COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – National Intercollegiate Rugby Association (NIRA) Commissioner Amy Rusert announced Guilford College as the league's 20th member Thursday. The Quakers will start competition in the fall of 2020.
NIRA is the top governing body of women's college rugby in the United States and was founded in 2018. Comprised largely of private schools in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, NIRA administers scheduling for league members and sponsors divisional championships each fall.
"NIRA and our entire membership are thrilled to welcome Guilford's women's rugby team as the newest Division III member in 2020," Rusert said. "Guilford and Queens University of Charlotte are catalysts in expanding NIRA's footprint in the Southeast where we anticipate continued growth and expansion."
The league features three groups aligned according to NCAA divisional membership. Guilford becomes the seventh member of NIRA's Division III and first from the South region. The Quakers join Colby-Sawyer College, Bowdoin College, Norwich University, the University of New England, and New England College in NIRA's Division III.
"We are honored by the invitation to join with other institutions committed to excellence in the emerging sport of women's rugby," said Guilford President Jane Fernandes. "Spirited competition with exceptional colleges and universities is part of our effort to deliver the very best experience for Guilford's student-athletes."
"Guilford's NIRA membership demonstrates a commitment to providing a top-flight collegiate rugby experience," Quakers' head coach Emily Record said. "NIRA means legitimacy, a better quality of competition against like-minded institutions, consistent coaching, and access to facilities."
Guilford becomes NIRA's second member from North Carolina, joining Queens, which competes in the league's Division II.
The Quakers will participate in two round-robin tournaments for sevens this spring, including one at Queens April 5. Guilford begins spring practice March 2 and concludes the non-traditional spring season by hosting an April 19 competition.
Women's rugby was added as Guilford's 21st varsity sport in June 2019 and Record was hired the following August. The team started training last fall with practice three times a week and weightlifting twice a week.