Former Samoa Rugby League International Loa Milford has accepted the role of Head Coach at the University of Southern California. He will lead the program as it transitions from the era of Trojans legend David Lytle.
Milford comes to USC from Santa Monica Rugby Club, where he has played and coached over the past five years, and from ICEF Rugby, where he coaches under the direction of Stuart Krohn, the first American to ever play professional rugby. Milford works as a P.E. Teacher at ICEF Middle Schools and has been voted Teacher of the Year for the past three academic sessions. He has had opportunities to serve as Backs Coach for professional teams Castres (France) and Parma (Italy), but his commitment to amateur rugby and to ICEF have kept him in Los Angeles.
“It’s an exciting day for the SC program and for me personally,” said USC Director of Rugby Dominic Riebli. “I recruited Loa to Santa Monica back in 2011. Since then, we’ve had numerous discussions about potential coaching opportunities and about working together. I’ve wanted to get involved with Trojans rugby for years and was grateful when they presented an opportunity to me. I’m even more grateful that they agreed to bring Loa in. We share the same game philosophy and I’m excited to see it implemented.
“I admire Loa. He’s a genuine self-made man. He signed his first professional contract as a teenager and had a long and stellar career. For 30+ years of his life, all he knew was rugby. When his professional career was coming to an end, he and his family took a risk on coming to a country where there aren’t too many career opportunities in the sport. Stuart Krohn opened a door for him and look where he is now – to be Teacher of the Year without ever having taken a college course. That’s truly amazing.”
ICEF boys varsity coach David Hughes gave Milford a resounding endorsement. “Over the past five years Loa has established an outstanding rapport with his co-workers and the players. His ability to get the players to quickly buy into his message is one that few other coaches have. His ability to lead sessions is one of his strongest assets. His tool box of drills is deep and he always manages to keep sessions fresh and interesting. Loa has a keen eye for the game and spots weaknesses and strengths quickly. He has a good and honest manner with players; they respond well to his advice.”
“Coach Lytle is an icon of USC rugby,” said Milford. “I hope to do his legacy proud and bring this program to prominence. I’m eager to get started and to get a look at the players. I’m especially happy to see incoming freshman and ICEF grad Mathew Rhodes will be there. I hope that he’s the first of many ICEF players to come through the program.”
Riebli echoed those sentiments. “One of the greater goals for me is to give SoCal youth players another viable option for a solid collegiate rugby experience. Cal, Saint Mary’s, and (up-and-coming) Santa Clara have benefitted immensely from the great youth rugby in the Bay Area and Sacramento. Ever since SoCal youth rugby got on level with NorCal, those top-tier collegiate programs have been recruiting down here. I’d like to see those players play closer to home.”
Milford will have his first chance to meet the team when they begin practice in early September. The Trojans play a split Fall/Spring season that will see them face seven opponents from September-November. They will then come back in January and participate in the Gold Coast Conference.
About Loa Milford
Milford started his career as a Rugby League player with the Balmain (later Wests) Tigers in 1996, having signed his first professional contract at the age of 18. He represented Samoa in the Rugby League World Cup in 2000 & 2008, winning the Bronze medal in his first campaign. In 2001, he moved to France and played two seasons for the Pia Dokeys before returning to Australia and joining the Cronulla Sharks.
In 2004 Milford became one of the first players to play both professional League and Union, having signed with Bayonne in France. He then went on to play five seasons for Castres before finishing with Carcasonne. In 2010, Milford and his family won the green card lottery and immigrated to the United States. He played five seasons for the Santa Monica Dolphins before finally retiring (sort of) at the age of 38.
Milford teaches Physical Education at ICEF Middle Schools and has been voted Teacher of the Year for three straight years. He is married and has one child.