What Prompted the Lawrence/ATL Divorce?

Scott Lawrence’s sudden resignation from Rugby ATL was only one piece of a very bad day for the Georgia franchise. What led to the shocking move?

Lawrence has implied in statements that he no longer saw eye to eye with the new ownership group. While short on specifics, a lack of long term clarity likely created tension. Its not uncommon for changes in sports franchise ownership to result in changes throughout the organization. Is it impossible to believe that Global Rugby Ventures (whose owner also owns the Free Jacks) wanted some sort of changes to Lawrence’s approach, either in his role as coach or GM? It could have even been as simple as a contract issue. The tension was clearly there well before Lawrence’s resignation.

That takes us up to the events of January 20th, 2022. Lawrence resigns. Michael Hodge and the Dallas Jackals split. A separate statement is made by Rugby ATL that one of its players has been suspended for alleged violations of the personal conduct policy.

We know the timeline of these press statements. We don’t know the timeline of the events.

Early that day, Lawrence posted about his resignation on his own social media accounts. Did he know that the player suspension was set to be announced that day? Surely, Lawrence would have been in a position to know what had allegedly occurred. Head coaches and GMs tend to know whether or not their players are available. We shouldn’t rule out the possibility that ownership and Lawrence didn’t see eye to eye on handling the situation. One could have wanted to keep the player, while the other wanted to move on. (Again, we have unnervingly few details about the allegations.) If these are truly serious allegations, that could lead to the dramatic blow up we saw last week.

Take it a step further. As we’ve said before, Elaine Vassie wouldn’t decide one day to simply move on from her head coach. Maybe Dallas and Lawrence spoke before any of these events. If he was getting frustrated, is it crazy to believe he’d have feelers around the league seeing if there would be an opportunity elsewhere? And, as we’ve elaborated before, wouldn’t a smart GM like Vassie be keeping her eye on the coaching market, especially if the top American coach was getting an itch for a change in scenery? It made no sense to dump Hodge (who seemingly understood Dallas’s tough position) unless you have the next coach lined up.

Consider this potential timeline:

  1. Lawrence and new ownership begin to disagree on the long-term path of Rugby ATL
  2. Either Lawrence or Dallas reach out to each other
  3. Some undetermined amount of time later, Lawrence is informed of allegations against a player. Ownership and Lawrence disagree on the path forward
  4. Lawrence calls Dallas to ask if they’re ready for a change (or flat out says ‘I’m free. come and get me”)
  5. Dallas separates from Michael Hodge
  6. Everyone makes a flurry of announcements

The most unsettling of all these pieces is the player allegations. IF the gut is correct and the allegations were a serious piece of this puzzle, everyone should be concerned about which approach each party wanted to take. While there’s a natural tendency to blame ‘the man,’ there’s a potential version of these events where Lawrence doesn’t come out smelling like roses either.

If Dallas does, in fact, pick up Lawrence in the coming days, they need to be comfortable with the path he pushed for, whether that path be for better or for worse.

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