USARFU's leadership could be distancing itself from Eagle coach Mike Tolkin, more evidence the World Cup performance review should extend to the boardroom.
In a San Jose Mercury account of Todd Clever's summertime dismissal from the national team, chief executive Nigel Melville and chair Bob Latham skirt around endorsing Tolkin's authority. Normally in professionalized sports, management either declines to be interviewed on grounds that personnel decisions are the coach's province, or restates something to that effect -- unless it has sided with the player and the coach is on shaky ground.
'Mike Tolkin and [Clever] obviously had some issues. It wasn't working out. It is a difficult one, isn't it?', Melville told the mainstream daily.
Next Friday, the board of directors is to receive a performance review of the 2015 World Cup cycle, led by high performance director Alex Magleby. Tolkin, who posted an 11-23-1 record mark, hopes to continue at the national team helm.
Melville promoted Tolkin from assistant coach in 2011, touting his credentials as a native-born coach who won American championships with Xavier High School and New York Athletic Club.
Hired in 2006, Melville has supervised four 15s coaches who have collectively logged a 20-46-1 mark, including a 1-11 record over three World Cups. He's also had four 7s coaches, the most successful being the latest, Mike Friday, who led 2014-15 edition to 6th place on the world 7s circuit and beat Canada to qualify for the 2016 Olympics.
Tolkin is the first 15s coach to survive a full World Cup quadrennial since 1999. In major American sports, a succession of coaching changes is often interpreted as failure by the general manager, athletic director, or someone else higher up the chain.
Disconnects between Tolkin and his superiors has been frequent enough over the past four years. Of direct import to the national team, USARFU's board of directors all but abandoned representative play, allowed the national senior competition to collapse, and saw leading college teams break away to form rival 15s and 7s championships. A pro competition, originally to spring from the North American 4, remains in the offing.
Latham, who joined USARFU's board in 1994, has operated as chair or vice chair since 2002. Since the stormy 2005 departure of coach Tom Billups and then Doug Arnot, Melville's precedessor, the USA's record against fellow 'Tier 2' nations has declined to 26 percent (10-29) from 42 percent (27-2-37).
None of USARFU's other eight directors have been at the helm nearly so long as Latham or Melville. The union's bylaws limit the tenure of board members to eight consecutive years. Magleby, the HP director, was appointed to the role in February 2015.
James Gillenwater, who sits on the union's Athlete's Advisory Council, is quoted by the San Jose Mercury article in support of Clever.