Taylor works to re-establish Utah rugby team's good name

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To the uninitiated, Austin Taylor looks as if he is holding on for dear life.

Taylor, who plays flanker for the University of Utah Rugby Football Club, tucks into the backside of the second row of the scrum waiting for the ball to be released. As a loose forward, it is his responsibility to look through the pack and be ready to lead his team in offense.

He is doing much more than scoring tries for the Utes — he's working to save the program.

"There are some incredible players at the U., and we're all ready to get back out there," he said. "We have a great team and can make a push for a championship."

The rugby club violated school policy with four players purchasing alcohol and other violations of the campus sports club manual in May 2012. The club's one-year suspension, starting in June 2012, was extended to three years when it failed to honor the conditions of the suspension by continuing to represent itself as members of the University of Utah.

Taylor, a Davis High graduate, knew that the club failed to honor the conditions of the probation and worked with school administrators to shorten the suspension. He felt it was important for the players to be associated with the University of Utah, so he started the due diligence to rebuild the trust and support of the school.

"We've always dealt with things in-house, but it wasn't going to fly with them," Taylor said. "We wanted to represent the U. and be a part of the school and not play as an independent."

The University of Utah will allow Taylor to start scheduling matches beginning Monday, with the understanding that the program is required to follow the club sports manual. He believes that the team will be refocused on the rugby pitch and in the classroom when it can begin competing again in 2014.

"All our guys are going to graduate," he said. "There is a common perception that rugby players are troublemakers, but that's not the case. We're carrying the highest GPA of any club sport."

Taylor decided on the University of Utah two years ago and tried to walk on with the Utes football program. He recognized that his playing time for the football team would be limited, so he made the transition to rugby. The contact sport fulfilled his needs to compete, and the traveling aspect of the club appealed to him.

"I figured I could go out and hit people with rugby throughout college as opposed to walk the sidelines," Taylor said. "It's been a perfect game for me. I've really enjoyed being on the team and representing the U."