Yes folks, it's time for another BYU Rugby Forever 'Interview of the Week' ... however, this go 'round presents a special treat: an extended look into the future of the BYU Rugby Program as dictated by Cougar Rugby Foundation President Aaron Webber. (hi5.com photo)
BYU Rugby Forever: If you could, tell us BYU Rugby fans about your history and involvement, your connection to the team in the past and how that figures into your current role as the Cougar Rugby Foundation President.
Aaron Webber: My history as relates to BYU Rugby, I mean, it's history and it's history that's relevant ... I played for BYU in '89-'90 ... I think those were the years, back in the days when Vern Heperi was coach. Very different program from what it is now but just as fun, just as good a sport, just as engaging in terms of the nature of the sport ... and then lose track as you get into life and move away and do other things. But I was from New Zealand and was living in New Zealand for the last portion of the intervening period, and so rugby's a passion down there; it's a religion. So you always keep track of the sport, always try to keep track of BYU and BYU Rugby during that same time period.
Then we moved back here to the US about thirteen years ago, just began to get more involved from a spectator perspective in the sport, watched its progress. Then probably about four or five years ago, began to get a lot more involved on an alumni basis, on a 'writing-a-check' basis ... going to the games. My boys were getting older, and they wanted to start to look at playing rugby. They were junior-high/high-school age, and so we got involved at that level. And then obviously you want to introduce them to the next level along which was BYU.
And so we went to the games and became passionate supporters as a family of BYU Rugby. And then I was just asked two months ago or so to take the role as president; I must confess I didn't immediately jump at it ... not that I wasn't prepared to do it or didn't want to help. But I just wanted to make sure that I was qualified to do what needed to be done and that I had the time and energy to do what was required of me in doing that role. They twisted my arm and so here I am.
BYU Rugby Forever: Great, great; glad to hear it. As far as your professional background, how has that all factored in? I mean, obviously that was a factor in having them ask you to help out the team; could you describe a little bit of your professional background and what that means for the Cougar Rugby Foundation?
Aaron Webber: By way of professional background, most of it's been in business. My undergraduate degree from BYU was in finance and economics. I've just completed, actually, a graduate master's level degree from the University of Chicago in business, in behavioral economics. Most of my life has been in sort of a corporate world, working my way up through the food chain there, culminating in the corporate side in doing a management buyout. We bought the company I was working for from its European parent, sought to turn it around, get it going, did so, and then managed to reduce my investment in that. And now I basically run my own private equity fund looking to invest in companies doing startups, turnarounds, growth-stage investments, those sorts of things.
So, you know, it's been an interesting marketplace the last couple of years ... but ambiguity and interestingness speaks to opportunity in my opinion. And same thing for BYU Rugby, I mean, we have a great opportunity ahead of us. We've made that national-championship leap; we've achieved it. Now we've got to turn the team and a national-championship team into a national-championship-caliber program; and that isn't a coaching thing, that isn't a player thing ... that's a behind-the-scenes, Cougar-Rugby-Foundation thing. We've got to give the coaches the time and the attention, or allow them to have the time and the attention, they need to have to do what they need to do.
I look at what Justin, and David, and Kimball, and Wayne, and these guys have been doing ... I mean, they're husbands, fathers, church members, running a business, and coaching a team, all of which are full-time jobs. And as well as coaching, doing all the off-the-field stuff: the fundraising, the logistics, the marketing ... it boggles my mind how much workload they've had, even as relates just to BYU Rugby, let alone business and family and personal and church.
So I see our role in helping build that national-championship-level program as taking a lot of that off-the-field drama and distraction away from them. And that's where I think my background can be helpful. There is bringing some systems, some process, some money to bear where the coaches have to worry about, "Okay, if we make the playoffs, how do we afford to get there?" ... you just have to worry about making the playoffs and then doing the best possible job at the playoffs, knowing that other people who are semi-qualified or qualified are working on the challenge of the logistics, the funding, and those sorts of things.
Editor's note: This piece is the first part of a three-part, extended interview originally audio-recorded by BYU Rugby Forever on 3 March, 2010, in Provo, Utah.
Due to the seventeen-and-a-half-minute length of the recording, it has been transcribed and separated into three sections for readability and presentation purposes.
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