Paul Andrew, the animating spirit of America’s de facto national championship in the 1960s and early 1970s, this week expired of complications following a stroke.
Andrew, better known as ‘Boomer’, founded the Monterey National Rugby Tournament in 1959, the 30-year-old Olympic Club player having decided to act on the shortage of local competition. ‘There were only 9 teams in California and maybe 25 nationwide,’ he later told Sports Illustrated. ‘I was getting tired of playing the same teams week after week’.
The debut corresponded with the sport’s resurgence on college campuses and in big cities. Together with Steve Yost, Andrew persuaded teams to come to the out-of-the-way Monterey Peninsula. Soon it was seen as a gathering of the country's best, offering a shot at such powerhouses as Stanford and Santa Monica.
Monterey's success inspired comparable events in Aspen, Chicago, Saranac Lake, and elsewhere. None achieved the same aura of preeminence. Later, after USARFU’s 1975 founding, Collins Polo Field — the tournament’s home since 1971 — several times hosted the union’s new collegiate championship. After the 1990 edition, however, the nation’s oldest rugby event was jettisoned by the new Japanese owner of the Pebble Beach Company, a sign of the times.
Andrew, a Cal graduate and Marine Corps veteran of the Korean War, had since established himself as a San Francisco property manager and hotelier. He continued as a rugby entrepreneur, for example helping organize the 1992 USA-Hong Kong match at Keezar Stadium, a contest that prefigured the next decade of American international rugby.
Slowed in his later years by a first stroke, Andrew was from the amateur era of the mid-20th century, when all was to be done in the interest of the players, and so often not much done at all. He stood above it by providing teams with more and better competition, and thus takes his place in the history of the American rugby as one of the first, and few, men to deliver what athletes really want.
Last month, Canada lost its distinguished national team manager and referee coach Don Widden.