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What We, and You, Say About the New CEO

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What We, and You, Say About the New CEO

Dan Payne was named USA Rugby's CEO today, July 5, and if you fit into most of Goff Rugby Report's demographic, you might voice a collective "so what?"

Well, here's what. The position of CEO of USA Rugby is still relatively young - the first one was picked in 2002 and Payne will be the organization's 4th. Of those four he is the first to play, coach, and administrate the game in the USA. I've known Payne for quite some time, although I think I was late in getting on the bandwagon in recognizing his abilities as a player. But I have known him in all of his incarnations. Here are some notes, stories, and thoughts.

One of his coaches at OMBAC, Bing Dawson, said of Payne - "he knows only one way to go, and that's forward, and he knows only one way to play, and that's all-out."

Payne was a flanker in his day - a really good one. He was physical, smart, uncompromising, and a terrific teammate. 

When he was a wrestler in high school and college, he made a deal with his brother, Seth. It was a contest of goals - Dan would make the Olympics in wrestling, and Seth would make the NFL. Seth achieved his goal, but Dan just missed the Olympics as a wrestler. Years later, Dan called Seth and said "what if I make the Rugby World Cup?" Seth said that would count, and in 2007 Payne played for the USA in the Rugby World Cup, starting at No. 8 against South Africa.

After he retired, Payne was working at USA Rugby and said to me, "I want to make sure no one like Dan Payne plays for the USA any more." What he meant was, a player who is a very good athlete who works hard, but maybe not an exceptional athlete. Many would say he was off-base; that the Eagles could use many, many more players like Payne.

When he took a position at USA Rugby, Payne has the responsibility of vetting waiver requests for players. He was known to be liberal in his approval of those waivers. If players wanted to play, why not let them play? 

As a coach, Payne's record is pretty astonishing. He took over San Diego State, in part to just get started in coaching, and pretty soon they were a legitimate top-four team. He left that position to coach at Life. There he started the men's undergraduate program, and coached them to a DIA title in 2013. Not satisfied, he pushed for a women's team to be started, and that program is a national contender.

After the 2013 DIA final, won for Life in part thanks to a controversial try, I ran into Payne and said "I am writing that it shouldn't have been a try - your guy was in touch." He looked at me and said "It shouldn't have been a try, and he was in touch." Not too many coaches would acknowledge that.

So we asked the rugby populous via social media what they thought of the appointment.

This is what they said:

Maybe he will get the foreigners out of USA Rugby...

Great appointment -- well done Dan!

Perfect choice

We'll see, I'm optimistic

May be the most sensible, positive thing the USARFU has done in years.

A finer man they could not have gotten to fill this position!! Congratulations to Coach Dan Payne!!!

Wow finally a positive move

Class act anytime I was around him at the national tournament. Professional, and passionate for USA rugby. Great choice in my opinion.

I don't know Dan but he has challenging job. What with 7s and PRO Rugby, I think re-envisioning and communicating the mission and objectives of USARFU will be needed. Good luck Dan. You have my support.

He maybe a great guy but what is his business acumen. Can he structure sponsor and finance deals? Does he have relationships with Fortune 500 Companies? USAR needs money desperately.

(Reply to this was a follows) He has an MBA, and a BS in Finance.

Probably the most respected guy in rugby in America. Best news in years.

We have to pray that he gets a thinking, contributing, well rounded ( business-like) Board and not a bunch of dinosaurs looking for free World Cup/test match tix and TV facetime

I hope he surrounds himself with top notch money guys. It is a business and USAR needs capital to operate. It needs good tv deals. Good merchandising deals. Great sponsor deals. We just need good business leaders who can move the game to the next level.

Congratulations to the board that chose Dan Payne. Now to raise some serious money to forward the game and get some big time sponsors for the US Clubs to foster a national competition as they should have done years ago. Dan knows club rugby and should care about it's health and well being.

... Pretty cool that an Eagle is taking the helm.


We didn't edit out any negative comments, only the good wishes and more "great choice!" comments. So that's it for the moment. A very positive move say the masses. And from here at GRR World Headquarters we echo the thoughts that he is a smart, accomplished person who is part of the community. Payne has been a club rugby player, a college coach, a director of rugby, a national team position coach, an Athletic Director, and an administrator. He's seen the game from pretty much every angle. It's a rugby choice over a business choice, to be sure. But it's hard to argue against such a rugby choice.

Since 2002 we've had an events-organization executive who wasn't a rugby person and wasn't really a sponsorship person. Then we had a Welsh interim CEO/Managing Director appointed by World Rugby. Then we had a former England captain who was hired as CEO and Director of High Performance, who also wanted to coach. Now we have something else entirely, and that's not a bad thing at all.