Former Highland rugby coach Larry Gelwix tells his side of story

Published: Thursday, June 7 2012 11:12 p.m. MDT

Larry Gelwix poses for a portrait outside the LDS Seminary building near Highland High School Tuesday, May 5, 2009.

Jason Olson, Deseret News

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What happened to the legendary Highland Rugby club, whose story was told in the movie "Forever Strong" and now no longer fields a team?

According to statements made by a coach in a Wednesday Deseret News column, Larry Gelwix shut down the team he founded and coached simply because he didn't think he could trust anyone else to replace him while he serves an LDS Church mission in California.

Not so, says Gelwix, who called to clarify coach Jeramy Evans' statement. According to Gelwix, before he left for California he actually did appoint a new coach, and established a board of directors and a fundraising mechanism to continue the Highland team.

"When I left everything was in place to continue," he says.

But almost as soon as Gelwix was gone, things began to unravel. By the middle of last fall, it became a crisis. Just a couple of months before the season was to begin, the new coach quit. No other qualified replacement could be found on such short notice.

"We had no head coach to take on a storied program like Highland," says Gelwix. "The board decided, let's not just throw a patchwork team together; let's take a timeout. We didn't see this coming. We were blindsided when the coach resigned. "

As a result, the Highland team, winner of 20 national championships, did not field a team this past season.

Gelwix believes his reputation was "besmirched" when Evans, who has started a new rugby club that consists largely of former Highland players, stated that the former coach retired the Highland club simply because he felt that no one else would be able to coach or run the club at the same high level.

"We had 238 kids registered in 2011, from seventh through 12th grades," says Gelwix. "You can't just walk away from these kids and their families. They've made a commitment to us. We felt an obligation to accommodate them and we planned to do it. We were going to take any kid already in the program all the way through graduation."

Gelwix says that Highland might field a team again in the future, but for now it is a foundation to promote youth rugby and the "ideals of which the team was based."

Will Gelwix ever coach again? "Never say never, but I have no plans to do it," he says. "I would like to be involved in some way, but probably as an administrator or referee."

email: drob@desnews.com

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