Rugby week: BYU coach David Smyth brings a winning, fun culture to program

Published: Thursday, May 1 2014 12:30 p.m. MDT

PROVO — The BYU men’s rugby team has a spectacular history.

Since 2001, BYU’s rugby team has had more than 40 All-Americans, and 16 players have been promoted to the USA Rugby's national team. Two players have gone on to play professionally overseas, and the team has consistently been one of the best sports programs at BYU, only losing 22 times over the last 30 years.

The Cougars, who are gunning for their third straight national title, will face Cal in a rematch of last year's final May 3 at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy. Last week BYU shutout the Navy Midshipmen 60-0 to reach its ninth straight national title game.

And through it all, there has been one main consistent: coach David Smyth.

Smyth played for the BYU rugby team in the 1980s, and took over at head coach in 1991. He left the program in 2002, but returned in 2005 and has led BYU to national prominence since then.

Part of what makes Smyth so successful is the culture of respect and light-heartedness. Last week, fly half Johnny Linehan joked that culture is "terrible."

"Coach Smyth is awesome. We really respect him and admire him as a coach," Linehan said. "Coach Smyth has been coaching for a long time and BYU means a lot to him. His coaching is great, but more his passion for BYU is what passes along to us. And we feel that, and we put that out on the field every week.”

Smyth always has his team focused on the task at hand and the next opponent, and that's one key to winning.

“In all honesty, we have kept our preparation very simple but focused. We never look past our opponent,” Smyth told Bleacher Report blog BYU Rugby Forever. “We identify the things that we need to do well against the team we are playing against and then let the boys go to work.”

The relationship he has with each of his players is another facet of Smyth’s success. Paul Lasike, who is a center on the rugby team and a running back on the football team, talked about his relationship with Smyth.

“It’s grown so much since my freshman year,” Lasike said. “Man, we can give each other a hard time. I think sometimes I give him a heart attack, you know, that’s just how it is with me. We can call each other names and stuff so our relationship is cool.”

Follow Trent on Twitter @TheRealTrento.

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