Reldon “Bing” Dawson
Reldon “Bing” Dawson started out as a football player for the San Diego State University Aztecs under the guidance of legendary coach Don Coryell during the 1960s. Having been both a player and an assistant coach under Coryell, Dawson learned valuable skills that he would later translate to his rugby career. From training and conditioning techniques, game preparation and strategy, building offenses and defenses, equipment, sports medicine, and recruitment, Bing knew what it took to build a high-caliber program and would soon impact the game of rugby forever.
With his football playing career behind him, Bing began his rugby career with the Old Mission Beach Athletic Club in San Diego, California and would continue to represent the club on the playing field until 1981. His playing career included numerous representative side appearances at prop on the Southern California Griffins and the Pacific Coast Grizzlies.
During the late 1970s and early 1980s, he began his tenure as a player-coach and spent many summers studying the game of rugby in its purest form in New Zealand under the late Bill Freeman. From his experiences, Dawson created a unique rugby coaching style with combinations of “All Black knowledge with Yankee ingenuity.” With his SDSU ties, he and Bob Watkins collaborated to use SDSU Rugby as a feeder program into OMBAC. Dawson’s eye for talent and raw coaching ability, allowed him to recruit hundreds of players to San Diego to play for OMBAC from 1970-2005. Over 70 of those players would go on to represent the United States on the U.S. Eagles 7s and/or 15s teams, the most players to ever play for the United States from one club.
“Bing was instrumental in making OMBAC the place for rugby talent to come and where you could play with the best and be challenged to be your best. His ability to coach, organize, recruit, and create a winning culture were the drivers for OMBAC’s dominance from the late 1980’s through the late 1990’s. The sheer number of his players who went on to represent the United States and who continue to make contributions to the development and growth of rugby is a testament to his impact on the sport. His legacy continues to inspire those that he coached and has made us all better men,” said Ben Hough, a former OMBAC captain and U.S. Eagle.
The players whom he recruited became not just Eagles, but team captains including Steve Gray, Mike Saunders, Kevin Higgins, Brian Vizard, Chris Lippert, Dan Lyle, Kevin Dalzell, Dave Hodges, and Todd Clever. Bing recognized the importance for international talent and often recruited a select number of players from New Zealand, Australia, Fiji, South Africa, and the United Kingdom, to sprinkle into the OMBAC lineup to elevate the standard of play within the United States.
“Bing’s work as an international coach brought significant preparation and standards to the National Team staff through his diligence and detail. In many ways, Bing Dawson was among USA Rugby’s first professional coaches, merging his passion and dedication to rugby with his profession as a coach and educator. Bing borrowed from his highly successful background as a collegiate and scholastic football coach to build his rugby teams and develop his players. Importantly, he shared his vast coaching knowledge generously,” said U.S. Rugby Fall of Fame member and long-time Cal Head Coach, Jack Clark.
Off the field, Bing collaborated with Bob Watkins, Klaus Mendenhall, JD Dahlen, Pat Boyl, and the OMBAC parenting organization to advance equipment, training, and sports medicine resources. Soon enough, OMBAC secured a new pitch and added top of the line athletic trainer Ed Ayub and top of the line physician, Dr. David Chao, both who would advance to provide the same services to the U.S. National Team from 1987-2002. OMBAC set the template for modern rugby clubs in the United States.
“Bing was a class act and mentor to all that worked with him. He knew his role as a coach as well as mentor to his players, as well as staff. There is only one Bing. No other person can duplicate his dedication to his players and team,” said Ed Ayub, OMBAC and U.S.A. Eagle Rugby trainer.
Bing’s coaching legacy is marked by an elite rugby team who achieved an unmatched history of championships. OMBAC won the inaugural United States Sevens Club Championships in 1985 and became the first team in the U.S. to win the National Club Championships in 7s and 15s, winning XVs titles in 1988, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1994, 1996, and the Rugby Super League Championship in 2006. The other 7s national titles were achieved in 1995, 2000, 2001, 2002, and in 2006; making OMBAC the only U.S. club to win both 7s and 15s in the same year. Under Dawson, OMBAC fielded five sides on the pitch, a feat no other American club had accomplished.
In addition to OMBAC, Bing made numerous appearances on the sidelines for the Southern California Griffins and Pacific Coast Grizzlies from 1983-2006. Most notably, he served on the coaching staff of Eagles tours from 1988-1991 and was an assistant coach to the U.S. National team at the 1991 World Cup in the United Kingdom.
Dawson’s impact as a coach and mentor to many of his players set him apart. His passion and dedication for the game changed the lives of many and set the spark for rugby in America.