By Alfonso De Falco
Every year in the spring, the St. Bonaventure University rugby team and alumni set up a weekend where current and past players come down to the school to participate in an alumni game to connect with past and current rugby players. The game this year will take place on Saturday, April 22 at 1 p.m. on the grass field behind the Reilly Center.
Clarence Picard ‘05, the current women’s rugby head coach and former player, said while the tradition started back in the late 1980s, the growth expanded in the spring of 2002.
“It really escalated in size and involvement after the September 11 terrorist attacks when Rob Peraza was killed. The first year after that, in spring 2002, was a very big event and that’s when the Gringo Cup trophy (nicknamed after Peraza) was given out,” Picard said. “His parents were there, so in the Gringo Cup, the first year it was given to the parents as ‘players of the match’.”
According to Picard, this event led to a rebirth of interest in the annual weekend.
“Sometimes tragic events bring people together and that was definitely the case for tough times and help supporting each other,” Picard said. “Especially with everyone around to support the guys from that mid-1990s group that played with Rob Peraza and went to school with him and were close with him.”
The event then officially became a tradition to support and carry on the legacy of Peraza.
“That’s when it really became the Rob Peraza Alumni Weekend with the Gringo Cup alumni match. It transitioned from just alumni fun to something with a little more meaning and a cause to get behind,” said Picard.
Once Picard became the men’s head coach, alongside fellow alumni Bob Sims and Mark Fitzgerald, he wanted to make sure that the tradition was carried on many years later.
“The three of us and others like Bruce Snyder and Brad Eastman wanted to re-create alumni weekend,” Picard said. “We wanted to transition to not only compete in a match, but to come back to get to know everyone and create strong relationships.”
The day will start off with a prayer service for Rob Peraza.
“I enjoy that a lot because I have a scholarship under Peraza’s name, and it is nice to stand around in a circle by the 9/11 memorial as a team,” said junior Joseph Vazquez.
Vazquez, at first, did not believe the game was that serious until he first stepped on the field against the alumni.
“My freshman year, I did not take it that seriously and the alumni destroyed us. I thought it was just a fun game but they took it very seriously and that was awesome,” Vazquez said. “It is cool to play against other guys that played here before.”
Picard said he believes this annual weekend is a great way for the younger players to connect with some of the alumni.
“I think it is just one of those unique things about St. Bonaventure and Bonaventure Rugby where people want to stay engaged and they are very interested,” Picard said. “Building those relationships and laying that foundation just creates a new atmosphere when new people join this fraternity and show how important this club is to those guys.”
Vazquez said he agreed that the tournament worked to connect and continue the bond between old and young players.
“I just think it is important to keep the traditions going. It shows where the club started and where it is going now,” Vazquez said.
Picard said he thinks that this is a great way to show what the alumni connection is all about.
“When you realize that you’re a part of something like this, I think it motivates you to work harder, and in the future you give back,” Picard said.