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NeMani Delaibatiki will not return as head coach of Arkansas State for the 2015/2016 season, ASU confirmed Tuesday. He will continue to coach the Red Wolves through the Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship May 30-31, but his contract was not renewed for next season. University officials say A-State decided to go in a different direction with the program.
“We appreciate Mani’s enthusiasm for the game and his work with our team the past year,” Matt Huckaby, executive director of student wellness, said in a statement obtained by Rugby Today. “This was a transitional year as Arkansas State moved into new competitions and we thank Mani for his work toward those goals.”
Delaibatiki, who had previously coached at Palmer College, arrived at Arkansas State in 2013 and served as the head coach and director of rugby for two seasons. He took over for Huckaby, the former Red Wolves head coach, who was serving in an interim role after the departutre of Alex Houser. The search for a new coach is set to begin soon, Huckaby said.
Under Delaibatiki's guidance, Arkansas State moved out of the Mid-South Conference and the D1A postseason path and into the Varsity Cup. The Red Wolves lost to Clemson, 26-22, in the competition's opening round earlier this month. Delaibatiki also presided over the program's first-ever CRC berth. A-State went undefeated at the Las Vegas Invitational in February to earn an automatic bid to the nationally televised tournament.
“I respect the direction the school wants to take the rugby team,” said Delaibatiki. “I wish Arkansas State University all the best with the direction they want to take the team, and hope it continues its successful run by being a powerhouse in collegiate rugby.”