San Diego, CA (February 14, 2008) – The week of the USA Sevens started with a ball and ended with a bang for the United States Rugby Foundation. Well, actually it started with 16 balls as USRF representatives welcomed the 16 teams participating in this year’s USA Sevens at the team hotel and got every team to sign commemorative balls of the occasion.
On the Wednesday night prior to the tournament, those 16 teams took a break from their daily training sessions and joined San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders, San Diego County Supervisor Ron Roberts, San Diego International Sports Council Executive Director Joe Moeller, USRF Chairman Bob Watkins, USA Sevens LLC’s Jon Prusmack, Ray Peterson and Dan Lyle, the IRB’s Beth Coulter, hundreds of rugby supporters and media from around the globe at the 2008 USA Sevens Kickoff Reception hosted by the USRF.
The Kickoff Reception was held once again at one of the premier sports museums in the country, the San Diego Hall of Champions, and those present enjoyed food courtesy of the House of Blues and beverages donated by Steinlager, Hooker Wines and Coca Cola. After a short presentation, the locals had an opportunity to get some autographs or pose for a picture with their favorite players. The night ended with the raffle of the autographed balls and one boy, new to rugby, went home especially happy as he made a wise investment of his Christmas money and carried away balls signed by two of the teams.
While many who were in town a day before the USA Sevens were playing or watching rugby at the San Diego Invitational Tournament, a hearty group of 40 were at the Salt Creek Golf Club participating in the 1st Annual USRF 4-Player Scrumble. The weather couldn’t have been better, the course was in great shape and a grand time was had by all. While teams played under the conventional scramble rules, the unique Scrumble rule allowing for teams to grubber their way out of trouble proved a big hit for those who had trouble finding the fairway.
Each foursome had an opportunity to win a full set of TaylorMade clubs. All they had to do was have each member hit within a five foot diameter circle around the pin on one of the par 3s. Alas, no team was successful in that challenge but prizes were awarded for Men’s and Women’s Longest Drive and Closest to the Pin. There were also Hole in One contests on all four of the par 3 holes. The winning scorecard of -13 was turned in by Sean Allen, Dave Lawer, Kevin Casey and Wes Smidt.
The Trustees and Directors of the USRFF experienced a slight delay in getting to the first match on Saturday morning as they gathered for their first official board meeting of 2008. Twenty of the USRF’s 28 board members were present and as has been the custom of the board since the USRF was founded in 1963, each board member covered all of his own expenses in getting to San Diego and those incurred throughout the weekend.
Among the topics covered were the continued emphasis of support for youth and high school rugby; the resumption of the partial collegiate scholarships program; the recently published article about the USRF funded Online High School Injury Study and the inaugural Dennis Storer Memorial Coaching Award and the Alan Kitchener Memorial Referee’s Award. The resounding feeling as the board adjourned was the positive outlook for continued support for the amateur game in 2008.
After an enjoyable Day One of the tournament at PETCO Park nearly 100 guests joined up at the Omni Hotel at the USRF Recognition Dinner for one of the Founding Members of USA Rugby, Keith Seaber. Keith was joined at the head table by his lovely wife Doreen. Also at the head table were Dorothy Storer, who accepted the USRF’s Lifetime Achievement Award on behalf of her late husband and first USA National Team head coach, Dennis Storer, who was honored at last year’s recognition dinner.
There were many others present who played a role in the development of rugby in the US including Vic Hilarov, the United States of America Rugby Football Union’s first president. Others in the crowd whose signature was on the original USARFU Charter were Bob Watkins, Dick Smith and Terry Fleener.
There were many past Eagles in the crowd as well, including, Tom Selfridge, Bill Fraumann, Blane Warhurst, Mike Saunders, Dave Stephenson, Tony Flay, Mark Williams, Dan Lyle, Brian Vizard, Dan Wack, Doug Brown and Chip Howard. Past Canadian International and USRF Director Bob Kaplan was also present, as was the great Welsh and British Lions center Scott Gibbs. Current US player Tui Osborne, recovering from a broken wrist, also enjoyed the evening’s festivities.
The crowd on hand was also treated by an appearance from USA 7s coach, Al Caravelli. Al described the disappointing first three halves of the day against South Africa and England but also expressed the confidence he had in his team for Day Two. He got it right when he said the Eagles would handle Chile. He got it right again when he said his team would defeat France. He got it right a third time when he said the team would give everything they had in the final.
It was now time for the guest of honor and after a humorous introduction by his long time Midwest compatriot Vic Hilarov, the floor belonged to the evening’s honoree, Keith Seaber. True to his humble demeanor, Keith thanked all those who played such an important role in the sport in the US during those early days. He gave special recognition to Dennis Storer and Ray Cornbill who were both involved with the Eagles management during those first tests in 1976. He also paid special tribute to his wife of 56 years Doreen, for her unwavering support. Keith accepted his Lifetime Achievement Award to a deserving standing ovation.
The night concluded with a presentation about the past, present and future about the USRF and an auction of unique rugby memorabilia which helped raise funds for the Rugby Foundation’s existing youth and high school programs.
The USRF would like to thank it’s many sponsors and supporters of this week’s events:
Align Financial Group, Inc. American Flag Rugby The Arial Foundation
Bandar Boca Raton RFC Chicago Lions RFC
Coca Cola of San Diego Cox Communications Dan Larrea
Dick Stevens Dorothy Storer DoubleTree Golf Resort
Eastlake Country Club Ethan Lee Willis Godek Rugby and Soccer
Hands On Labor Hooker Wines House of Blues
International Rugby Board Joe Ford John Jelaco
Keith & Doreen Seaber Kerry Phillips Kibble & Prentice
Liz Goldenberg Mark Williams MediaZone Rugby
Milwaukee Brewers Baseball Club Morgan Run Resort Morris Rugby Corp. Mystic River Rugby Club Mystic Youth Rugby Numina Photography
The Old Blues Rugby Club OMBAC Rugby Omni Hotel
OPSB Rugby Football Club PETCO Rugby Imports
Rugby Magazine Salt Creek Golf Club S.D. Hall of Champions
Silich Construction Inc. Steinlager Sycuan Casino & Resort
Sylvan Advantage TaylorMade Tetra Tech
Tight 5 Rugby Tony and Terri Flay Tracy Peluso Union USA Classic Eagles USA Sevens LLC
All in all, it was a fantastic week and the United States Rugby Foundation is already looking forward to next year’s tournament