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How BYU Rugby has become BYU athletic's first dynasty

How does BYU Rugby keep finding its way to the mountaintop?

BYU and Cal scrum in the 2015 Varsity Cup.
BYU and Cal scrum in the 2015 Varsity Cup.
Keith Shirts/Vanquish The Foe

Earlier this month, BYU Rugby won its fourth straight Varsity Cup, marking its fifth National Championship overall. The rugby Cougars have taken home the ultimate prize five of the past seven seasons.

It is important to realize this remarkable achievement for BYU Rugby marks what could be considered the only dynasty in BYU's athletic history. This new territory for BYU took 140 years to find.

So, it is only natural to wonder, how did BYU's rugby team become the marquee program in the sport? How do they keep winning every season? How do they keep their fire to win the ultimate prize? Is this program doing anything different than the others at BYU?

"It is difficult." said BYU Rugby coach David Smyth. "We lose a lot of seniors this year, so the young boys coming through will be hungry to fill the shoes and that'll make it a little more workable. But when the boys become seniors and they have had a run like they've had, sometimes it is hard to motivate them. Sometimes they give the appearance that they aren't motivated but at the same time, they don't lose and they do whatever it takes to make sure they don't lose."

One of the words the BYU Rugby team often used describe why they are able to pull through difficult situations is 'brotherhood.' Brotherhood has been a key component to this dynasty.

Junior scrumhalf Luke Mocke described how brotherhood is found both on and more importantly off the field for this team. "About a month ago, our teammate Steve Saia's father passed away. Every single member of the team was at his dad's funeral. None of us knew his dad, but everyone was there.

"We sang a hymn and offered our condolences to the family. Yesterday (the day before the National Championship match), we found out that one of our player's father had gone through pancreatic cancer treatment and a operation, and there the coaches and players were to go to the hospital and help him out. That to me is what the brotherhood of the team means. Guys aren't just coming together for practices and games. We are there for each other off of the field. It means a lot."

Senior flanker and the 2015 Varsity Cup player of the game, Kyle Sumsion, added, "That's what a team is -- still unified off the field as well as on. A lot of guys helped out each other with school, making sure guys pass their classes."

While the current players stayed close and committed to each other, the team leans heavily on its alumni. The alumni are seen as vital components of the brotherhood.

"You know there is only 15 guys on the field," Sumsion stated, "but there is a lot more than that on the team. We have 50-plus. They come out. They aren't looking for recognition. They are looking for the team to get better. They push us. We don't get great games every day, every week, but we have great practices every day. We're playing against some of the top players in the country. They are helping us to get better. Those guys don't get recognized, but it is the heart and soul of our team."

It doesn't end there. BYU Rugby seeks to embrace the BYU fan community. Treated as integral to the mission and success of the program, the BYU Rugby program is in the business of acquiring crowds of passionate, smart, and devoted maniacs wearing white and blue.

"Credit to the BYU fans, I think we have the best fans in the country for sure," Sumsion said. "They have pride in the school and they like watching us win. We constantly want to add to the people who love and support BYU Rugby."

Luke Mocke added, "It would be easy for the opposition to say, 'Well, you had a home crowd. That helped out a lot.' To be fair, we'd have a home crowd wherever we go in the United States. I believe that and its a great and vital part of what we do."

While having great players forming a brotherhood, excellent relationships with alumni, and an engaged fan base is great, all of this can be undone unless there is great foundational support from the university's administration.

Coach Smyth addressed the administration's support of his team:

"Over the last seven or eight years, our administration has stepped up and supported us. They've always supported us, but it makes it a little easier when you win a few national championships. They do tend to pay a little more attention. So our department has really stepped up and helped us as far as getting facilities to be able to practice, supporting us in putting our best foot forward and doing our best to represent the university on the rugby field.

"The most important thing to our administration is that these young men graduate from college," Smyth continued. "So, when I see my superiors they say, 'Great job, fantastic, but are all the boys on track to graduate?' I think that keeps us fairly level-headed and our feet on the ground. Understanding that rugby is what we really enjoy to do, but as the same time that to keep getting those privileges and getting a little bit more we got to be making sure these young men are graduated and moving out into the world and becoming productive human beings. Even Sumsion."

Coach David Smyth is the man who ties it all together. Players, alumni, fans, and administration. Its more than fair to assume that Smyth and his coaching staff are steering the ship in the right direction. As BYU Rugby chases its fifth consecutive national title, it is clear the man in charge is the constant -- and not only is he one of the finest coaches in the college game, he may well be one of the best coaches BYU Athletics has ever seen.

This is a special moment in BYU sports history. May the dynasty never fall!