Following the conclusion of the state high school soccer championships this week, Utah's graduating soccer players are left with this problem: Where do they go from here? It's not easy being an aspiring soccer player in Utah these days. Maybe it has been a half-dozen years since the sport was officially recognized by the high schools, and more than that since it was recognized by age-group youth organizations that realize it is a much better sport for children than football, basketball or baseball. Maybe thousands of Utah kids now enter their teen-age years knowing an instep from an outstep.
But that hasn't translated into a heightened awareness by higher education. No matter how great a soccer player you might be; no matter if you can do a reverse upside-down scissors kick, a la Pele, it is impossible to get a college soccer scholarship within the boundaries of Utah.Only one school, Westminster College in Salt Lake City, has an accredited soccer team. The Parsons play a fall schedule in the Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Soccer League, which is affiliated with the small-college NAIA organization. But the school doesn't offer athletic scholarships. Team members have to pay their own tuition, amounting to around $3,000 a semester; either that or qualify for an academic scholarship. Chris Dorich, the coach, has done a good job with his teams. Last fall the Parsons made it to the NAIA playoffs.
But unless they're rich or exceptionally bright, Utah's soccer players are left with the choice of leaving the state or playing for club-level-only teams at Utah, BYU and Weber State.
BYU used to have a scholarship-funded soccer program that played as an NCAA-sanctioned team. The Cougars operated from 1979 through 1987 that way. But BYU officials insisted that joining the NCAA, soccer-wise, was an experiment only, and prior to last fall's season, they declared the experiment unsuccessful.
"The soccer players were always on half-rations, we treated them like step-kids," admits BYU Athletic Director Glen Tuckett. "If we could get to the point where we could fund it properly, then OK. But if we're going to do something, we'd like to do it right."
Under the best of times, the BYU program received just under $5,000 in scholarship monies per year, and no budget for recruiting. The coach during the NCAA years, Jim Dusara, ran something of a loose ship, insofar as NCAA codes were concerned. His was not the flagship program of BYU athletics. Neither was it the most ardently attended-to.
When speaking on the subject of BYU's experiment with NCAA soccer recently, Tuckett remembered it as being "for four years." By contrast, in a conversation of the same subject, Rollie Bestor, the BYU official in charge of extramural sports - under which category soccer now fits into - said the NCAA years "began in 1974." Neither of which jibed with Dusara's recollection of eight seasons.
One thing's for sure, Dusara was let go after the 1987 season. He went without rancor. "There were allegations that I violated some NCAA rules," he said. "But that was only because there were some I wasn't aware of. The No. 1 reason the program was dropped (from NCAA status) was, I believe, the funding. When they go somewhere at BYU they want to go first class."
And not into NCAA investigation. Heaven forbid.
BYU soccer is now back to where it was in the '70s, on an extramural basis, a state of affairs that happens to be just fine with Dave Woolley, a PhD candidate in P.E. at BYU who has taken over as head coach. Last fall, after inheriting Dusara's program, he played mostly NCAA Div. I schools anyway, and finished with a 20-4 record. He has already hustled ticket sales for next year and says 14,000 tickets have been sold for the fall 1989 home opener against St. Mary's, a top-rated NCAA team. Further, he has secured endowments to help student-athletes with minimal expenses, and has prompted renovation plans for Haws Field.
Woolley's goal is to "put together a program the athletic department can't resist."
So far, Tuckett is oblivious to that; as oblivious as his counterpart at the University of Utah, Athletic Director Chris Hill, is to the hopes of the club-level soccer team at his school. "We just don't have the resources to develop a new sport," says Hill. Meanwhile, the coach of the Ute soccer club, Will Veal, says, "Whatever we suggest to them (the administration), they're not interested."
Thus, Hill is unaware that Tommy Angelos, probably the best soccer player ever developed in the state of Utah, is playing for the Utes. Angelos was an All-State, All-Everything player at Woods Cross High, and was invited to work out with the U.S. National Team the past couple of years. Now, he's going to college and, for the time being, playing occasionally for the Ute club.
That's his best option if he wants to stay home, which he obviously does for the time being. But still, for Angelos, and for Utah's other high school players with college-level talent, there's only one way to get a hire education in soccer: Move out.