photograph courtesy of the Dickinson
College Archives This is an action photograph of a match the Rugby Club played during
1980. Rugby originated at Dickinson as a club sport in the late 1950s
and early 1960s, beginning as many other sports which eventually became
official varsity sports. There were a number of reasons, however,
why Rugby was not eventually recognized in this way.
One is that Rugby Football, languishing in the shadow of American Football,
is not and has never been affiliated with the National College Athletic
Association (NCAA). In addition, Dr. Les Poolman, the current Director
of Athletics at Dickinson College, states that Rugby has and will always
be a club sport, in the sense that the sport itself , and the culture that
surrounds it, is designed mainly for recreation rather than varsity competition.
Also, Dr. Poolman is of the personal opinion that Rugby will probably never
be a popular game on anything but the club level in the United States
because American society seems to have a very low tolerance for non-stop
Rugby, though, maintained a steady following on the Dickinson campus
for many years, helped along probably by the sport's infamous penchant
for celebration after hard-fought matches. But, in 1989, tragedy
struck the Dickinson Club when Mel Fahnstock, a sophomore, broke his neck
during a game and suffered permanent quadriplegic paralysis. On the neighboring
Gettysburg campus, during this same time, a player suffered cervical injuries
similar to Fahnstock's which he not survive.
Fahnstock's family eventually sued the College for negligence, specifically
in its failure to provide professional coaching. The College settled
the case but already by then, in 1992, Dickinson had considered the liabilities
involved and had decreed the end of the sport on the campus. All
efforts to revive the sport since have been turned aside.
Sources: Dr. Leslie Poolman, Director
of Athletics and Chair of the Physical Education Department, Dickinson
College Dr. Robert Shank, Head Trainer,