Ian 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.
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. He retired in 1987 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 accorded 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.