Rugby East Conference Joins National Collegiate Rugby

National Collegiate Rugby has announced that the Rugby East Conference will join its men’s competition in 2021.

Rugby East is one of the premier Division 1 rugby conferences in the nation and consistently produces nationally ranked teams. The conference has a long and proud history in collegiate rugby and has recently grown to include Navy.

Tui Osborne, Head Coach of St. Bonaventure and Assistant Commissioner of Rugby East said, “We are impressed with NCR’s vision and membership focused approach. NCR provides a platform for the Rugby East Conference to remain unified and continue a meaningful conference competition in a manner that supports all our member teams.”

The conference includes the following six schools:

  • U.S. Military Academy
  • Kutztown University
  • U.S. Naval Academy
  • Notre Dame College
  • Penn State University
  • St. Bonaventure University

Commenting on the new partnership, NCR CEO Jeremy Treece said “We are pleased to add Rugby East and further strengthen NCR’s premier level competition. Rugby East has a legacy of producing high quality student-athletes both on and off the pitch, and brings a strong culture of sportsmanship that we seek in all NCR members.”

Heading into the 2020-21 season, NCR expanded it’s championship offerings and has grown to over 600 schools. With the addition of Rugby East, NCR further extends it’s premier championship programs in both 15s and 7s, which already include conferences such as The Liberty, Chesapeake and Mid-Atlantic.

NCR’s seasonal Fall 15s and Spring 7s approach will enable Rugby East teams to now complete their Fall 15s season with a Fall championship that they have not been able to previously pursue. “We’re happy that our members can conclude the Fall with a proper Championship experience. Furthermore, we’re pleased that NCR supports any of our teams who may choose to additionally pursue a 15s pathway in the Spring along with other parts of the country.” added Osborne.

Consistent with health guidelines and university policies, NCR has suspended all Fall competitions. NCR continues to work closely with its conference leaders to determine an appropriate return-to-play timeline. If the pandemic conditions improve, NCR stands ready to offer an abbreviated 15s slate and full 7s competition this coming Spring

Gift Egbelu appointed as Men’s Growth & Development Coordinator

National Collegiate Rugby has appointed Gift Egbelu as the Men’s Growth & Development Coordinator effective October 1.

In this new position, Gift will assist new and emerging clubs, build the profile of rugby with collegiate communities, and grow the number of men’s teams across all divisions. Gift reports to Men’s Director Steve Hiatt.

Commenting on Gift’s appointment, CEO Jeremy Treece said “The sport of rugby has tremendous growth potential and we will be increasing our focus on development for both men and women. Gift will play an important role in accelerating the growth of men’s collegiate rugby and helping our teams reach their full potential.”

Gift has been an active participant in rugby for the last seven years. As both the founder of the rugby media website, GiftTime Rugby Network, as well as the continuously evolving event, the HBCU Rugby Classic, Gift has worked to open new paths for people to enjoy and discover rugby. His journey has led to him live broadcasting countless collegiate rugby matches, MLR team match ups, all-star, and championship games.

Gift’s rugby career kicked off in Baton Rouge, when he learned about the Baton Rouge RFC shortly after graduating from college. Almost a decade later, he has played with multiple rugby teams, including the Japan-based team, the Tokyo Gaijin, who he’s been playing with in tournaments throughout Southeast Asia and Japan.

“Rugby has the chance to connect with the spectators in a way like never before. I am looking forward to working with the NCR rugby programs, helping them achieve new levels of recognition and connection with their communities” said Gift.

National Collegiate Rugby Announces New Officers

Earlier this week, National Collegiate Rugby announced new officers on the board of directors:

  • President: Rafael Zahralddin

  • Vice President: Jayme Pendergast

  • Treasurer:  Kyle Smith

  • Secretary: Brett Anker

With the exception of Kyle Smith, who will continue in the role of Treasurer, each of the appointees is a first-term officer on the NCR board.

Full board bios are available on

“I am honored to be appointed President of the NCR Board. Steve Cohen is a very tough act to follow, but I am surrounded by committed board members, officers, and a high quality executive team. I am especially looking forward to closely working with our new Vice President and CEO.  Despite the challenges that collegiate sports face, NCR is well positioned for the future and stands ready to help our member conferences, colleges, and universities put players on the rugby field when it is safe for them” said Rafael Zahralddin.

These are the first officer appointments since NSCRO became National Collegiate Rugby. Under the NCR brand, the organization has seen tremendous growth and now serves nearly 600 teams across multiple men’s and women’s divisions.

Steve Cohen, the Founder and outgoing President of NCR, will continue to work with the Board as an Adviser. Commenting on his new role, Steve added “The NCR organization is stronger than ever, and it’s an appropriate time for me to add value to collegiate rugby in new ways. Although I am no longer involved in the day-to-day running of NCR, I will be an active member of the rugby community and look forward to working with the new board of directors.”

While Steven Hiatt is stepping down from his role as Vice President, he will continue to serve on the board and in the role of Director of Men’s Rugby.

The two-year terms are effective immediately.

Virtual Season

Fall Programs

National Collegiate Rugby Appoints New Members to Its Board of Directors

Pictured above are Anton Forbes-Roberts (upper left), Kevin Houseknecht (upper right), Bill Kelly (lower left), Jenn Stratton (lower right)



Marlton. NJ 

The National Collegiate Rugby Organization has recently appointed four new members to its Board of Directors: Jenn Stratton, Bill Kelly, Kevin Houseknecht and Anton Forbes-Roberts. A Nominating Committee reviewed multiple candidates from an open application process and these four were approved by the current Board of Directors.

NCR Board President and CEO, Steve Cohen, remarked that “I am very pleased that these outstanding individuals with diverse backgrounds will be joining our Organization. They are all accomplished professionals bringing different skill sets with a strong desire to improve college rugby in this country.”

Jenn Stratton
Jenn is a versatile and strategic health care professional who uses her diverse skill set to guide and manage projects, research, communications, and analysis. With over 10 years of rugby administration experience, Jenn’s background enables her to make contributions in a variety of ways. She brings an elevated club experience at Penn State as well as her knowledge gained in her work in the East Penn RU in understanding the underlying issues of under-resourced clubs through her work at EPRU.

Currently working in Medicaid financing, Jenn has served as an administrator for a home health and hospice organization. In this role, she led the agency in its planning, development and administration of the organization. Simultaneously, Jenn was President of the Eastern Pennsylvania Rugby Union (EPRU), working with the NSCRO men’s and women’s teams within the region, and applying the same principles professionally as she did in her volunteer role leading the EPRU. Jenn continues to play with the Harrisburg Women’s Rugby Football Club in the Central PA area and is a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR).

“I’m excited to join the NCR board and to do what I can to contribute to the growth of collegiate rugby throughout the country. While rugby has faced quite a few struggles recently, I know that the ethos of this game will allow for us to collectively see it succeed – and it’s that culture that makes my passion for the game so strong. There is great opportunity right now for clubs to evolve with their campuses and to develop creative ways to still bring rugby to the masses. I’m looking forward to supporting clubs in this new role and seeing it continue to grow.”

Bill Kelly
Bill was introduced to rugby while attending Xavier High School in New York City, where he played under Mike Tolkin, Bruce McLane and Pat Cusanelli.  Bill would later go on to serve as a member of Xavier’s advancement committee and serve for 6 years in a fiduciary role on the school’s Board of Trustees. Bill attended St. Bonaventure University where he helped lead the men’s program to their first of several NY State Championships and would go on to represent the NY State All Star team and the Eastern Rugby Union (ERU) select side.

After graduating, Bill was instrumental in helping to elevate the status of men’s and women’s rugby at his alma mater. He is the co-founder of the Robert David Peraza Scholarship, a needs-based scholarship named after a fallen teammate who was killed during the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center that is awarded to rugby players at St. Bonaventure.

Bill and his family are also active participants in raising funds for pediatric cancer research at St. Baldrick’s Foundation which he credits for saving the life of his youngest daughter who is a neuroblastoma survivor. Bill is a 25-year veteran in the financial services industry, most recently serving as a Managing Director at Chiron Investment Management. Bill graduated from St. Bonaventure University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science holds his Series 7 and Series 63 FINRA securities licenses.

“I am excited to join the NCR board of directors and help set the benchmark for men’s and women’s collegiate rugby competition in the USA. We have a lot to do and I look forward to getting started and seeing our mission through. I am honored to be in a position to make a real difference for the future of men’s and women’s collegiate rugby.”

Kevin Houseknecht
Kevin joined the National Senior Games Association as their Director of Marketing and Sponsorships in 2019. In this role, Kevin works with national brands on their marketing plans and sponsorship integrations within the NSGA. In addition, Kevin works with each host city and Local Organizing Committee on their corporate partnership structure for The Games.

Before landing at the NSGA, Kevin was the Events Manager at the Gainesville Sports Commission in Gainesville. Kevin oversaw multiple aspects of all hosted sporting events, which included developing a budget, event management, sponsor fulfillment, and creating reports for the Board of Directors and Alachua County Government Officials.

Kevin has worked at multiple local and nationally recognize organizations such as IRONMAN, Saint Leo University, United Soccer Leagues, and Saddlebrook Preparatory School. Kevin also holds an MBA in Sports Business from Saint Leo University and a Bachelor of Science in Sports Management from Waynesburg University. With over 10 years in the sports industry, Kevin is going to bring valuable experience and knowledge to National Collegiate Rugby.

“I am extremely excited to be joining the Board of Directors at NCR and to help with the continued growth of the sport. I welcome the opportunity to bring my talents and skills to NCR and the sport of rugby. I’ve watched NCR grow from NSCRO to where they are today and am eager to help continue building upon the values that this organization has instilled throughout the sport.

Anton Forbes-Roberts
A Vancouver BC native, Anton played rugby as one of several sports in high school. His modest efforts at outside center and back helped his Carson Graham Eagles win two city championships. He did not come back to the game as a player until joining pickup practices with Chiba University during a stint in Japan in the mid-1990s. It was not until 2013, having lived in the US for many years and recently moved to Atlanta, that he again became meaningfully involved with the sport again through a small neighborhood group called Atlanta Youth Rugby (AYR). Anton signed up his two boys, joined as a coach and a Board member, helped organize and recruit members, and took the reins of the club in 2015.

Since that time AYR has grown from 35 local kids to serving over 3000 in 12 neighborhoods, with over 45% identifying as female; 85% identifying as ethnic minorities, and 80% from underserved neighborhoods. Its founding partnership with Life U has grown to include not just student-athlete coaches but Board representation and professional experience with internships. MLR’s RugbyATL has become another key partner, along with Penn Mutual and Northside Hospital for the AYR-developed the SafePlay program.

Anton was elected President of Rugby Georgia for a 2-year term in 2016, serving its members with best practices leadership in strategy and operations as well as strengthening its balance sheet.

Anton has also held many volunteer leadership positions in the Boy Scouts of America; and served as a volunteer coach and Rec Board member for InterAtlanta FC. He has also coached youth baseball, flag football and tennis.

In his professional life, Anton holds an MBA and has been an executive at several Fortune 500 companies; a nonprofit executive and advisor; as well as pursuing a parallel entrepreneurial path of tech and property investment since the early 2000s.

“As an NCR Board member, I plan to support its strong leadership in college rugby, help NCR build bridges to youth clubs, and build the membership value proposition for NCR constituents.”