Fifty years of Fairfield graduates returned to campus on Saturday, reminiscing about and celebrating the only thing they all hold in common: Fairfield rugby.
At Grauert Field, the Fairfield University Men’s Rugby and Friends of Fairfield Rugby held their 50th Reunion Celebration this past weekend, with events held throughout the weekend.
“It’s an unbelievable event because this is the largest gathering of alumni connected with a particular sport in Fairfield’s history,” said Dr. Kurt Schlichting ‘70, a sociology/anthropology professor at Fairfield who played rugby during his four years at Fairfield, and helped put together the event. “It’s quite an accomplishment.”
The festivities started on Friday afternoon, when current members of the team and former players got together for some career networking, where they could discuss their industries and professions, and what opportunities they had to offer.
“It’s just terrific. We had a team of alumni who volunteered to put this together and we met for the first time a year ago,” said Schlichting. “Everybody’s contributed, and you can’t have a major event like this with one or two people—you need a team of people.”
Saturday kicked off with a few alumni games for the returning players, where they could suit up and play once more on the field they once competed on as collegiate athletes.
Just before noon, ceremonies were held on the field to honor and thank all those who had set up the event and played for Fairfield rugby, which is the oldest club sport at Fairfield. Among the tributes was one for Lt. Hans Grauert, who was killed in Vietnam. Chris Grauert, the brother of Hans who played rugby for Fairfield and graduated in 1968, spoke at the ceremony.
“It feels terrific to see guys I haven’t seen in forty years, to meet guys I had only heard of … to remember the guys who we knew and played with who are no longer with us, to have them recognized and celebrated, it’s really a little difficult to describe,” said Bill Connolly Jr. ’69, a rugby alum who co-chaired the event with Dr. Schlichting. “It’s wonderful.”
Connolly Jr. said that there is a special feeling among everyone involved in rugby that comes from the battles they face together on and off the pitch.
“We did a lot of stuff for ourselves in the beginning, and that sort of just created the camaraderie that is different,” said Connolly Jr. “If you didn’t have your buddy’s back, or you weren’t his friend and you didn’t really enjoy spending time with him, you could not have been part of it, and I think that’s why we’re so close today.”
The day concluded with a special gala on Bellarmine lawn for all the returning and current players, with special guests and presentations.
As for the game itself, the Red Ruggers wish it had gone as well as all the rest of the day’s events. Marist struck first with a try 25 minutes into the first half, putting them up 5-0. Fairfield would dominate most of the next 50 minutes of the match, scoring in the 37th minute to tie the game at 5, and then getting a converted try just three minutes later, putting the Red Ruggers up 12-5 going into halftime.
Fairfield would extend its lead to 17-5 in the second half, their largest lead of the match. But Marist refused to go away, as their try in the 71st minute cut the lead to just seven with nine minutes remaining. After a few Fairfield substitutions, Marist continued to attack and in the final minute, they took the ball away from Fairfield on the five-meter line and dove for the try to bring Marist within two.
Marist had to have a successful conversion in order to tie the game, and even with the large crowd of a few hundred people doing all they could to distract the Marist player, he put it right between the uprights to end the game at 17 apiece.
“Marist is a good team, they just took advantage of us being lazy,” said Euroy Smith ’14. “We played a hell of a 75 minutes, we just got lazy at the end.”
Despite not getting the result they were hoping for, Smith said playing in front of the large crowd was something very special.
“I absolutely loved it. I had a couple guys on the sideline yelling my name, telling me to give them a hug on the sideline,” said Smith. “It’s great that all these guys are out here, shows how much they care.”
The outcome didn’t dampen the mood of those in the crowd either, as most were too caught up catching up with old friends to get down about the score.
“These people have been my friends for 40 years. It really is beyond the game,” said Schlichting. “Even if you don’t see somebody for a period of time, you just connect and smile. Some guy came by and said, ‘How’s it goin’ Kurt?’, and I know who he is. That’s fun.”