Entire coaching staff of BYU rugby abruptly steps down, citing lack of support

Head coach David Smyth is done after leading club program to five national titles since 2009

The entire coaching staff of BYU’s nationally prominent men’s rugby program abruptly resigned earlier this week, citing lack of support from the school’s Student Life department.

Because rugby is a club sport at BYU, it is governed by the dean of students and his staff, and not the athletic department. Rugby players do not receive athletic scholarships and the program is not funded by the school.

Longtime head coach David Smyth, who guided the program to five national championships in his 27 years at the helm, all five since 2009, explained his decision to part company with the program on the BYU Rugby Facebook account.

“In 2011 the extramural sports program, of which the rugby team is a part, was moved into the Student Life department,” Smyth wrote. “That change made it difficult to run the rugby program with the standards we were used to. Simply put, our vision, strategies and goals for the rugby program do not align with those of the Student Life department. So, after 30-plus years of being a part of the BYU rugby program, I have decided to step aside and move on.”

Other staff members, including longtime assistant Wayne Tarawhiti, have also stepped down.

Smyth has not returned repeated phone calls from The Tribune.

BYU spokesperson Natalie Ipson responded to inquiries about the coaches’ resignations by issuing a brief statement.

“The previous coaching staff left for individual reasons, and we’re in the process of hiring a new coach, but the program itself isn’t changing,” Ipson wrote. “Everything will continue as before.”

Several of the program’s top players moved over to help the BYU football team the past decade, including fullback Paul Lasike and punter Jonny Linehan. Both are now members of the Utah Warriors professional rugby team, along with a half-dozen or so other former Cougars.

“To all the players I have had the honor to coach, I say Thank You!,” Smyth continued on Facebook. “I will cherish the many friendships I have made, along with the lessons that we learned together.”

Tarawhiti has battled health issues the past few years, including cancer.

Smyth’s wife, Verla, has also had health problems, but the coach wrote that she is now cancer-free and getting stronger.

“Her health was not why I resigned from BYU,” Smyth wrote.