By ALlyn freeman

Oddly, the first time the words “Brown University” and “rugby” appeared in the same sentence occurred in the The Times of London in January of 1959. In a sports article about the Dartmouth RFC tour of England in 1959, under the headline AMERICAN RUGBY STILL A GAME FOR PIONEERS, the final paragraph stated:

“At the beginning of the recent fall term at Brown University,

an American freshman who had spent all his school years at

a very good English public school, pondered a list of American

university rugby clubs. There was no club at Brown. He said, 

‘I shall have to start one.'”

His name was Bill Tingue, a former student at Cheltenham College, Gloucestershire, England, founded in 1841. Rugby School played Cheltenham in the 

the first inter-school rugby football match.

Tingue entered Brown in the Class of 1962.  It took two years for him to uncover two rugby-playing exchange students, Ian Tulloch (Rugby School) and John Tower. When he approached Brown’s Athletic Department, he learned that Dave Zucconi, Brown Class of 1955, a university Administration officer and former college football halfback, played rugger in the United Kingdom while serving in the US Air Force.

1960 – Spring 

In winter 1960, flyers appeared on campus announcing the formation of a rugby club. The founding group aired motion pictures of Test Matches. Every student interested had to purchase the illustrated pamphlet Why The Whistle Went – Notes on the Laws of Rugby Football by H.G. Ellis, an Oxford Blue and writer for Punch

The first match was away at M.I.T. where the Brown fifteen wore old freshman football jerseys. M.I.T. triumphed 9-3  Brown’s first ever rugby points came from Ian Tulloch’s penalty kick. The second contest was at home against Williams. No university pitch was available so the match was played on the Hope High School football field. Williams won 21-0.

The third match was away at Westchester RFC at Tibbits Brook Park in Yonkers. Brown appeared with Ian Coutts, a twice capped international for Scotland teaching in Providence at the Moses Brown School. Brown had to loan a player to an undermanned Westchester team. Westchester won 8-0. The borrowed Brown player boasted, “Brown lost…but I won

The final game of the year witnessed Brown’s first rugby victory, a 21-0 shutout of a visiting New York RFC B squad. The match was played on a campus field without goalposts. The school’s record that year was one win, and three losses. Brown became the seventh Ivy League college to form a rugby club. Bill Tingue had kept his promise.

1961 – That Championship Season

The next year in 1961, Zucconi assumed leadership of the rugby club. This resulted in three significant outcomes; successful recruitment of football players, an imported kit of authentic striped rugby jersey with matching striped socks, and, finally, the use of the multi-field Aldrich-Dexter Athletic complex near the main Brown campus.

The Eastern Rugby Union announced a three-division league of six teams each with an end of season playoff schedule to determine the ERU championship.  Brown was placed in Division II along with M.I.T., Harvard, Yale, Westchester, and Cornell. 

Ten new players, all with gridiron credentials, filled out the squad. The revitalized fifteen reeled off five shutout victories in a row, including a win against a New York B fifteen in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Next, came the playoff between Brown, Division II winner, and undefeated Villanova, victors of Division III. The match was held at Van Cortland Park, The Bronx. Brown won 6-5, ceding its first points of the season.

The ERU championship in Providence pitted undefeated Dartmouth, winners of Division I and Brown. The match ended in a 0-0 tie. (The details of the game appeared in a previous Free Jacks “The Rugby Report” article.) In only its second year of rugby, Brown had tied for a major championship.

The Glory Years

In the three-years of 1964, 1965, and 1966, Brown rugby achieved a 56-12 (82%) won/loss record, which included an 18-3 tally against four Ivy League colleges. Significantly, the final victory of 1966, a 16-6 win against Old Blue, ended the opponents’ ten-game win streak. In addition, the win gave Brown its second Eastern Rugby Union championship.

The 1966 spring season Brown rolled to a ten-match win streak, outscoring competitors 209 to 23. Other noted triumphs included winning the 1965 Bermuda Cup, the fifth annual 1966 Virginia Commonwealth trophy, and a victory in the inaugural 1966 Penn State Tournament. 

The 1967 season would see Brown contending at the highest level of American collegiate rugby. The XV competed against two Canadian sides, a match against Club Universidad de Buenos Aires, and a game against Clifton RFC of Bristol, England. Seeking to play top western clubs, Brown entered a team in the second Catalina (California) Tournament, the precursor of the famous Monterey Tournament.

Final Note

Linton “Jay” Fluck graduated Brown in 1965. He played for the club until 1969 when he helped start the Providence RFC. He served as Brown’s coach for many years and as long-time chief officer, which continues to this day. 

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