Updated June 7, 2014
HOUSTON - California head coach Jack Clark was inducted into the U.S. Rugby Hall of Fame on Saturday.
“I am very appreciative of the recognition,” Clark said. “I want to thank all the coaches and support staff who have so significantly contributed to this career as well as my opposition colleagues around the country and rugby world for their friendship and partnership in growing rugby. I am so appreciative of my old teammates and coaches for the game and teamship example they set. Mostly, I want to thank the players I have been blessed to coach.”
Exiting his 31st year as head coach of the Golden Bears, Clark has led the rugby program to 22 national collegiate titles in 15s and, in 2013 and '14, two collegiate 7s title in the Olympic version of rugby. His teams have produced 126 All-Americans, 36 players who have played for the U.S National Team, five players who have earned their Varsity Blue competing for Oxford against Cambridge as graduate students and three who have recently received residency contracts from the U.S. Olympic Committee. He ended the 2014 spring season with an all-time collegiate coaching record, all with Cal, of 577-74-5 (.879) in 15s and 65-13 (.833) in 7s.
“Jack Clark is very deserving of this recognition as he has been a loyal, devoted and tireless leader and educator who continues to make his University proud with the ongoing success, on and off the pitch, of the Cal varsity rugby program,” said Cal Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour. “His success has been unmatched in collegiate athletics, and his student-athletes carry the Cal rugby ethos that he instills to achieve greatness in their post-collegiate careers as vibrant contributors to the global community. His stewardship of the oldest intercollegiate sport on our campus has been unparalleled. We are extremely proud of coach Clark’s induction into the Hall of Fame and congratulate him on his past and future success and contribution to this proud community.”
“He is a master at his craft,” said Bob Driscoll, the Director of Athletics at Providence College who was Acting Director of Athletics at Cal in 2001. “I had the great opportunity to work with him for 15 years at Cal, watching his practices and games, and have always been inspired by his uncanny ability to lead his men and program to unprecedented success. His student-athletes have complete faith in his ability to get the most out of them and to win championships. Jack helps a player or coach discover their natural gifts so they can turn these gifts into greatness. He is the best coach I have ever worked with and, more importantly, he is an even better person.”
“He’s been my head coach, coach mentor and colleague for over 20 years and I, maybe as well as anybody, appreciate the amount of effort that he’s put in during his coaching career,” said coach Tom Billups, Clark’s assistant at Cal since 2000 after playing for him on the national team, after which Billups also helmed the USA Eagles and All-Americans as head coach. “He continues to lead and further build our University program while creating national competitions and developing rugby players.”
Said Brigham Young University national championship head coach David Smyth, whose Cougars have faced Clark’s Bears in the national collegiate championship title match eight of the past nine years, “When you look at individuals who are voted into halls of fame, they’ve usually long since retired. Not Jack. He’s still going strong, prowling the sidelines and willing his boys on to another victory. There have been a few times in my career where I wished he had retired. In all seriousness, he has set the standard for collegiate rugby. I don’t think anyone will ever get close to the number of titles he’s won with the Golden Bears. It’s a testament to his professional longevity that he’s achieved this honor whilst still coaching.”
Clark joined the Cal coaching staff in 1982 as an assistant to Ned Anderson and became the program’s sixth head coach in team history in 1984. Since that time, Clark’s Cal teams have achieved an impressive combined record of 34-1 against rugby powerhouses Army, Navy and Air Force in the 15-a-side game and won 14 of the last 17 “World Cup” series, including the past seven in a row, vs. University of British Columbia. The Bears under Clark went on a domestic winning streak of 98 games from 1990-96 and a 70-game tear that lasted until 2003. Cal then put together a winning streak over U.S. collegiate competition that lasted 115 matches between April 2004 and May 2009 and followed that with a streak in 15s of 63 straight matches that ran from opening day in 2010 through Feb. 18, 2012.
After a successful gridiron football and rugby career at Cal that was followed in 1978 with a professional contract with the Philadelphia Eagles of the NFL, Clark continued his rugby playing career with post-collegiate campaigns for the senior club national champion Old Blues RFC and the U.S. National Team, earning Most Valuable Player honors at the 1979 U.S. National Team Trials and Territorial Championships. Clark’s play as a U.S. international earned him a starting spot as a lock on the World Overseas XV team that played the Welsh National Team during its centennial celebration in Cardiff in 1980. An off-the-field injury ended Clark’s athletic career and he joined the Cal coaching staff two years later in 1982.
He is recognized as the founder of the U.S. Collegiate All-American Team, which he coached from 1985-1992. He was also head coach of the U.S. National Team from 1993-1999, during which time the United States won 16 international test matches, the most victories ever by a U.S. national team coach. As the General Manager of the national team while head coach and continuing in that role until 2003, Clark oversaw all aspects of USA Rugby’s flagship program. Throughout his entire tenure as GM he also handled the dual role of Business Development Director, successfully originating landmark broadcasting and sponsorship agreements which established the national team as a self-sufficient entity that contributed significantly to the national governing body, USA Rugby.
In a singular honor, Clark delivered the keynote address at the International Rugby Board’s Conference on the Game 1998. In 2000, he was chosen one of Cal’s Ten Most Influential Sports Figures of the 20th Century, joining legendary Cal Hall of Fame coaches Carrol “Ky” Ebright, Brutus Hamilton, Pete Newell and Lynn “Pappy” Waldorf on the honor roll. Clark was also the recipient in 2001 of the Craig Sweeney Award, which is bestowed to former U.S. internationals for their “significant contribution to the game.
An unprecedented series of events in 2002 saw Clark courted by the iconic English professional rugby club Bath to become its head coach and Director of Rugby. The Daily Telegraph and Western Daily Mail reported that “an offer was on the table,” followed by a report on erugbynews.com that quoted Bath general manager Bob Calleja stating, “Jack Clark is an impressive candidate for the director of rugby post and arguably, given his background, he may be a better prospect as a chief executive.” Clark ultimately declined Bath’s offer and recommitted to his University and American rugby.
“We are extremely happy and relieved to learn of Jack’s decision,” said Cal’s then-Director of Athletics Steve Gladstone in an April 2002 statement. “One of our highest priorities for Cal Athletics is to attract and retain the best coaches in the country, and Jack Clark certainly is a prime example.”
Two years earlier, another former Director of Athletics at Cal, John Kasser, was quoted in a campus article titled “Master Craftsman,” saying, “Jack Clark could coach any Cal team to a national championship, he just happens to coach rugby.”
Clark was centrally involved in rallying the Cal faithful to fund the construction of Witter Rugby Field and the Doc Hudson Rugby Fieldhouse in Strawberry Canyon. Most importantly, he has been instrumental in largely endowing the sport of rugby on campus at the University.
“Cal rugby is obviously where his heart is, but I know he was honored and very proud to represent his country on the field as a player and then later on as the national team coach and general manager,” coach Smyth said. “He’s a credit to his university and country. Many congratulations to him.”
“Like so many of my teammates, I am very grateful that he was our National Team coach. We always felt like we had a chance to compete and win based on the detailed level of his preparation and coaching,” added coach Billups. “On the national teams for which I was the head coach, we were the beneficiaries of coach Clark’s thought leadership and sports-business acumen. The many sponsorship contracts he engineered remain unprecedented within our national governing body. His business development accomplishments benefited all national teams, not just the team he was coaching. That should give you a sense of the breadth of his work.”
“It’s funny how the sport of rugby got a guy like coach Jack Clark, who was successful and could have had continued success in any field he chose,” offered Dan Lyle, the Executive Vice President for USA Sevens LLC who played for Clark on the national team during a playing career that included the professional ranks in the English Premiership at Bath, which he led to the European Cup championship in 1998. “On the flip side, it’s funny how the sport chooses you, and chose Jack. It is a bit of a renaissance tale in that administratively, in business acumen and off-field gains in rugby, there were many firsts in our sport by coach Clark, but these will always take a back seat to the young men and lives he has influenced greatly.”
In addition to his national-team and Cal coaching, Clark has also served as head coach of the All-Marine rugby team, which he led to the silver medal in 2006 at the Armed Forces Rugby Championship at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C.
Other fellow head coaches voiced their endorsement of Clark’s induction and gratitude for his achievements following the Hall of Fame announcement.
“It seems only right to me that he is going into the Hall of Fame. He’s the gold standard,” said Navy head coach Mike Flanagan, considered the dean of military academy rugby coaches. “The words ‘I can’t’ – they’re not in Jack Clark’s vocabulary. When he sees a problem, he finds a solution. He stays after it. He set a bar for Cal that was pretty high and he achieved it. He finds a way to get it done and as coaches we should all be taking those pages out of his book. He’s established a model that we need to use as coaches and administrators.”
“His career is extremely impressive in coaching circles across the globe and his influence is a tribute to that,” said UCLA head coach Scott Stewart, a former professional player and international for Canada. “To achieve what he did as a national team coach in North America is no easy thing to have done. He’s reached a level of success that everyone is trying to attain but it is so difficult to get there. Building these programs is very difficult and he’s done a fantastic job.”
Stewart echoed the sentiment of the countless players and coaches Clark has mentored, adding, “Without his help I would never have been able to learn as I have and I’m really grateful. He’s been extremely helpful from the beginning of my coaching career, vital to learning how to start and build a program. His influence on me has been tremendous as I have worked to become a coach and learn how to approach institutions. I’ve had an experience as a coach that is much like many of the players who played for him, because he’s helped me to point me in the right direction. It’s an ever-evolving education because he’s constantly trying to get better and grow rugby on a daily basis.”
With his entry into the U.S Rugby Hall of Fame, Clark joins former Golden Bears coach Miles “Doc” Hudson, who led the program from 1938-74; fellow Bear Colby “Babe” Slater, a two-time Olympic gold medalist; and seven other Cal players – Charles Tilden, James Winston, Matt Hazeltine, George Fish, Charles Meehan, George Dixon and Ed Graff – whose 1920 and 1924 USA Olympic gold-medal teams were previously inducted.
“Coach Clark is a born competitor who’s driven to succeed and he’s going to continue striving to the best of his ability,” coach Stewart continued. “He sets a great benchmark for everyone else because of the success that he’s had and the way that he has influenced and mentored so many people along the way.”
“It’s not an end of his career or his legacy. It’s another step,” added coach Flanagan. “We’ve all got a long way to go. He’s got a bigger mission. There’s more to be done for him and there’s always one more thing to do. We’re not on the national stage yet the way we should be, and I know coach Clark – he won’t rest until we’re there.”