and afterward Goodwin found himself bouncing around roles in some of the famous 80's TV series such as "Remington Steele," "Magnum PI" and "Dynasty."

During his time in LA, Goodwin abandoned the stage. For six years, he devoted his energy to TV and some film before finally returning to New York in 1991 to a production of "Betrayal" at the Longwharf Theatre. The production received critical praise and renewed in Goodwin a love for live theatre.

After the show's six-month run ended, Goodwin got an offer from Theatre Virginia in Richmond to do the play "Other People's Money." Though Goodwin thought his stay in Richmond would last as long as the show's run, he immediately fell in love with the town.
After a year's residency at Theatre Virginia, Goodwin found himself without a job when the company was forced to close in 1992. Left without steady work, he relied on a "fair amount of film work" during the 90's that came through the area.

"I had always planned to go back to New York," he said. "But I kept getting these film roles around here and my wife and I just sort of settled in here."

After a few years of living and working in Richmond, Goodwin was contacted by the University of Richmond and was asked to take part in a pioneering program at the school.
Dr. Dorothy Holland, a retired actor now serving as an associate professor of theatre at UR, remembers her first encounter with Goodwin.

"I first met Michael in 1999 at a departmental meeting," she said. "That was my first year at UR so we both had that "new-guy" sensibility. I liked him immediately."
In addition to his affable personality and sharp sense of humor, Holland was impressed by Goodwin's intense professionalism and extensive talent.

Goodwin and another working actor, Irene Zeigler, were the first Equity artists in UR's history to assume residencies at the university. In 1999, the pilot program began with the two actors teaching courses in acting basics and performing in the school's productions of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" and "All My Sons."

"We were the guinea pigs," he said. "Me and Irene. That show ["Virginia Woolf"] ate us alive, man."

Holland remembered Goodwin's work that first year with admiration.

"He just nailed his role in "Virginia Woolf,"' she said. "That spring I directed "All My Sons" and Michael played the father. [He] brought such breadth and integrity."

Goodwin returned to UR three years ago and performed in "Gypsy" while teaching basics of acting and acting for the camera.

"I was thrilled to be able to teach that class," he said. "There's such a huge difference between the two mediums. In film, everything's scaled down and you really have to work off yourself and trust yourself."

Goodwin spoke passionately about the need for the course and how well UR students have received it both times he has taught it.

"The kids here really pitch in and make it a lot of fun," he said. "This issue certainly has to be addressed because two-thirds of the stuff you're going to go audition for is in TV and film. Stage has diminished greatly and I continue to be impressed by these kids' ability to jump in and switch gears like that."

UR junior Sean Hudock took the course this spring and starred alongside Goodwin in Amadeus as the title character.

"At first, I was very intimidated by him," Hudock said. "He was built up as this big-time actor and he has that voice. The first time we met, he congratulated me on my work in the production of "The Great Tennessee Monkey Trial" earlier in the semester and said that he was proud of me.

"That was when I realized what he was about. He is so nurturing of young artists and just so supportive. He challenges you to trust yourself and grow and I think every person in that class this year came away with a lot from him."

Goodwin's journey is in some ways the journey all actors must take and Goodwin is more than happy to give some hard-earned advice.

As for his own career, Goodwin doesn't have much planned at the moment.

"We'll see what becomes available for me," he said. "Even though you never retire in this business, I kind of see myself winding down a bit. Part of me wants to work my way back to New York and start building some credit with my agent again. Who knows?

"You get used to the lifestyle down here," he continued. "I mean, look at this spring we've got down here right now. The beat goes on. I preach to these kids about selling themselves and getting out there so I probably should follow my own advice."

Though the instability and pressure of life as an actor would scare most away, Goodwin seems to relish it.

"Like I tell these kids, if this is what you want, do whatever you can," he said. "That's the life of an actor."

Home sweet dorm

By Laurel Merkel 

Room 134 Thomas Hall, also labeled Suite 129, is a rowdy room. People are always going in and out. You can hear laughter and shouting coming from their windows at all times of the day. Posters of mountain landscapes decorate the cream walls, and sheets cover the couches. It is a typical dorm room, just a little bigger. But it would have to be€¦for the home of the Mayes family.

Had you ever wondered who the little children are that play around Whitehurst?

Or who gets the special "reserved" parking spots outside of Weinstein Hall?

Dr. Rick Mayes, a political science professor, and his wife Jennifer have been living in Thomas Hall for four years as part of a program on campus called the College Fellow Program. Their two sons – Tim, 5, and Ben, 2 – are part of the Mayes mix in the hall.

"Ben's a pure €˜Thomasite'," said Mayes. "He knows nothing else." Tim, the eldest child, was born in California while Mayes was teaching at Berkeley. Mayes graduated from the University of Richmond in 1991 and was an adjunct instructor here from 1999-2000.

Mayes said the family moved into Thomas because they "were broke. Berkeley was expensive."

Steve Bisese, the university's vice president for student development, said the College Fellow Program was designed to have Mayes be available for students and to plan programs.

"He's [Mayes] a great guy- students appreciate that," said Bisese. "He opens himself up outside of the classroom€¦everyone knows him."

And his children.

"They live right beneath me; you can hear them [the children] yell," said Phil Colon, a sophomore. Colon said, "It's a tease" when he can smell the Mayes' family cooking waft up through his windows on the second floor. Will Bradley, another sophomore who lives in Thomas Hall said, "I figure we must bother them more than they bother us."

Jennifer Mayes said they couldn't really hear people in the dorm. Rick Mayes agreed, and thinks their family must be the loudest group that lives there. Even so, there are perks for students. For example, Bradley said he enjoys playing with the kids' toys that get left out.

"It's been a terrific experience for them and for the students," said Dr. Catherine Bagwell, a psychology professor who co-teaches Mental Health and Policy with Mayes.

Bagwell met Mayes about four years ago, the summer that Mayes returned to Richmond.
She said that he is a "real engaged, smart, fun person" and that he has planned some wonderful events and built strong relationships.

"It's a win-win situation for everybody," Bagwell said.

Another colleague of Mayes is Dr. Jennifer Erkulwater, who was hired the same year as Mayes. Erkulwater said that Mayes called her up to say hello because he thought they might be colleagues.

"It was a sweet gesture," said Erkulwater, who later said that she found out that "that was typical of him."

"It's neat to have a professor like that€¦students are very lucky," she said.

A professor living in a college dorm is a good idea, according to Erkulwater. She thinks it is great for students to see that their professors are people, too.

"It allows professors to get to know their students and vice-versa," she said.

Besides getting to know students, another aspect that Mayes thinks is great is that he does not have to worry about maintenance, whereas Erkulwater will occasionally gripe about her roof leaking.

Mayes said that the minute they moved in, they loved it, especially his commute every morning (just across the road). Mayes said that he gets a lot of time with students and family. He just got back from a trip to Chicago with seven of his students. They were visiting and researching Hope Meadows, a world-famous foster care home, and Children’s Memorial Hospital. Mayes also holds book discussions in his home.

"This is what Jefferson wanted at UVA- to be close," he said. Oxford and other schools have similar systems, he said, where professors live the same way that their students do. He feels that he can teach better if he knows his students better.

"The campus is a really nice place for the kids," said Mayes.

The ease of finding a babysitter, the laundry facilities, the commute to work, and no maintenance worries: how many more perks could there possibly be? There are plenty more. The Mayes family knows when there will be scheduled fire alarms. They have air conditioning whenever they want it, free utilities, UR cable, a big kitchen with a table overlooking the bell tower, their own bathroom, and a coffee shop close to their home.

They are also surrounded by activity at all times. Mayes likes living in Thomas Hall, but said that it would be quite different if it were Gray Court, a freshman boys' dorm.

Mayes said it is funny to hear students on their cell phones. He sometimes can't believe all that is said. He also gets a kick out of the drunken students that come back from the row and other social events at night.

Change is coming, though, next year. Mayes said that five years is the maximum amount of time that they will stay.

"I can't live here forever, unfortunately," he said. "Five years€¦time to grow up."

Rugby is for women, too

By Mandy Sciacchitano

An old European saying claims that rugby is a "ruffian's sport played by gentlemen."

Well, it's time for the gentlemen to move over and share the spotlight with the women because women are redefining the boundaries of how the sport should be played. Rugby is increasingly gaining popularity as a sport for women, too, and, although many people don't know it, the women's rugby team at University of Richmond is swiftly breaking all of the stereotypes.

The first women's rugby team at Richmond started in the spring of 2003. That's when a group of freshman girls who met during sorority rush week and knew a lot of men's rugby players decided they wanted to try a different sport, said senior Liz Dunham, one of the team's original players.

Dunham said none of the girls knew how to play, but one of Richmond's men's rugby players helped them out.

"We had a student here from the guys' team that had too many concussions, so he was our coach," she said. "He taught us the fundamentals, but you can't really learn rugby through practice, so we had games and scrimmages and learned that way."

The game of rugby is like a combination of American football and soccer, except it is almost completely opposite. The "forwards," who are the offensive players in soccer, are actually the defensive players in rugby, and the "backs," who are the defensive players in soccer, play offense in rugby. More than that, there is one key difference: the ball can only be passed backward.

The field is called a pitch and the ball looks like a football, but fatter, junior Virginia Bunker said.

There are 15 people on the pitch for each team €” eight forwards and seven backs€”and the object of the game is to cross a line (like an end zone in football) and place the ball down to score. Where you place the ball down is where you kick for extra points, junior Kathryn Joyce, president of the women's rugby team, said.

Learning the game of rugby requires learning a new set of vocabulary words.

First, there's the "scrum," which takes place when there is a penalty or when the ball goes out of bounds, Bunker said. In the scrum, the 16 forwards (eight from each team) drive against one another and fight for the ball.

"You basically bind onto each other and bend down real low," Bunker said, "and the ref says €˜Hold. Engage.' and then you push against each other.

"The hooker tries to €˜hook' it with her foot, and you try to push it back with your feet to the scrum half so she can pick it up and get it out."

In addition to "scrum" and "pitch," another important rugby term is "ruck," which is what a team does when its player in possession of the ball is tackled by the other team.

"In order to gain possession again, you have to push against the other team where the ball has been down€”kind of like the line of scrimmage," junior Carrie Dyer said.

"Whoever wins the ruck will gain possession."

Neither male nor female rugby players wear any padding, so players have to be tough in the face of so much contact.

"Football players have it so easy compared to rugby players," said junior Kate Harmon, Bunker's roommate.

Bunker added, "In one of the games a girl fell on the ground and was bleeding from the head €¦ but she's OK now. Stuff like that is pretty common."

Rugby is a physically demanding game, but Joyce said that one of the common misconceptions is that people often get injured.

"It's just a violent game, and if you play it properly no one should get hurt," she said.

"It's aggressive and it's tough physically, but it's not like someone has to get
injured at every game. There's more to the game than just tackling people; there is skill involved."

The physical nature of the game and its male-dominated history leads to another stereotype that plagues the women's rugby team, especially on the Richmond campus.
"The stereotype is that rugby women are manly women €” butches," Bunker said.
"But our team is very feminine. We have a lot of small women."

The women who play rugby at UR are a lot shorter and smaller than the women on other teams. The average size of the team may have something to do with the type of students who attend Richmond.

"At Richmond the stereotype is to be as skinny as possible, which doesn't really help our chances when we go up against 300-pound girls," Joyce said.

But smaller means faster in the world of rugby and the Spiders have learned to use the size disparity to their advantage.

"We are a faster team," Joyce said, "whereas the other girls are bigger and can't run as fast for as long.

"We usually use our speed, quickness and running the ball . . . it works sometimes. During the fall semester we only lost two games."

Coach Rudy Miller, who has been with the team for two years, sees the average size of the team as a positive attribute.

"UR women don’t fit into the classic mold," he said in an e-mail response. "We are generally smaller than many teams, but the girls are faster and fitter than many teams."
Part of the reason that the rugby team is so stereotyped on campus may be because students just don't know a lot about the game. Rugby doesn't have as large of a following in the United States, partly because Americans grow up watching American football.

"It's just cultural differences," Dunham said. "It's what you grow up with. In high school here you don't have a rugby team, but in Europe you can play rugby in middle school, so I guess more people know about it."

According to USA Rugby Online, American football has its origins in rugby. As the popularity of rugby spread throughout North America, each region changed the rules to fit their style of play. Eventually two completely different games emerged: Canadian football and American football. Both resemble rugby, and to this day, some of the official rules derive from those of rugby.

Despite the strong connection to football, rugby is still so relatively unknown in
America that there are no professional teams, Miller said.

"Rugby is structured a lot like soccer," he said. "You have small clubs and large clubs and out of these, clubs players are selected to represent the U.S. internationally."

The first United States women's rugby team to compete internationally, The Eagles, was formed in 1987. It quickly launched itself onto the world circuit as a powerhouse, winning the first official World Cup in 1991. It finished second in the two subsequent World Cups, and the team's official website states that it "set the standard for international competition, leading an ensuing wave of women’s rugby growth and game development worldwide."

Hundreds of colleges nationwide currently boast a women's rugby team, but most are not at varsity level.

The Spiders women's rugby team plays in the Virginia Rugby Union (VRU), which includes school such as William and Mary, Mary Washington, Virginia Commonwealth University, Longwood, Radford and Virginia Tech€”all club teams.

The sport's national organization, USA Rugby, launched a program in 2003 called the USA Rugby College Commitment. According to the USA Rugby web site, the program has the aim of "improving the quality, image and awareness of college Rugby on campuses across America," and is assuming a leadership position at club-level college sports.

Although the program hasn't yet made it to Richmond, the team has launched a campaign to promote itself on campus.

Team members hold information sessions twice a semester for girls who are interested in playing but don't necessarily know what rugby is all about. Members also hang banners in the Commons advertising weekend home games and hang up fliers in the hallways and bathroom stalls all across campus. They also have a couple of fundraisers in the works for the upcoming semester.

"This semester we tried to do a Jello wrestling fundraiser," Joyce said, "and a lot of people heard about it and were going to come out, and that was exciting because it was a lot of people that probably hadn't heard about our team, but were going to come out anyway."

Currently, the biggest advertising asset the team has is word-of-mouth, which also serves to break many of the standing stereotypes about the kind of women who play rugby.

"If you are friends with people who play, you know it's not the stereotypical team," Bunker said. "But if you don't have friends, you'll think that it's just big girls out there beating up on other girls. It's hard to recruit with an image like that."

Through the team's advertising efforts, the Richmond student body is slowly learning more about and embracing the game of women's rugby.

"I think it is pretty well respected," Dyer said, "and I think people look at the girls' team as being pretty unique since rugby is a sport that is so synonymous with guys."

Miller thinks that the team has been gaining respect and popularity thanks to the "fun factor."

"These girls have a blast both on and off the field," he said. "Rugby is something everyone should try. Someone said to me once that rugby is like crack. I guess in some ways I agree. It is a very addictive game."

It must be very addictive if the UR women's rugby team, which doesn't hold tryouts and was non-existent just four years ago, has escalated to be one of the best teams in the conference.

"The girls started off having a general interest in the game and became one of the most competitive teams in their division," Miller said. "They are stronger, faster and are becoming real students of the game."

As a quote on the team's official website reads: “The only trophy we won that day was the blood and sweat we left on the pitch…. and it was enough.”