Goff Rugby Twitter     Goff Rugby Facebook

Chris O'Brien Signs on as Head Coach at Cal Poly

irish rugby tours

Chris O'Brien Signs on as Head Coach at Cal Poly

Chris O'Brien with Mike Tolkin on the USA staff in 2013. Mike Bobis photo.

Cal Poly has hired on former Eagle and former USA assistant coach Chris O'Brien as the program's Head Coach.

Longtime Head Coach James Tesoriero left the program six months ago, and it has taken that long for the Mustangs to find a replacement.

“I’m excited to get back into college rugby first and foremost,” O’Brien said in a statement. “It’s a bit of a full circle for me because my teammate and roommate was Kevin Higgins. We played against each other in college, him at Poly and myself at SDSU. So it comes full circle for me, and my wife and daughter are totally supportive.”

O'Brien played 22 times for the USA and scored 144 points as an Eagle. He has coached at just about every level in the American game. Most recently he has been the Head Coach for the Danville Oaks high school program, leading them to a 2018 national HS Club championship. Along with the Oaks and the USA, he has coached with Cal, SFGG, Stanford, and Life West.

The addition of O'Brien is an interesting move for Cal Poly, a program that has been in D1A since its inception, and in 2004 made the national D1 collegiate final. The Mustangs have been D1A playoff teams before, but have struggled to reach the highest level as the team is a club team on campus, the players struggle with time management at a demanding science and engineering school. At their best, though, they are able to bring intelligent and talented athletes to a highly-respect institution, and have produced national team players such as Kevin Higgins (who was a teammate of O'Brien's as stated above) and Tony Petruzzella, who was the leading player on that 2004 team.

"Absolutely the goal is to get back to that level," O'Brien told Goff Rugby Report. "It don't happen overnight, but we'll work on the culture and how we play and I am really excited about it."

O'Brien said he had been thinking about coaching at the collegiate level for some time, inspired, in part, by what his brother Tim has accomplished at Saint Mary's. 

"I love what Tim has done at Saint Mary's and Tim had mentioned to me, what about Cal Poly? I wasn't sure I could make it work," O'Brien said. Well he did make it work, talking it over with his family, and he has been hired by the alumni organization that supports Cal Poly Rugby.

 "The rugby community is pretty incredible and the people who have reached out to me and the families have blown me away with how positive they have been," O'Brien said. "We've yet to hear a negative thing about the school and the area. All of that, and to be at the school where Higgy played means a lot to me."

O'Brien's connections and history within the game may bear fruit on the recruiting side as much as anything else. While he has the coaching experience and understands teaching the game to young Americans, some of whom may be new to the sport, it's his connections throughout the game that might help bring more rugby (and academic) talent to San Luis Obispo. 

This is the second DIA program in Southern California to hire a prominent Bay Area coach, with Neil Foote joining UC Santa Barbara earlier this summer.