The Dallas Jackals announced on Thursday that Santiago “Santi” Sodini has been named as the team’s newest general manager. The Jackals decided to move on from former GM Elaine Vassie, who was thrust into the position ahead of the team’s inaugural season in 2022.
Vassie and the Jackals announced that she would not return for 2023 in either her capacity as GM or head coach on June 23 after the team failed to win a single game.
Sodini has extensive experience both as a rugby player and coach, in addition to other marketing, coaching, and administrative positions he has held.
Most recently, Sodini was the Director of Operations for Rugby ATL. He joined the team ahead of their inaugural season. After going 2-3 in the COVID-shortened 2020 season, Rugby ATL rebounded, finishing second in both 2021 and 2022. The team made it to the Major League Rugby Final, losing to LA Glitinis. Rugby ATL was eliminated in the East Conference Eliminator round in 2022.
“It’s a great honor for me to be part of the Dallas Jackals,” said Sodini in a press release. “I would like to express my gratitude to the organization for the opportunity and I am looking forward to working to create a winning team on and off the field.”
Sodini spent 2022 working for STATSports, an analytics and statistics measuring firm that uses special equipment to measure athletic performance in real-time, giving players and teams valuable insight into aspects of sports performance that are otherwise impossible to attain.
“After a thorough search stateside and worldwide, Santi comes with several outstanding references and is highly respected not only in rugby, but in other sports and business endeavors,” said Tom Vander Veer of Top Tier Sports, a majority equity owner of the Jackals. “With his years of experience at the highest levels on and off the field including in the MLR, we are thrilled to have Santi join the Jackals.”
The Jackals announced that with the hiring of Sodini, the team is now conducting a search to identify a new head coach.
Vassie was originally hired as assistant general manager of the Dallas Jackals as a founding member of the club. She stepped into the general manager position after former GM Phil Camm, who was transitioned to a consultant role in August 2021.
Vassie then assumed the head coach responsibilities as well when COVID-19 protocols delayed the visa application of Michael Hodge.
Vassie was tasked with assembling a team essentially from scratch, as most of the agreements with coaches, assistants, and players made ahead of the team’s anticipated 2021 season debut had been canceled. Mid-season, Vassie was forced to find numerous replacement players as several starters were injured when a walkway collapsed.
“Elaine has been an integral part of the Jackals from the beginning and made many valuable contributions during her tenure,” the team posted in a statement announcing the decision to part with the first-year GM/coach. “She was instrumental in recruiting the domestic and international talent that created a strong culture, while working to change the landscape of the rugby pathway in the US.”
The Dallas Jackals lost every match in 2022 and set records in consecutive weeks for most points surrendered and most tries in a match in MLR history.
Dates for the 2023 season have not been released, but the 2022 season began in late March, so Sodini likely has around eight months to make changes before the start of the new season.