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Curt Huckaby steps down as rugby coach; son takes over successful club sport

Jan. 14, 2010 -- Curt Huckaby, a prominent attorney from Lake City who voluntarily resurrected the men’s rugby program from the ashes at Arkansas State University and
propelled it into national and international prominence, has stepped aside as head coach and turned the reins over to his son, Matt.  The change took effect Jan. 1. Huckaby said the change will provide time to concentrate on other endeavors and devote time to his new grandchildren.

             Matt Huckaby (left) takes over the men's rugby head-coaching reins from his father Curt

Matt, a two-time All-America rugby pick in 2000-01 and 2001-02 while playing for his dad, currently works at ASU in International Programs. Matt capped a stellar 2001-02 season, representing the United States Rugby Eagle squad in Argentina, Chile, Australia, New Zealand, China and Hong Kong. An open-side flanker, he was one of only two players selected from Division II rugby teams for the All-American squad that year. Although his father is stepping down as head coach, Matt is pleased that Curt will continue to assist the program in recruiting, player development, marketing, donor development and fundraising.

“I want to thank everyone who has ever been associated with the rugby program at ASU, including Dr. Les Wyatt, Dr. Robert Potts, Dr. Howard, Mike Gibson, the faculty, groundskeepers and assistant coaches,” said Curt. “All have played a vital role in our success. The community support has always been fantastic. Especially, I want to thank my wife, Vickie, for supporting and encouraging me in my coaching endeavors and my daughter Ashley and son Curtis. Finally, thanks to the young men I had the privilege to coach.”

Chancellor Potts expressed the university’s deep appreciation to Curt Huckaby for his devotion to the rugby team’s success.

 “Because of Curt’s dedication and hard work, Arkansas State University has enjoyed extensive positive exposure nationally and internationally for our rugby team’s achievements,” he said.  “We will always be appreciative to him for his efforts, and we are confident that Matt will continue to carry the program forward.”

The senior Huckaby served as the program’s only head coach for 14 years, all on a volunteer basis. He leaves with a record of 183-44-1, which includes a Division II record of 156-41 and a Division 1 mark of 27-3-1. His team successes include a Division II plate national championship in 2000, runner-up finishes in the Division II national championship in 2001, 2004 and 2006, Elite Eight finalist every season except one (2005) in the National Division II Championship. His teams are perennially ranked in the Top 25 collegiate teams across the nation.

In addition, he is currently one of only seven All-American selectors in the United States, served as head coach of the Mid-South rugby team for many years and as an assistant and head coach of the South Collegiate All-Star team. His other son Curtis also played for him and served as team captain for three years and was selected as honorable mention All-America.

“It is no secret that our success in Division I closely parallels Matt’s becoming the assistant head coach,” continued Curt. “Matt’s expertise has undoubtedly been the main ingredient for our success at the D-1 level. Although he is loaded with the most difficult spring schedule ever and only two seniors to lead the way, in the long run this move was a no-brainer for the continued success of the program.”

“I am humbled to have the opportunity to continue the success of the men’s rugby team,” said Matt.  “I have some big shoes to fill, but I relish the challenge of eventually bringing home a national championship.”

“Matt has been an outstanding employee in the ASU University College where he provided academic and other counseling to students to help them succeed and thrive academically, socially, culturally, and otherwise at ASU,” said Dr. Dan Howard, Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor at Arkansas State. ”A scholar of the sport of rugby, a former player with a positive national and international reputation, and an accomplished coach, Matt combines all of the attributes necessary to carry on the Huckaby legacy at ASU and to build upon it with grace and style.”

After a move to Division 1 two years ago, ASU won the South Collegiate Championships two years in a row, finishing 11th in the nation in 2008 and fourth last year. The Red Wolves’ only losses were to a pair of  nationally-ranked squads--San Diego State in 2008 and to LSU in the fall of 2009--and to eventual national champion Brigham Young in the Elite Eight last spring. Currently, Arkansas State is ranked 11th overall.

 “Curt Huckaby is a legend in college rugby and has been an ambassador of good will for ASU around the world,” said Mike Gibson, a member of Arkansas State’s Board of Trustees. “I personally know that many of our international students came to ASU only because of Curt Huckaby and his nationally-ranked rugby program.”

Arkansas State’s rugby program is classified as a club sport as the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) does not sponsor men’s rugby as an intercollegiate sport. The Red Wolves currently list 50 players on its roster, including approximately 15 international students.

“Many students outside the United States have been attracted to ASU to continue their interests in playing rugby while obtaining a high quality education at an affordable price,” said Dr. Howard. “With ASU’s commitment to globalization and the associated growth of the number of international students, the university has been able to develop a stable source of funding for the rugby team.

“Among other things, this means that neither legislative appropriations nor tuition paid by ASU students will be used to support the rugby team. This stable base funding will ensure, along with private support, that rugby has a long-term future at ASU.”

Dr. Howard expressed his thanks to Curt Huckaby for his “exceptional voluntary service” and extending “the best of luck and success” to Matt Huckaby.  

ASU officials followed an open public search in accordance with university policies and procedures before selecting Matt Huckaby. The coaching job will be one of his duties as an International Specialist in the Office of International Programs. The younger Huckaby holds both a baccalaureate degree and master’s degree from Arkansas State.

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