Last December, Cheyney University announced that it would suspend football as a varsity sport, citing cost-cutting needs. In February, the school announced plans to launch rugby as a club sport for men and women at the embattled HBCU.
From USA Rugby:
The President of Cheyney University, Aaron Walton, was excited about the prospect of seeing a rugby team at the University. “The introduction of Rugby to the school/students would be an excellent idea.”
What’s most difficult about this announcement is that Cheyney has seemingly thought through a plan to finance, build awareness for and launch a program in a sport that will yield little-to-no funding for the institution, for a student body suffering from low numbers and in a state which has no prevailing interest in the sport.
It is excellent that a Cheyney U alumnus wants to think out of the box in introducing a sport to the university which aligns them with other predominantly white institutions in the state system of higher education. It’s excellent that the school is looking for ways to generate positive press, even as it works to stave off accreditation loss or closure.
But it is not something which will save the school. And in the months since Cheyney received an accreditation show cause, there’s been no shortage of coverage of the school’s troubles, but no announcement of a major gift or fundraising initiative at the university.
Rugby is less than a tease at Cheyney. It’s not even a distraction; its something that creates questions about what exactly is going on with one of America’s treasured HBCUs, and why no one seems to be in any particular or public rush to save it?