Ian Nixon was born in Hyde, England in 1940. He caught his first rugby pass when he was eight years old and it wasn’t long before he was an accomplished player. In addition to rugby, Ian excelled at cricket and lettered in both sports throughout his prep, junior and senior high school years at St. Joseph’s College in Blackpool. His skill in cricket earned him County Schoolboy Representative selection.
In 1959, he attended the University of Manchester in England, where he earned Full Maroon honors in rugby and cricket. After graduating in 1965, Nixon played with the Heaton Moor Rugby Football Club. He captained the side from his scrum half position during the successful 1967-68 season, when the first team won twenty-five and drew one of their thirty-four matches.
Nixon moved to the United States in 1972, and joined the Boston Rugby Football Club. He played there for two seasons before work transferred him to Dallas, Texas; he played for the Dallas Harlequins from 1974-76.
With his playing days behind him, Nixon turned to refereeing in 1976 as a member of the Society of Texas Referees. He made immediate strides with the whistle in hand, and in 1978 became a member of the Western Rugby Football Union Referee Territorial Panel. In 1980, Nixon was selected to the USA Rugby Referee Panel. That year saw Nixon in charge of the British Columbia vs. Wales match in Vancouver, and three weeks later he officiated the Pacific Coast vs. Italy match in Long Beach, CA. This banner year was topped off by Nixon’s first international test match, as he was in charge when the United States Eagles hosted the New Zealand All Blacks in San Diego, CA on October 8, 1980.
Nixon continued to be called upon for big games, calling the USA National Club Championship Finals in 1981 and 1982. Also in 1982, he refereed his second test, Canada vs. England in Vancouver on May 29. In 1983, he added the Canadian Provincial Final from Victoria to his resume. In addition, he was the man in charge of the Canada vs. Italy match in Vancouver. He topped off the year as a guest referee of the New Zealand Rugby Union for two weeks.
In 1984, Nixon once again called the US Club and Canadian Provincial Finals, and was a guest referee of the England RFU for two weeks. He received yet another international appointment in 1985 when he called the Canada vs. England U19 match in Vancouver.
Nixon’s busiest year with the whistle was perhaps 1986, as he was appointed to referee at the prestigious Hong Kong Sevens Tournament, after which he oversaw his usual fixture at the US Club Championships. He moved on to the USA East vs. Japan match in New York City, followed by Canada vs. Japan in Vancouver. The year ended with Nixon calling Canada’s match against Wales U19 from Victoria.
1987 was Nixon’s last year with the whistle in hand. He closed out his career calling the USA National Club Championship Final for the seventh straight year. He then spent two weeks sharing his experience and knowledge as a guest referee of the Australian RFU. He retired as the highest ranking U.S. referee, a ranking he held from 1980-1987.
Nixon continued to serve U.S. rugby as an East Representative on USA Rugby’s Board of Directors from 1987-1997, where he also functioned in the role of Secretary from 1987-1991. Nixon served as the sixth President of USA Rugby in a term lasting from 1991-1995.
Nixon has earned many accolades for his outstanding service and contributions to the sport. He was awarded a Life Membership from the Dallas Harlequins RFC in 1981, and the Golden Eagle Award for services to USA Rugby in 1985. He was the Denis Shanagher Memorial Award winner for services to USA Rugby Refereeing in 1994, and he was also inducted into the University of Manchester XXI Club (their Hall of Fame) for services to rugby.
Today, Nixon is an esteemed cardiologist and resides in Richmond, Virginia where he teaches and practices at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine and the VCU Medical Center.