This fall marks Rick Scala's 25th year as men's rugby coach.

"I didn't actually apply [for the coaching position], I was asked to do it," said Scala, whom the players affectionately refer to as Coach Lionheart.

"I had sometimes [refereed] a few of the Bowdoin games and I knew a lot of the players," he said.

When the team "got in a little hot water," the captain at the time asked Scala to become the team's formal coach.

Scala, who still plays rugby in some "old boys leagues," has been teaching in Brunswick for 37 years, and is now the head of the math department at Brunswick Junior High School.

"Having a teacher in that [coaching] role is a good thing. It means that you're going to have some sense of being in an academic setting," said Director of Athletics Jeff Ward. Rugby players agreed that teaching the game, which is a club sport at Bowdoin, is certainly one of Scala's strong suits.

"He is literally the best introductory rugby coach that you could have," said captain Ryan Jewett '11.

"Seeing guys who've never played before becoming very accomplished players" is what's important, said Scala. The rugby team has won New England Championships and been runner-up in the Northeast in the past, according to Scala.

Aside from teaching the game to new players, Scala emphasizes team unity.

"In rugby, the camaraderie is equal to the actual games," he said.

His players certainly recognize this.

"Scala always talks about how rugby is a brotherhood. He makes it clear that it is more than just a sport," said captain Ben Messerly '11.

For Scala, the relationships he's forged with his past players remain important to him. Many have become captains and administrators of rugby teams across the country. Today's rugby players benefit from that network of alumni relations, too.

"The strongest alumni association tied to the school is the men's rugby alumni," said Messerly.

"I still stay in touch with all my players. I saw some that I first coached 25 years when they came up and played with me in the alumni game [on Homecoming Weekend]," said Scala.

The alumni rugby game during Homecoming Weekend spoke to Scala's strength and popularity as a coach. According to Jewett, speeches about Scala went on for three hours.

"He lives and dies Bowdoin rugby," said team president Aaron Cole '11. "He is the core. He's like Jupiter and we are the rings and the moons."

As for the brotherhood that is Bowdoin's rugby team, "we have the best team in NESCAC, and I don't just mean athletically and skill-wise," said Cole.

According to Ward, Scala has "never said anything about leaving; I think he enjoys it as much as the first day he was here."

When Scala does inevitably retire, though, "just finding that sense of consistency and someone [else] who understands the expectations and the institution [will not be easy]," said Ward.