It’s game on between several Kansas State University club sports and Fort Riley.
K-State administrators in military affairs and recreation services and Fort Riley officials recently established a sport-to-fort partnership that uses club sports at the university to further the connection between the campus and the post. As a result, soldiers and their families will attend club games to support the university teams and eventually even scrimmage and compete with university players in noncollegiate competitions.
The first partnership pairs the Kansas State/Fort Riley rugby football club with Fort Riley’s 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry. Rugby has a long lineage with the military.
The men’s rugby team will play its first season game at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, March 3, in Memorial Stadium against the University of Oklahoma. Through the partnership, roughly 100 soldiers, unit leaders and their families will attend the match to support the team. Additionally, the match will open with the 1-18 Infantry Battalion Honor Guard color guard presenting the national colors.
“Athletics is a great venue to get soldiers and their families who are not accustomed to a college campus to come over and interact with students, faculty and administrators of the university,” said Art DeGroat, the university’s director of military affairs. “It’s sort of an icebreaker to make them more welcome and more comfortable with the campus in order to help them discover all of the other things that K-State has to offer.”
As the year progresses additional Fort Riley units will be paired with other K-State club sports. Plans include partnerships with women’s rugby, soccer and lacrosse. A partnership with the in-line hockey club will begin following the remodel of the Chester E. Peters Recreation Complex.
The Kansas State/Fort Riley rugby football club was established in 1971 and included a partnership with Fort Riley. Over time, however, the club transitioned to more of a collegiate sport. The renewed emphasis with Fort Riley returns the club to its roots and renews opportunities for the military to become more involved with athletics and the university, DeGroat said.
“The soldiers say it’s a cool thing and want to be a part of the team and the university,” DeGroat said. “This partnership legitimizes that. They’re not just coming over and witnessing a collegiate activity. As partners with the athletics program, they’re part of a team and part of K-State.”
Future home games for men’s rugby team will be 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 6, against Wayne State, and 10 a.m. Saturday, March 10, against the University of Arkansas. Both will be in Memorial Stadium.