The US Rugby Foundation has announced seven inductees to the US Rugby Hall of Fame as part of the 2023 class, as well as the Foundation's special award recipients.
Save the date for the US Rugby Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, which will be held on Saturday, September 16, 2023, in Salt Lake City, Utah, the day before the USA Men’s Eagles take on Stade Toulousain. Registration and more details will be available soon.
2023 US Rugby Hall of Fame Inductees
Mike Flanagan began his rugby career at Towson University in 1978, which led him down the path to becoming a hall-of-fame coach. He began his coaching tenure in 1982 for the Towson State Women’s Rugby team, with other coaching stints at Loyola College and the United States Naval Academy. His accolades at Loyola College include Potomac Rugby Union Championships in 1988 and 1990. From there, he embarked on a 27-year career at the United States Naval Academy where he led the midshipmen to over 450 victories with a remarkable 80% winning percentage. Between 1991 to 2017, he coached Navy to 17 National Collegiate and Varsity Cup semi-final appearances and developed over 47 All-Americans. In 1994, Navy reached the national championship title game. Mike was highly involved at the administrative level, serving as a founding member of the Varsity Cup and the CRC Sevens which elevated the play of collegiate rugby on a national scale. He also was responsible for spearheading the development of the Prusmack Rugby Center at the United States Naval Academy.
From the island of Tonga to the United States, Roy Helu was a role model for the international rugby community. Beginning his rugby career at a young age, he played for the Pangai Rugby Club in Ha’apai, Tonga from 1966 to 1976, helping them reach a club championship title in 1975. His exceptional play led him to a spot on the Tonga U23 side in 1976, contributing to both test match wins against Fiji that year. After a stint in New Zealand, Helu made his way to the San Francisco Bay Area where he joined the Old Blues Rugby Club. Roy was selected to several representative sides in California including the Pelicans and the Grizzlies from 1982 to 1987. Helu’s standout play with the Grizzlies landed him a spot with the Eagles on both the 15s and 7s sides. He became the first Tongan to play for the USA Eagles which opened the door for many players of Tongan descent to come. From 1982 to 1987, he earned 14 caps and appeared in 34 games at center for the Eagles on tours against Canada, Australia, Argentina, Uruguay, and Japan. Helu was also a member of the inaugural 1987 USA Rugby World Cup team playing in matches against Australia and Japan. After the conclusion of his playing career, Helu transitioned to coaching He coached various youth, high school and men’s club teams, including the Danville Oaks Youth/High School Rugby Club, Serra High School Rugby and the Old Gaels.
In 1976, Bob Latham headed to Stanford University. An accomplished junior tennis player, Bob abandoned his racket, found rugby and quickly became an ace on the rugby pitch. Upon graduating from Stanford, Latham continued his academic and athletic career while attending law school at the University of Virginia and playing for the Virginia Rugby Club and the Infidels Rugby Club. Life would lead him to the state of Texas where he made an everlasting mark on the state's rugby community. From 1983 to 1996, Latham played for the Dallas Harlequins and served as the club president during the team's national final four appearances. He was a Texas Rugby Union select side player and cemented his legacy in the Texas Rugby Hall of Fame. A hallmarked rugby career was just the beginning for Latham, as some of his greatest achievements came in an administrative role, including championing the sport's presence in the Olympic Games. Not only did he manage a distinguished law career, but he also spent countless hours and years providing pro-bono legal work and representing USA Rugby in international meetings and events. A two-time Chairman of USA Rugby, Bob is the only American to have served on the World Rugby Council (formerly IRB), where he worked to get a seat for USA Rugby, and serves on the eleven-member Executive Board of World Rugby.
Dr. Julia McCoy
A self-proclaimed "B plus athlete, with an A side mind," Dr. Julia McCoy has made a profound impact on both men's and women's rugby in the U.S. The native of Jonesboro, Arkansas was a trailblazer for women in sports from a young age. She attended Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas earning Female Intramural Athlete of the Year honors in her junior and senior seasons. Her academic career would lead her to medical school at the University of Arkansas in 1989 and an internal medicine internship at the University of Memphis in 1990. She began her rugby career in 1991, playing alongside Eagle Krista McFarren for the New Orleans Halfmoons Club and helping lead the team to a nationally ranked third place finish in her first season. Her love for the game took off like wildfire and led her to notable coaching roles throughout the USA. She would become a two-time head coach of the Eagles Women's 7s team, coaching the squad to a semifinal appearance in the 2009 Rugby World Cup 7s. After her tenure in 2009, she served as a USA Rugby Board member, and set up a database that recruited crossover athletes (including 2016 Olympians Alev Kelter and Jessica Javelet). She was the founder and coach of the American Rugby Pro Training Center Women's 7s that represented the Texas Rugby Union and won the US Women's National 7s Club Championship title in 2015. Jules sent development players abroad from the USA pool to support the USA Women's 7s Program, some of whom are current USA WNT 7s players. ARPTC's high school residency program also boasted current U23 USA players in both 7s and 15s.
No matter the sport, Chris O'Brien's athleticism has always shined. As a placekicker for the San Diego State Aztecs from 1984 to 1985, O'Brien was a first-team All-Western Athletic Conference selection and still holds the record for the highest field goal percentage in SDSU history. For the SDSU Rugby Club, he was an All-American selection and led the backs and team to the Pacific Coast RFU playoffs in 1985. After the conclusion of his collegiate career, he signed free agent preseason contracts with the Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Jets. Chris graced the pitch for the USA Eagles from 1988 to 1994 at flyhalf. With the Eagles 15s squad Chris played 94 games earning 22 total caps. He participated in four Eagle 15s tours including starts against New Zealand and England in the 1991 Rugby World Cup. He simultaneously played for the Eagles 7s squad earning 72 total caps, playing in the 1993 Rugby World Cup and captained the Eagles 7s to the plate final in the 1994 Hong Kong 7s. His coaching resume is gaining as much notoriety as his playing career, having served among the coaching ranks at the University of California Berkeley and Stanford University, before blazing his own trail at Cal Poly.
A native of Brooklyn, New York, Mike Petri began his rugby career at 14 years old at Xavier High School, where he served as captain of the nationally ranked #3 high school rugby team. His decorated career includes captaining the USA National Team at the Under 19, Collegiate All- Americans, and senior Eagles levels. His former clubs include Philadelphia Whitemarsh, Penn State University, Belmont Shore, and his longtime home club, the New York Athletic Club. He played professionally in the Premiership in England, the Pro 12 in Wales, and in the USA with Major League Rugby. He has also played for the prestigious Barbarians international side. His career with the USA National Team spanned three Rugby World Cup tournaments between 2007 and 2015, amassing 57 test caps in 65 appearances. He currently is the most capped scrumhalf and backline player in USA Eagles history. He is also the author of the renown rugby children's book, R is for Rugby: An Alphabet Book, and continues to be involved in the game as a founder of several youth rugby programs, a coach, and a TV commentator.
Peter Watson has been instrumental in the success of USA Rugby Referees and the New England Rugby Referees Society and has shaped the game of rugby both nationally and in New England by coaching, assigning, and influencing areas within the referee and administrator space for decades. Peter refereed consistently from 1987 until 2005. The last six or more years of his officiating career were at the level of the National Panel, the highest domestic level attainable for a referee in the United States. These included overseeing matches in the Rugby Super League, the highest level of men’s club rugby in the US at that time, as well as top-tier collegiate matches. Most notably, he served as the Laws Chair for the Referee and Laws Committee at USA Rugby for nearly 20 years, as an IRB (later World Rugby) Educator and Trainer from 1995 and as a National Performance Reviewer and Referee Coach since 2006.
Dr. John Fowler
After traveling up the 405 freeway with his father to watch a UCLA rugby game as a high school student, it was only fate that John Fowler would appear on the pitch for the Bruins one day. John appeared at second row and flanker and was a member of UCLA tours to England and Wales. He was selected to the Los Angeles County, Southern California, and Pacific Coast representative sides during various seasons from 1975 to 1979. John continued his rugby career with the Santa Monica Rugby Club from 1980 to 1982 and the Cincinnati Wolfhounds from 1983 to 1986. John played for the Eagles 15s squad from 1980 to 1982, appearing in 27 games and earning 7 total caps. He was also a member of the Eagles 7s squad from 1981 to 1986 appearing in the Hong Kong 7s on five occasions. But John’s finest work was off the pitch. His entire Eagle career was played while he attended medical school at UCLA and completed his emergency medicine residency at the University of Cincinnati. John, his wife Dianne, and their six children lived in the Republic of Turkey for over 20 years. During his time there, he founded the Emergency Medical Association of Turkey, served as the Director of the Ephesus Emergency Medicine Training and Research Center, and was an advisor to Turkey’s Ministry of Health. In 1999, a powerful and devastating earthquake struck Turkey. Thanks to the education and training that John provided, he and his former trainees were uniquely qualified to lead and assist with the rescue efforts. John has authored many scholarly articles and spoken at numerous medical conferences.
As a native of New South Wales, Australia, rugby is in Dale Toohey's blood. Toohey made his mark on the collegiate rugby community in America serving as the Long Beach State University head coach from 1974 to 2003. While at Long Beach State, he garnered an 87% winning percentage, 15 Southern California Rugby Football Union championships, three Pacific Coast RFU championships, three national final four appearances, and developed 13 Collegiate All-Americans from these sides. He earned induction into the California State University, Long Beach Athletic Department Sports Hall of Fame. On the administrative level, Toohey was a member of the USA Rugby National Technical Committee for eight years and has represented USA Rugby and presented papers at the Asian Pacific Coaches conferences in New Zealand, Australia, Fiji and Canada. Dale was present at the infamous 1975 Chicago meeting when the USA Rugby Football Union was formed and was the first chairman of the National Collegiate Committee, establishing the first national championship in 1980.
About The US Rugby Hall of Fame
The mission of the US Rugby Hall of Fame and Museum is to celebrate the history, honor the heroes, inspire the youth, and preserve the legacy of rugby in the United States. Each year the Foundation inducts a worthy group of players, coaches, referees, administrators, journalists, medical professionals, and supporters who have had a major impact on the sport in America. It is a private, nonprofit institution created and operated by the United States Rugby Foundation. To learn more about the US Rugby Hall of Fame visit usrugbyfoundation.org/hall-of-fame.