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Photo Credit: Hugh Cox

USA Rugby and the United States Olympic Committee have removed Julie McCoy from her role as Team USA women’s 7s head coach. Assistant coach Chris Ryan is also out. That leaves the Eagles with no coach less than five months before opening kickoff in Rio.

McCoy was removed from the team after her Falcons bowed out of the Las Vegas Invitational with a 24-5 loss to France in the semifinal. She was supposed to coach the Falcons the following week in Vancouver, but instead flew home to Little Rock, Ark., while Andy Locke, a member of the men’s program, stepped in for the Canadian tournament.

McCoy, who first coached the team from 2006-2009, took the reins from preceding head coach Ric Suggitt in September amid rumors of player unrest and a burgeoning player revolt. That has again come to roost with McCoy, as unhappy players are the root of a second coaching change in seven months.

USA Rugby representatives did not respond to a request for comment on McCoy’s release.

Player unrest has plagued the program over the last couple of seasons. In 2015, once-captain and routine starter Amelia Villines left the team after a falling out with Suggitt. The dust-up was rumored to have started when some confidential criticism of the coach by the player was leaked to Suggitt. Not long after, Jessica Javelet, a promising speedster, quit the team following the home tournament in Atlanta. She returned to the team under McCoy.   

The turmoil comes to a head at an inconvenient time for the program, as the Eagles are hosting the next leg of the Women’s 7s World Series in Atlanta in just over two weeks. They’ll then play in Canada and France to conclude the Series. McCoy had planned for the team to play in a non-Series tournament in London, so according the most recent schedule laid out, her successor will have only three or four tournaments to get the Eagles in good shape prior to the Olympics.

The Eagles ended the Suggitt era on an uptick last season, finishing in third-place in the Series finale in London and fifth overall after a slow start before qualifying for Rio with a dominant performance at the NACRA Championships. Then Suggitt was supplanted by McCoy in September, and the Eagles again stumbled out of the blocks this season, finishing 11th in Dubai. But the team improved under her tutelage, reaching the semifinals in Brazil.

There’s no indication of who will replace McCoy at this time, but it’s possible a member of the men’s coaching staff will fill the void. USA Rugby pushed for more collaboration between the men’s and women’s programs recently, with men’s assistant Phil Greening helping out for a spell. Under Locke in Vancouver, the Falcons were winless against Rugby Canada’s two Maple Leaf sides, France and Great Britain, being outscored by a combined tally of 108-29.