Paul Ganey, one of the more practical, persistent men in the long history of Southern California rugby, expired this past weekend.
Ganey helped found Loyola Marymount University's team in 1958 and went on to play for Los Angeles, a leading senior side in one of the country's stronger regions. But his lasting mark was made through many years of diligent regional administration.
He took up as president of Southern California just as American rugby began an era of off-field innovation that confused players and complicated volunteer work. Starting with the 1992 launch of USARFU's dues program, the next dozen or so years taxed the energy and common sense of local officials who often had to implement new initiatives without meaningful direction from the national body.
In addition to the Club and Individual Participation Program's initial lack of a central compliance mechanism, there was the dues-fueled growth but uncertain trajectory a national office headed by a succession of undistinguished executives, and the board of directors-led collapse of the senior Inter-Territorial Tournament, then the main conduit to the national team. All but lost in such turmoil was the territories' priority to manage everyday and championship competition, an imperative sometimes expressed by the saying that the game is for the players.
Ganey not only saw to it that games were played and champions crowned, but also faithfully carried the perspective to USARFU's board, where his views were authentically local without being narrowly provincial. Such voices have largely been muffled by the union's 2006 reorganization because the directors have evinced little organic understanding of America's domestic game, although Ganey and a few kindred spirits perserved in the congress.
Of course, Ganey himself played a pivotal role in another rivening moment, the fracturing of the old four-territory structure, as Southern California's 1995 split from the Pacific Coast preceded the more rambuctious dissolution of the Eastern territory into three. Why did the erstwhile local union do it? Particularly given the growing demands of CIPP, Ganey and his colleagues thought they could do a better job managing league competition and of course that perennial American bogey, player eligibility, than could a body responsible for a region from Seattle to Salt Lake to San Francisco to San Diego.
A contractor by profession, Ganey continued in Southern California's administration to the end and had been working on a history of American rugby.
Cheerful but not quite optimistic, skeptical but not really cynical, Ganey tried to see things for what they were and to make the best of them. It would hard to fete a figure whose career was occupied by bureaucratic currents. But for more than 50 years, Paul Ganey's intent was to clear the decks for players and teams to compete, and so it is fitting that Southern California's senior championship, the Ganey Cup, is named in his honor.