A new staff of young, former players aims to bring energy and passion back to the men’s rugby team after the resignation of David Smyth and his staff rocked the program this summer.
Smyth, head coach of 13 years, resigned and took most of his staff to the UVU rugby program. This left many questions for the BYU rugby program and its vacant coaching positions.
Answering the questions revolving around the Cougars’ new coaching staff, the BYU rugby program hired a team of young, experienced rugby players to take the helm of the team. The coaches all have deep roots in the program.
“All four of the coaches are former players,” said Derek Smith, who was hired on as the assistant forwards coach for the team. “We all have immense pride in BYU rugby.”
One of the changes in staff came with the selection of Steven St. Pierre as head coach. St. Pierre had formerly worked on the coaching staff as an assistant coach for four years and was a player on the team for five. St. Pierre is a former member of the U.S. National team and has numerous college All-American titles under his belt.
St. Pierre was full of praise when he talked about his new staff.
“I think our new staff is incredible. They will bring a fresh approach to coaching and to the game,” St. Pierre said. “They will teach execution and skill development and really focus on developing the players on and off the field.”
Aside from the switch at head coach, the staff also added three other assets who had formerly played for BYU.
The first is backline coach Seki Kofe. Kofe has an extensive rugby background dating back to his sophomore year in high school and played with a northwest regional all-star team. In doing so, he caught the attention of the USA U-19 team.
His skill set earned him a spot with the national team and allowed him to play in the Junior Rugby World Cup in Belfast, Ireland, in 2007. However, he never knew he’d end up on BYU’s squad.
“After a church mission, my older brother talked me into going to BYU and playing with him,” Kofe said. “I visited campus and met the coaches and loved the atmosphere. I decided BYU is where I would continue playing rugby.”
Kofe played for BYU from 2011 to 2015 and participated in four of the five national championship wins. He also played on the team with newly hired forwards coach Ishmael Tiliao.
Tiliao grew up in Auckland, New Zealand, with a background steeped in rugby. He joined the BYU team in 2010 and won back-to-back championships with Kofe in 2012 and 2013.
Smith, another new coaching addition, is a former three-time All-American and four-year starter for BYU from 2004 to 2008. Smith also currently coaches the Herriman High School team, who are three-time defending state champions.
Smith said he hopes to bring his expertise, experience and his knowledge from his multiple wins with Herriman to the BYU team.
“As players, we stood on the shoulders of those who came before us, and we want to now help this current group of young men continue the legacy of the program that we help build,” Smith said.
Kofe said he and the coaches hope to continue the legacy they felt with BYU rugby.
“The legacy and the mission of this team is to develop young men to become great husbands, fathers, leaders, and contributors to society where ever they go after rugby,” Kofe said. “That has and always will be the legacy of this program … it isn’t so much about building the legacy as much as it is continuing the legacy.”
St. Pierre was also quick to praise the former coaches when asked how he would follow in their footsteps.
“The coaches before us brought the program to unprecedented success,” St. Pierre said. “Our goal is to keep that tradition going and also to continue to help our players become productive members of society and good representatives of the school.”
As the season progresses, with the team’s current four double-digit wins under its belt this season, the staff members plan to continue the momentum for an undefeated season and take the team back to the top.
“Our staff knows what it takes to win a national championship,” Tiliao said. “There isn’t a single national title that BYU has won where one of us (wasn’t) on the field.”