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Notre Dame club rugby honors alumni

| Monday, September 26, 2016

Notre Dame Rugby defeated Dayton in a pair of contests Friday night while celebrating its Alumni Weekend.

“It was a picture perfect night,” senior captain Patrick McMahon said. “The first team beat the Flyers 41-19 in the main event, and the reverse team put in a dominant performance in a 36-9 win to cap off the evening.”

Before the game’s kickoff, the alumni reunion for former rugby players was held in a tent near Stepan Center.

“We [had] a big alumni reunion for former rugby players before the game with the University of Dayton. There are guys graduating as far back as in the 60s, or guys [who] graduated last year,” McMahon said.

This reunion was a chance for the rugby alumni to get back together and meet with the younger players, McMahon said.

Ken Stinson, a 1964 Notre Dame graduate and former rugby player, helped organize this reunion.

“This is the second official rugby alumni reunion, but we are trying to make it become an annual event,” Stinson said. “It’s football weekend, and people are already coming a long way here. So why not get together on a Friday night to watch a rugby match?”

Stinson played on the very first rugby team at Notre Dame.

“[The rugby team] was started by Bob Mier in 1961,” Stinson said. “He was the guy who made it all happen. We played interhall football together, and when he asked if we wanted to play rugby, we all laughed and said ‘What’s rugby?’”

Stinson said rugby became an integral part of his Notre Dame experience.

“Not just merely playing it mattered, but we built strong teamwork, we raised money, and my best friends from Notre Dame were also my rugby mates,” Stinson said.

Phil Calandra, Notre Dame class of 1974, said the Notre Dame rugby team is a group that “makes the impossible possible.”

“I grew up in Buffalo, New York. I had a friend who played rugby at Cornell University. In the spring of my senior year, my friend and I worked together to bring both teams to Buffalo to have a match. It seemed so crazy that we even got lots of local TV coverage,” Calandra said.

The team bonds with each other not only in the sense of the sport but also through various its service to the larger community, McMahon said.

“One of the coolest thing we do every year is that we play with the University of Arizona, and we raise money through the Ara Parseghian Medical Research Foundation for Niemann-Pick Disease Type C, a disease that … Parseghian’s grandchildren passed away from,” McMahon said. “Every year, this event is always bigger than just the game but a chance for our team to also contribute to the world in our own way.”

Calandra said rugby had a major impact on his life well beyond his time on the Notre Dame club team.

“Rugby has meant a lot to me,” Calandra said. “All over the world, there always are people playing rugby. And as a businessman, I see rugby as a global network.”

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