May 17, 2011
BERKELEY - Jack Clark, approaching the national collegiate championship in his 28th season as head rugby coach at the University of California, became the sixth coach to helm the program in its now-129-year history after the 1983 season, following two years as an assistant under Ned Anderson.
Clark became head coach after a successful football and rugby career at Cal that was followed by post-collegiate rugby campaigns on the U.S. National Team. Clark's play as a United States Eagle earned him a spot on the World XV team that played the Welsh National Team during its 1980 centennial celebration in Cardiff.
The Golden Bears beat Maryland at the end of Clark's second season as head coach to win the 1985 national title and have won 21 titles during his tenure, including five of the past six national collegiate championships and 18 of the last 20.
Clark has also served as head coach for the Collegiate All-America team, from 1985-92; head coach of the U.S. National Team, from 1993-99; and general manager for the national team, from 1993-2003.
Clark's Golden Bear rugby program has produced 121 All-Americans and 35 of Cal's 46 all-time U.S. international players. Altogether, they have made an astonishing total of 496 international test appearances for the U.S. National Team since 1976. Three of Clark's former players have also gone on to earn their "Blue" at Oxford University as graduate student-athletes. Additionally, Cal rugby has produced more overseas professional players than any other U.S. club.
One of 29 varsity sports under the authority of the Intercollegiate Athletics department, rugby is the oldest intercollegiate sport at the University, a financially self-sufficient and non-scholarship program. Its student-athletes earn their merits on and off the pitch, going on to make significant contributions as citizens of the world and loyal alumni to their University.
The success of rugby at California has flourished during Clark's coaching career thanks in large part to the tremendous support from alumni, administration, students, parents and sponsors who have ensured a permanent campus home for the team on Witter Rugby Field and in the adjacent Doc Hudson Fieldhouse, perched above campus and San Francisco Bay in beautiful Strawberry Canyon.
Having remained largely quiet on the media landscape during the 2011 season, coach Clark sits down for his first Q&A with CalBears.com since 2009 to offer his thoughts on a range of issues, from those that have affected the team on campus to others that concern everyone associated with American college rugby.
Cal Rugby Head Coaches
What are your overall impressions so far of Cal's rugby season?
What effects have you seen on the team from its obligation to play an all-away schedule in 2011 after losing Witter Rugby Field for all competition and a good degree of its training capabilities?
How has the new College Premier Division worked out in your view, and do you think the teams that qualified for the national postseason out of the CPD were the most deserving?
Certainly the CPD teams and their leadership proved that a competition of this type can occur. I am very proud of all these coaches and their teams for making this point.
With this said, it has been a far-from-perfect inaugural season. In my opinion, USA Rugby has been a poor custodian of the competition. They haven't performed much from a commercial standpoint and really haven't been good communicators. My sense is this can be corrected if USA Rugby is willing to work at it.
The teams need a bigger input into the management of the competition. The conference representative system which was put in place was perverted into a USA Rugby proxy, as opposed to a system where the teams could have input into the new competition they were financing. The obligation to 31 teams as partners is not a difficult assignment, but USA Rugby has made hard work of it. USA Rugby will need to understand its role and be responsible back to the teams or a different path will need to be explored.
After advancing through the quarterfinals and semifinals, Cal and BYU meet once again for the national collegiate championship. What are your thoughts on what will be the sixth straight meeting between the Bears and Cougars?
Cal carries a 7-1 all-time record against BYU into Saturday's contest. Does that series success give your team a measure of confidence?
Cal has won 12 of its 25 national collegiate championships outside the state of California, in states such as Iowa, Ohio, Colorado, Texas, Florida and Virginia. Does playing this final in Utah create a more difficult challenge?
On June 4-5, Cal will participate in a nationally televised sevens invitational tournament for the second year in a row. What is your view of the event, which is branded as a "Collegiate Rugby Championship" by USA Sevens LLC and NBC Sports?
University of California Chancellor Robert Birgeneau announced on Sept. 28 that rugby would be relegated out of Intercollegiate Athletics to a newly created and undefined "varsity club" status, while baseball, men's and women's gymnastics, and women's lacrosse would be eliminated after this season. Once rugby was reinstated to full intercollegiate status, sportswriter Mike Silver called your reaction and the mobilization that ensued following that announcement "the greatest Cal sports miracle since The Play and there's no way it happens without the tenacity, leadership and passion of someone like Jack Clark." How did you identify and maintain the course of action that led to the team's reinstatement less than four months later, with all five sports saved by May?
Have events caused by the relegation and reinstatement created lasting effects for the program?
We will get Witter Rugby Field back in January of 2013. We have made some improvements to the infrastructure of the complex in lighting, electrical power, water, field leveling and permanent scoreboards. We also have some further exciting plans in mind for the competition home of Cal rugby. Witter Rugby Field is an important aspect of rugby's commercial engine. We love that it is a boutique complex in such a natural setting. In my view, everything is to scale and stylish. It's our perfect home venue.
The Student-Athlete High Performance Center, on track to open at Cal in September, will include rugby among the teams that are domiciled there. How will this new resource affect the rugby program?
Cal is not going to be a match academically or financially for most of the best high school rugby players in the country. Therefore, we need to be proficient at developing to his full potential every student-athlete we are a match for.