History of Rugby at Bowdoin
In 1969, an undergrad named John Philipsborn was kicked off the lacrosse team and with the encouragement of the Bowdoin College President Roger Howell, cobbled together a small
group of students and men from Portland, ME to learn about a sport that at the time was very foreign to most people at Bowdoin. This group informally existed for a couple years-
the first match was against Brown (lost) – but they did beat Dartmouth during the first season. After a few seasons, the Portland players split off to form the Portland Rugby Club.
By the mid 70’s rugby at Bowdoin had fizzled out when a student named Tom Gimbel (’76) started it anew. Tom recruited a group of players that formed the organization that we have
today. Tom recruited Bowdoin alumni such as Geoff Rusack and Peter Bernard during the mid-seventies era, and the club’s knowledge of rugby was sustained by visiting
professors and exchange students. Traditions were developed and passed down from class to class by upper classmen.
In the early 80’s, a visiting professor math professor named Rob Curtis helped the team for a few seasons under the leadership of Chris Messerly and Neil Moses.
Women’s rugby began in the early 1980s – encouragement and coaching provided by Bowdoin rugger David Weir.
In the mid-80’s, a local Maine resident named Brad Osborn informally helped coach the club. In 1985, a suspension rocked the team and Andy Palmer ‘88 and other players recruited Rick
Scala to start coaching and providing supervision per the request of then Bowdoin Athletic Director Sid Watson – Scala’s first season was the fall of 1986.
Bowdoin ruggers have been selected to represent the New England Rugby Union, the Northeast Rugby Union as well as the All-American Rugby Team. The team is known for its
strengths on the field as well as off. The Bowdoin Men’s Rugby Club won the John Hayes Award in 2007. The John Hayes Award is given annually to one team in the New England Rugby
Football Union for sportsmanship.
Coach Scala retired following the 2015 season; over 100 Bowdoin ruggers returned to campus to celebrate his career. Longtime assistant, international referee, and Colby grad Gary
Devoe joined as head coach in the 2016.
A 1979 student-made film chronicling the Bowdoin Rugby Football Club