The late Dr. Robert Fleet, former rugby club coach, player and SFA professor, will be inducted into the Texas Rugby Union Hall of Fame at the organization’s 50th annual conference in early November. The SFA Rugby Football Club Alumni plan to unveil a memorial plaque in Dr. Fleet’s honor at the Student Recreation Center Oct. 9. This is also the day of the 41st Rugby Alumni Game, which will be held at 2 p.m. at the SFA rugby field.
“Rugby’s been here since before we had a [Campus Recreation Center],” director of campus recreation Ken Morton said. “And Dr. Fleet was instrumental in starting rugby here at SFA and keeping it going.”
During his time at SFA, Dr. Fleet operated as a research associate in forestry, assistant professor of biology and lecturer in mathematics and statistics, as well as serving as coach for the rugby team.
“When I was introduced to rugby, my first practice, I was immediately hooked,” SFA rugby alumnus John Streeter said. “But there was a huge learning curve. That’s one thing Coach Fleet really did an outstanding job of: teaching the basics to people that were fairly good athletes, but just didn’t have any understanding of the game because they’d never had any experience with it until they came to SFA.”
Dr. Fleet advocated for rugby clubs outside of typical metropolitan locations. He founded the Eastern Counties Division of the Texas Rugby Union.
“He was a very intellectual person,” Streeter said. “He always taught us that the most important part of the rugby player is the top three inches. He wanted us to be intelligent about the way we played. He would give you his opinion, but I think he made us all better for it.”
Dr. Fleet passed away in 2017. The SFA rugby team is still active, with practices every Tuesday and Thursday on the rugby field, and the Rugby Alumni continue to support the program. The Alumni offer one $500 scholarship annually to a team member; they plan to add another $500 scholarship in the spring of 2022 in Dr. Fleet’s name.
“We want to support the current team in both a mentoring capacity and in a financial capacity,” Streeter said. “Rugby is more than just a sport; it’s more of an extended family.”
The alumni game will be between the current SFA student team and a team of SFA Rugby Alumni. Not once, according to Streeter, has the student team beaten the alumni team.
“There’ve been some close games, but we’ve never lost,” Streeter said. “I’ve been on both ends of that deal. I’ve been a student and lost four years in a row, and I’ve been an [alumnus] and gotten to have the victory ever since. It’s more about getting together, fellowship, catching up and doing whatever we can to promote the current club and making sure they have what they need to be successful.”