It's that time of year when depression sets in for UT fans.
Football is still months away. The men's basketball team has made its annual exit from [insert name of worthless postseason tournament].
The Lady Vols are still playing, but really no one under the age of 45 cares.
So where are they to turn? Where are these orange clad heathens to go for their thrills?
There is baseball. Rod Delmonico has a squad gleaming with College World Series hope.
There is softball. The Weeklys are rolling through the season behind young ace Monica Abbott.
But there is one more option.
It's a UT team, but its not sanctioned by the athletics department.
Its players practice weekly, but aren't on scholarship for hard work.
The UT Men's Rugby Club has quietly had a strong season down at Fulton Bottoms Field off Cumberland Avenue.
The team went undefeated in the fall and has won its last four to qualify for the national tournament.
But that success has gone largely unnoticed in the UT community, according to club president Jason Gruner.
"We're probably the biggest club team, but most of our fans are high school students or locals," he said. "Crowd support is a huge factor for us, so getting recognition in the community is important."
This weekend, that may be more important than ever.
The rugby team faces the UNC club team on Saturday at noon for the South Championship.
Win or lose, the team will advance to face an opponent on the west coast.
"(UNC) is a bigger team that plays a more bruising style," Gruner said. "They play more with their forwards where we're a more even team.
"We think we can beat them with our backline."
If Gruner and the rest of the club-Vols win, the next opponent will be Purdue in California.
If they lose, a matchup with last season's national champion Air Force looms.
In either case, UT's team will face an opponent with the luxury of scholarships and university sponsorship.
"Rugby is much bigger on the Wes Coast," Gruner said. "We've tried to grow interest here, but that's difficult without a national following."
Men's soccer is the next sport slated to be picked up by the UT athletics department, so Gruner and his teammates will continue to pay 100 dollars a semester to play the sport they love.
But with time and a little support from the student body at Saturday's game, that task will seem much easier.
"We'll welcome everyone who will come (to the Bottoms)," Gruner said. "UNC is ranked 14th in the country, so we could use the help."
UT fans seem okay watching disappointments. Saturday offers students and Vol fans to watch a success.
Don't miss the chance.
- Glenn LaFollette is the sports editor of The Daily Beacon and a senior in broadcasting. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Best thing on campus: Rugby ready for UNC
Published: Fri Mar 26, 2004 | Modified: Sat Aug 06, 2005 05:59 p.m.