Sunday, May 19, 2024

Morgan retires after 46 years with rugby

Head Coach Sean Morgan celebrated his last TnT and Plattsburgh rugby game as head coach with a win on April 20.

 

By Michael Purtell

The longest tenured coach at SUNY Plattsburgh, rugby coach Sean Morgan, is hanging up his whistle.

Morgan celebrated his last Tony and Trevor rugby tournament as coach on the Plattsburgh State rugby pitch Saturday, April 20. The tournament is the crown jewel of Plattsburgh State rugby, with alumni making trips from all over to participate in the revelry. Morgan ended his last one on the sweetest note possible: taking home the championship in front of the biggest crowd in a while.

“For me, it’s a good way to walk out of there,” Morgan said.

Morgan has been involved with the team since 1978. When he first became coach, he said it was simply because he “was the only guy there (at the rugby club) who knew rugby.”

At the time, Morgan had only 20 games of rugby experience. Now, he’s coached a team which has finished third in the country in sevens against Division I competition.

Morgan’s greatest secret to success on the field has been his enthusiasm, said Noah Lederman, volunteer assistant coach and former player.

“Last year we were at a tournament out in Oswego and it was in the 30s, freezing cold and raining. No one wanted to be there, except for Sean Morgan,” Lederman said. “We won the tournament, and the only reason is because he wanted to be there. His energy keeps people around.”

Morgan’s passion has helped the club succeed off the pitch as well. Alumni find themselves wanting to stay around after graduation because of him. His long career with the Cardinals helps bridge the old and the new, Plattsburgh rugby alum Wayne Carter said.

This support is most visible at the TnT tournament, where alumni flock to support the Cardinals and play some rugby themselves, as the tournament includes teams representing the Cardinals of yesteryear.

 


By Collin Bolebruch

Morgan breaks a huddle after winning the TnT title April 20.

 

Alumni contributions are particularly beneficial to rugby, as its club status means funding from donations and community support goes further than it would for Plattsburgh State’s NCAA programs. 

Without that support, it’s likely that Plattsburgh’s rugby club would’ve had to dissolve during the pandemic. If not temporarily such as programs at other SUNYAC schools like Potsdam, then permanently, Carter said.

“He is the heartbeat of Plattsburgh State Rugby,” Carter said. “Without him, none of this would be here.”

Morgan, humbly, claims all he did was make a Facebook page, another way he’d helped the team evolve over the years.

“We used to use email, but now we’ve got people on our account posting photos from 20 to 30 years ago, and even that has helped,” Morgan said. “Now when we’re in season we post where we’re playing before we go play because alumni do show up.”

Morgan’s life has been all about rugby for a long time. He’s been a player, a coach and a referee for the sport. His wife still plays and did so with the alumni team at TnT — although he made her promise that her appearance in the tournament would be her last — and he plans on continuing to stay involved in the program despite his retirement from coaching.

Stepping down from the coaching position is bittersweet for Morgan. He will miss being so close to the team but looks forward to not having to commute from Saranac Lake every day for practice, he said.

Retirement will allow Morgan to spend more time with his three grandkids, and he looks forward to the birth of his fourth.

Morgan will be succeeded as coach by Lederman, who Morgan cited as one of Plattsburgh Rugby’s “best players in recent memory.”  

Lederman said following in Morgan’s footsteps is an honor because of the impact he’s left on the lives of the players. His influence as coach will continue through Lederman.

“His stories, his character, it’s just infectious,” Lederman said. “He makes you fall in love with the sport. He makes you fall in love with the program.”

 

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