Dennis Storer was a gentleman in every sense of the word. He taught American power-houses to play rugby with great spirit and within the laws of the game.
A native of Birmingham, England, Dennis Storer studied history at London University and Sports and Physical Education at Loughborough College. In rugby, he played center for Blackheath and Leicester, and even had a trial with the English national team. He served in the British Army’s Royal Engineers and emerged at the rank of captain. From there, he taught history and PE in a number of colleges and schools in England, before moving on to be a sports commentator.
Continuing his education, Storer moved to California, where he pursued his master’s degree from the University of Southern California and then his doctorate degree from UCLA. He studied the way body types contributed to success in contact sports and his master’s thesis explained how to convert American football players to rugby.
He put his academic endeavors to the test as the head coach of the UCLA rugby team, often recruiting football players and following the strict philosophy that certain positions in rugby required specific physiques. His methods were incredibly successful, for his UCLA coaching record from 1966-82 was 362-46-2. Those games were against collegiate teams, skilled club teams and while on international tours, notably to England and Australia. Storer’s Bruins took every All-Cal title and sixteen Southern California Division Championships during his coaching tenure. They also won three National Championships- 1968, 1972 and 1975.
Beyond UCLA, he served as the Eagles’ first coach, from 1976-82. He remained firm in the coaching techniques that he had honed at UCLA, at times turning away exceptional athletes who did not physically fit their positions.
Their first match was on January 31, 1976, in Anaheim, California, against rugby world-power Australia. According to former USA Rugby President, Ann Barry, “The Eagles played valiantly in a 24-12 defeat […], but more important than a win or loss, was the fact that the USA fielded a side that played with pride and dedication.”
The Eagle’s second match was Jun 12, 1976 in Chicago, Illinois. This was the first time in forty-two years, since the US won the gold medal in the 1924 Olympic Games, that a US national team faced France on the pitch. The result was a 14-33 loss for the Eagles.
In total, Storer coached the Eagles through thirteen matches. Opponents included Canada, England, Wales, South Africa and New Zealand. Twenty-five years after that first game against Australia, Storer was asked what was his best memory of coaching the Eagles. His answer: “The moments before the game versus England at Twickenham, October 1977.”
Storer’s coaching success was not limited to the Rugby pitch. From 1967-73 he was also the head coach for UCLA’s soccer team. They became an NCAA varsity sport in his first year as their coach, and together they won five All-Cal Titles, three West Coast Championships and finished three years as the NCAA Championship runners-up.
Upon retirement from the UCLA faculty, Storer was the British Olympic Executive Director, 1982-84, and served as the attaché for the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. He was a founding member of the British Community Advisory Board and the British Academy of Film and TV Arts/Los Angeles, as well as the Executive Director of the British American Business Counsel.
After the 1992 LA riots, Storer became the founding President and Chairman of the Spirit of Youth Foundation, which continues to “Foster learning, leadership and global understanding among disadvantaged American and British youth through educational activities and cultural exchange.”
In 1994, Queen Elizabeth II named Storer an Officer of the British Empire (OBE) for services to British American education, sports and commerce. He then went on to be elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in 1999.
Storer passed away in September of 2007, survived by his wife Dorothy and children Gareth, Anna Kristina and Maria.