Soccer: Era of change continues

Following closely on the heels of Paul James' departure from York, famed UBC soccer coach Dick Mosher announced his retirement this weekend. Mosher had been involved with both UBC's men's and women's programs since 1986. He won six national titles with the men, one in his first year in 1986 and another five between 1989 and 1994, then moved to the women's game and won titles in 2002, 2003 and 2006. He also won Canada West coach of the year seven times and CIS coach of the year three times. That's an incredibly impressive resume.

Losing a coach of the calibre of Mosher is obviously tough for CIS soccer, but this is perhaps less damaging than James' departure. There's no indication that Mosher wasn't getting enough support from the university or had too much on his plate, and this doesn't seem like a coach leaving to pursue other opportunities. Mosher is 65, and while he certainly could coach for several more years, it's not difficult to belive that he might want to retire.

The other thing to consider is that one of the most prominent jobs in CIS soccer has just opened up. UBC has a lot of things going for it; its location in the Lower Mainland, where there's a lot of focus on developing elite female players through club programs and high schools, the success the program has had under Mosher, the amount of support the program gets from the administration (from the outside at least, soccer at UBC seems to get more respect than it does at many CIS schools, where it's frequently overlooked in favour of football and basketball) and perhaps most importantly, the program's strong relationships with the Vancouver Whitecaps' women's teams and the Canadian national teams.

There are a couple of different paths UBC could take to find a new coach. One would be to promote one of the two current assistant coaches, Jonas Worth or Steve Baarts. Another would to be to bring back a prominent alumnus, such as Andrea Neil, who's currently an assistant coach with the women's national team. The third would be to hire a head coach from another CIS school, which would then set off a train of coaching dominoes like we've recently seen in NCAA football. Either of the first two options seems more likely, but you can't rule the third one out completely.

Speaking of the NCAA, though, that may be a complicating factor in the coaching search. As The Province reported yesterday, things are still progressing on the UBC-to-the-NCAA front, albeit slowly. Athletic director Bob Philip was in Atlanta this week for the NCAA's general meeting, which suggests the UBC administration is still considering the move quite seriously. Now, the calibre of women's soccer probably isn't that different from NCAA Division II to the CIS (and I'd venture that CIS might even be better on the women's side, given the amount of national team players who have come from each), but that's still a lot of uncertainty for a coach to deal with. That also might be another factor that would make it easier for UBC to hire an assistant or an alumnus, whose loyalty would be to the program, not necessarily to CIS soccer.

[Cross-posted to Sporting Madness]
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