When Western rugby coach Paul Horne received the letter informing him he will be inducted into the British Columbia Rugby Hall of Fame, he thought it was a joke. The ceremony date happened to be April Fools’ Day and Horne thought he was being tricked.
Well, it was real.
“When I received the induction notice and the induction banquet was going to be April 1, I actually thought it was a joke and I kind of laughed it off,” Horne said.
Someone from the Hall of Fame contacted Horne and had to convince him it wasn’t a joke, he said.
“I was a bit taken back. I was very humbled and very honored,” he said.
Horne’s athletic career started at Boise State University where he was an offensive lineman for the football team. In 1972 he transferred to Western and started playing rugby. Horne returned to Western to coach the rugby squad after a sterling coaching career across the Canadian border.
Horne was inducted into the category of builder, which is someone who builds the sport as a coach.
“It’s pretty cool to be recognized by your peers for something you do,” Horne said.
Horne knows many people in the Hall of Fame, he said.
“Those are people I’ve looked up to as icons,” he said.
Horne hasn’t always coached at Western, and it took about a year to convince the well-known, highly experienced coach to come back to where his rugby career started.
“One of the guys I now coach with up at Western, Adam Roberts, was a high school captain in Canada that I used to coach,” Horne said.
He was coaching at University of British Columbia, one of the best collegiate rugby programs in North America, when Roberts talked him into coming to Western, Horne said.
Horne hasn’t left Bellingham since his playing days; he made the commute to University of British Columbia until he finally decided to ditch the driving and stay local.
Roberts got a big bus to transport about 40 of Horne’s old players to come to the induction banquet, Horne said.
“They came to honor me and it was awesome,” Horne said. “Plus I had my family there, which was pretty cool.”
Prior to Horne being inducted, there were just 26 people in the British Columbia Rugby Hall of Fame. Being the builder he is, Horne started to coach and build the sport right after his own rugby career as a player. He went straight to coaching.
“That’s what I did when I left [Western], I started coaching up in Canada and worked my way up through the high school programs,” he said.
Horne then moved up through the ladder until he was coaching the national senior men’s team.
“It was basically the World Cup team,” he said.
Horne’s vast experience in rugby has helped move Western’s rugby program forward.
“I’ve been lucky to get to travel the world. Some of the greatest people in the world are rugby people,” Horne said.
Horne has coached against Ireland, South Africa, the U.S. and Scotland, he said.
“I’ve made lots of connections and lifelong friends, and I had great success.”
Sophomore rugby player Ryan Glendenning has been playing rugby since his freshman year of high school. The sport is one of the reasons he came to Western.
Glendenning works most with coach Roberts, but Horne has been a key factor in his rugby career as well.
“[Horne] always gives us a detailed schedule of what we are going to be doing for the week and is very organized,” Glendenning said. “He’s really knowledgeable about the game and overall just a good coach. “
Horne and the rest of Western’s coaching staff will be taking the team down to California the upcoming weekend for Nationals.
“If we play structured we can beat [University of California, Davis],” Glendenning said.
The first team Horne coached went to Northwest collegiate championship and got to the final four. For the first time, Western is at that level of play.