Terry O'Reilly: The Destruction of Cal's Witter Rugby Field Is a Pledge Broken by the University

Former Rugby player, Terry O'Reilly, will initiate formal request for information.

Was the destruction of Witter Rugby Field, privately funded and dedicated to Rugby, the real reason for the demotion of Rugby at UC Berkeley?

Oct 12, 2010, 19:24 ET from Terry O'Reilly

SAN MATEO, Calif., Oct. 12 /PRNewswire/ -- Terry O'Reilly, a former Rugby player for Cal, has initiated a formal request for information concerning the demolition of the Witter Rugby Field as part of the demotion of Rugby as a varsity sport at UC Berkeley. O'Reilly also is a long-time and major supporter of the Cal Rugby team, one the first varsity teams at Cal and the most successful and storied college sports program in the entire nation. The Rugby team has been the winner of 25 national championships in the past 31 years, including this year, and placed 11 players on the current All-American team. The team has had winning streaks of 98 and 70 consecutive wins in recent years.

According to O'Reilly, "The Witter Rugby Field, a $2 million facility built in 1995, was privately funded by 14 members of the distinguished Witter family, who all played Rugby at Cal. This playing field, dedicated in perpetuity for Cal Rugby, was recently torn up without anyone in the Rugby 'family' being notified about it, even our great coach, Jack Clark."

Rugby cannot be played on synthetic surfaces and the Athletic Department has not offered any grass field to replace Witter Rugby Field. This means that the best team in the country will have to play all away seasons for years to come. The staggering expense would mean that the University would lose huge sums on Rugby—unless, of course, Rugby was quickly demoted to club status.

O'Reilly notes, "Rugby was challenged to be fully self-sustaining in the 1980s in return for continued varsity status. We raised that money when we built Witter Rugby Field. Now, we make over $300,000 every year for the University, so demoting Rugby makes no financial sense. In fact, one result of demotion is that Witter funds are no longer available."

Vice Chancellor Frank Yeary has denied that Title IX was a factor. Chancellor Robert Birgenau has refused to respond to any inquiry.

"In the end, no matter how one looks at it, this was an ugly land grab and the Chancellor just hopes Rugby will quietly blow away. That isn't going to happen. Not ever," says O'Reilly.

O'Reilly Collins is a San Mateo-based trial law firm and has an international record of success.

Note to editors: This is a brief history of Rugby at Cal from Wikipedia

Rugby began play at Cal in 1882 and continued until 1886, when it was ditched in favor of American Football. Rugby would make a return in 1906 after football was deemed too dangerous to play. From 1906 to 1914, Cal Rugby garnered a respectable 78-21-10 record. 1914, however, saw the return of football and Cal would not field a Rugby team for almost 20 years. In 1931, Rugby returned under alumnus Ed Graff. It was during this time that Cal began to compete for the World Cup, which is awarded to the winner of the annual series between Cal and the University of British Columbia.

1938 began the era of Miles "Doc" Hudson, who guided the Bears for 37 years and an incredible record of 339-84-23. His successor would be Ned Anderson, an alumnus and former rugger for the Bears.

National collegiate championships for Rugby began in 1980 and Cal has been utterly dominant, winning 25 titles (runners-up once) out of a possible 31. Under Anderson, Cal reeled off four consecutive titles from 1980 to 1983. Current head coach and Cal alumnus Jack Clark took over the team in 1984, and has achieved even more prolonged success.

In September 2010, the university announced that rugby would be one of five varsity sports cut as a cost-cutting measure. However, the team will continue to represent the university as a varsity club sport, which has yet to be defined by the university administration. A large group of rugby supporters have organized and dispute the relegation. www.savecalrugby.com.

SOURCE Terry O'Reilly