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Coaching Change at UT Rugby

UTRugbyTeamAustin, TX – January 14, 2013 – At the end of the 2012-2013 season and after three years as XVs Head Coach of the University of Texas Men’s Rugby Club, Butch Neuenschwander will hand the reigns to Chris Hopps. Jacob Liberman will remain the UT Rugby 7s Head Coach.

Outside of rugby, Commander Butch Neuenschwander, USN, is the Executive Officer of the Naval ROTC program at the University of Texas. His tour of duty is a little over a year away from completion. At that time, the Navy can transfer Cmdr Neuenschwander wherever he is most needed. Butch says he would not feel right leaving the club searching for quality coaching at the last minute. Stepping down after the season ends allows him to assist with the transition.

In addition to the impending transfer, Butch cites two other reasons for his decision to step down. He has been identified as having promise as a referee and he has discovered an experienced, suitable, and exciting replacement.

Chris Hopps was born to coach rugby. Chris grew up on the sidelines of Scioto Valley as his father, Middleton Hopps, played, refereed, and coached rugby in Ohio for more than 40 years. Chris has qualified as a USA Level 2 Coach and a USA Level 1 Referee.

Chris started his rugby career by founding the high school team in Delaware, OH. He continued playing at Bowling Green State University (BGSU) as a tighthead prop under Roger Mazzarella. Chris started coaching full time at BGSU in 2000. BGSU had long been a regional power, but the Falcons enjoyed a peak period during Chris’ tenure. BGSU qualified for the National Round of 16 four consecutive times and made three consecutive Midwest finals from 2000 to 2006.

In 2006, Hopps moved back to Central Ohio and coached a series of All Star teams including the Midwest U-17 Boys, Midwest Senior Women, Midwest U-19 Girls, Ohio Collegiate Women’s All Stars, Ohio All State Team, and the Ohio State Women’s rugby team.  In addition, Chris was the founder and first Executive Director of Rugby Ohio overseeing operations and planning for the budding and, now, nation-leading State Based Rugby Organization (SBRO).

In 2007, Hopps was chosen to participate in the USA Rugby Elite Coach Development Program. The US Men’s National Team afforded him the opportunity to work with the Eagles coaching staff for all domestic assemblies prior to the 2007 World Cup – a tremendous and pivotal learning experience.

As a referee, Butch Neuenschwander’s immediate goal is obtaining a C1 certification. This will require him to referee many more high-level matches than he would if he was coaching full-time. Butch begins this journey as an Assistant Referee at the IRB’s Women’s Sevens World Series in Houston, TX on February 1-2.

Additionally, Butch thinks the refereeing situation in the US is at a critical point and states, “We need to have qualified referees as ARs in every cup match at every level in this country. I know, big wish, but I have seen momentum change because of a poor or missed call by an AR. So on that note, another goal of mine is to recruit more referees.” Expect his warm smile and his endearing brand of cajolery convincing you to take up the whistle, and soon!

When asked about his vision for UT Rugby, Coach Hopps states, “The goals will remain the same – to enable and catalyze the growth of the young men in the program, as players, leaders and men. Inside that my job will be to optimize and improve on the systems that Butch put in place.” With “fantastic support”, “great” student-athletes, and the energy inherent to Texas rugby, Hopps sees the rise of UT Rugby as “no accident.”

UT Rugby was 1-10 the season before Neuenschwander’s arrival. He brought in 7s Specialist, Jacob Liberman. Together they have steered the club to two College 7s National Championship Tournaments, one D-1AA Round of 16, and, this year, a third straight trip to Philadelphia, PA for the College Rugby Championship Tournament.

What is his key to success? “All the credit goes to the players.” he says, “They wanted to better themselves and I was lucky enough to be there when they needed help. I can honestly say that we’ve never had a bad practice. The boys come focused and ready to learn every time.” Clearly, attitude is everything.

About the University of Texas Men’s Rugby Club:
The University of Texas Men’s Rugby Club is a sanctioned member of the Allied Rugby Conference (D-1A), the Southwest Rugby Conference (D-1AA), the Texas Rugby Union, and USA Rugby. Additionally they are members of the UT Sports Club Association and are sanctioned by and in good standing with the University of Texas at Austin. The Longhorns kick off their spring season with a SWC match against crosstown rivals St. Edward’s University on January 26.

Grant Cole
Twitter: @Nviktor1