The Milwaukee Barbarians Athletic Club is a sports organization in Wisconsin, USA that promotes and competes in the sport of rugby union. They compete in USA Rugby Men's Division 1 and Division 3.
The Barbarians or 'Babas' formed in 2012 through a strategic partnership between Milwaukee RFC and the Milwaukee West Side Harlequins RFC, both of whom have storied rugby histories and rich traditions in the Milwaukee area and across the Midwest.
Name, logo and crest
The Barbarians name was selected as this is a globally recognized name in the rugby community that represents teams created from two or more existing organizations.
The Barbarians logo contains two symbols: the gear, a callback to Milwaukee's rich manufacturing history as showcased on the city's flag, and a barbarian-style hammer. The official color of the logo is cornfield blue (HEX #5381ac, PMS 646). The logo is used as the primary brand mark for the Milwaukee Barbarians as it can easily be recognized from a distance and clearly reproduced at any size.
In addition to the logo, the Barbarians also have an official crest. The crest contains a number of elements:
- The Fleur-de-lis in the top-right corner is a symbol of Milwaukee's French heritage and is pulled from the MRFC crest in honor of Milwaukee RFC.
- The jester hat in the bottom-right represents the Westside Harlequins and their well-known mascot.
- MMXII in the top-left is 2012 in Roman numerals - the historic year our club was established.
- The bottom-left is a rugby ball.
- The stalks of barley on either side of the shield symbolize Milwaukee's brewing history.
In 2018, the club elected new board members:
- Ben Nirschl, President
- Todd Chini, Club Secretary
- Joe Grams, Member At Large
2017 was a year of ups and downs for Milwaukee Barbarians. The 15s program struggled to compete in Division 1 in the Spring and fought a long battle with the Midwest RFU Competitions Committee to remain in the division. Having won on appeal to USA Rugby, the Division 1 schedule was a grueling 14-match marathon that saw improvements over the prior season including a first-ever victory on the road against the Kansas City Blues. The final record was 4-10-0 finishing in 7th place in the league.
Division 3 were a little light on numbers but towards the end of the season started showing better results on the pitch. The highlight was a Springtime come-from-behind win over Oconomowoc who at the time has been on an 8-match winning streak.
The 7s program — under the direction of our new coach Ryan Duklas — did very well at Wisconsin-based tournaments finishing in first place in all but one of the four competitions in which they competed. In regional events, the team had difficulty early on but came together to finish the season 4th in the Midwest.
Our 35+ team the MAORIs had an active season of both touch rugby and as well as two appearances at local rugby 10s tournaments where they finished as runner-up in each. A few of the lads also headed on a spectator tour of the Las Vegas 7s.
On the administrative side, the club finally received approval for their 501 (c) (3) public charity called SCRUM — the Society for Cultivating Rugby Union Mastery. This allowed us to start accepting tax-deductible donations and join charitable programs like Amazon Smile. We also formally launched our online apparel and merchandise store for club members and Milwaukee rugby fans.
At our annual awards ceremony, Rugger of the Year went to Joe Birdsall. Other awardees include Joe Grams, Nick Vigder, David Gray, Zach Price, Alex Mross, Daryl Bagley, Tom Fossell, Jeff Friedrich, and Jim Harings.
2016 was highlighted by the recruitment of Scotish International Ewan O'Donnell as the Assistant Head Coach for the 7s program, a shuffle in the coaching structure for 15s, and hiring first Director of Rugby.
The club also signed a partnership agreement with it's first international brand, Samuel Adams. and Ben Landry became the first capped player for the Barbarians when he started for the Eagles against Canada.
Two new programs were also started in 2016: MAORI touch rugby for alumni and other Milwaukee-area ruggers, and the youth Tag Rugby program, the Waukesha Babrabians.
2015 was an interesting year for the club. Former Irish International and Munster alumni Dominic Crotty joined the 7s program as Head Coach, and in general more emphasis was placed on the 7s program.
The Division 3 side had another banner year going undefeated in the regular season. This was followed up with a gutsy, overtime win in the 1st round of the regional playoffs vs. Fox Valley. The D3 season ended with a loss in round 2 to Green Bay.
The Division 1 side finished the regular season in the top 4 but lost to Kansas City in the decider to represent the Midwest at Nationals.
The Barbarians also received attentition from the National office when Ben Landry was invited to the World Cup training camp.
On January 16, 2014 the Barbarians officially ratified their by-laws, elected the first Board of Directors and incorporated as the Milwaukee Barbarians Athletic Club.
In a special ceremony, “Papa Joe” Kloiber — founder of the Milwaukee Harlequins and the Lakefront 7s tournament — was unanimously elected as the first President of the Barbarians, a testament to all his years of service to the Wisconsin rugby community.
Following his election, Papa Joe immediately resigned his post and the following board members were elected to represent the club and serve as the first board:
- Victor Drover, President
- Joe Cunningham, Manager
- Aaron Young, Treasurer
- Erik Schleicher, Club Secretary
- Jason Talbot, Member At Large
2014 was again notable on the pitch. The Barbarians remained in the top-three Division 1 clubs in the Midwest, held their first-ever rugby bootcamp, moved their Division 4 fifteens team up to Division 3 going undefeated over all 6 Fall matches (tied for 1st place), attended the Annual St. Patricks Day tournament in Savannah, Georgia, sent one player to a USA Eagles camp and sent another to the USA Selects squad.
Off the pitch also showed a lot of positives. The Barbarians appeared on the local TV news, held their annual awards ceremony on the Milwaukee River, and gained a new sponsor in the Wisconsin Brewing Company.
2013 was a breakout year for the Barbarians with success both on and off the field.
In 15's and 7s play, the Barbarians were very competitive and only narrowly missed qualifying for nationals in each variation of the game.
The Barbarians also secured a new home pitch — Zablocki Park in South Milwaukee — that will be used for all training and matches.
Finally, it was obvious to all participants that the Barbarians was a viable and successful venture.
In 2012, an initial advisory board was formed with representatives from both clubs as well as an independent arbitrator to decide on any controversial issues that arose:
- Joe Cunningham, Past Manager, Harlequins
- Victor Drover, Past Treasurer, Harlequins
- John Hickey, Past President, MRFC
- Joe Kloiber, Past President, Harlequins
- Scott Littell, Past Vice-president, MRFC
- Erik Schleicher, Past Treasurer, MRFC
- Todd Streeter, Member At Large
This group coordinated the Barbarian matches, trainings and funds while the viability of the new club was determined.