North Texas Daily

Club soccer unlikely to reach D-I status

Club soccer unlikely to reach D-I status

Club soccer unlikely to reach D-I status
October 15
00:58 2015

Alex Lessard | Staff Writer

@alexlikechexmix

Twenty-four years ago, John Hedlund was hired as an assistant to Dr. Richard Lowe, the head coach of the NCAA men’s soccer program at North Texas. But the program was taken away after the 1993 season, leading Hedlund to accept head coaching duties for a brand new women’s soccer program at UNT.

Over two decades later, Hedlund still holds the same position, and the possibility of a men’s soccer program revival remains doubtful.

Due to the Title IX gender equality rules put through by the NCAA, any addition of an official men’s program requires a women’s program to be added along with it. With thoughts of a new baseball program and recent renovations to Apogee Stadium and the Super Pit, adding a men’s soccer team is simply too big of an investment for North Texas to make anytime soon.

Before the program was stripped, the men’s Division I team put together three straight seasons without a losing record.

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North Texas senior Rafael Dominguez practices with his team at the Eagle Point Fields on Oct. 1. Colin Mitchell | Staff Photographer

“The men’s program here was one of the top programs for years,” Hedlund said. “It was normally a top-20 ranked program with a lot of history and tradition.”

The men’s soccer team is now a club sport that competes and practices in both the fall and spring semesters. Current team president and integrative studies senior Rafael Dominguez said he doesn’t see a Division I program coming to North Texas for at least a decade, but his hopes remain high.

“I would absolutely love to see a DI program here in the future,” Dominguez said. “With our women’s team that we have here, we have such a strong base. A lot of these girls come from this area.”

Out of the 206 Division I men’s soccer programs across the country, Southern Methodist University is the only one in Texas. However, club soccer has proved to be a quality alternative for North Texas and many other neighboring schools.

The North Texas club team competes in the Northern Division of the Texas Collegiate Soccer League along with six other Texas schools, including Baylor University and Texas Christian University. Although North Texas has not earned a bid to nationals since 2002, it currently leads the division with 12 points and is looking to come out on top and earn a trip to the regional tournament for the fourth year in a row.

“A lot of our guys play for semi-professional outdoor and indoor teams, so the competitive level is intense here to say the least,” Dominguez said.

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North Texas junior midfielder Christian Lopez before practice at the Eagle Point Fields. Colin Mitchell | Staff Photographer

The team had around 80 students come to travel team tryouts this season and had over 120 participants last year. The competitive nature of the club has been beneficial for the Mean Green women’s team as well, providing Hedlund with an unlikely scrimmage opponent right across the street.

“We get a lot of these kids that come out here and practice with us in the spring,” Hedlund said. “It’s a good matchup with my girls to play them in games in the spring to get ready for physical opponents that we’re going to play in the fall.”

The teams holds practices both semesters from 7 to 9 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays at Eagle Point Fields and are open to all North Texas students. For business junior Clay Pickler, the club team has provided him an opportunity to play a sport he loves close to home.

Pickler transferred to North Texas after spending time as a kicker at Southeast Missouri State University last year and Florida State University in 2013, the year the Seminoles won the national championship in football.

“[Football’s] a lot more intense. It consumes your life,” Pickler said. “[Club soccer] comes with a lot more free time. I really like this a lot. It’s a nice change of pace.”

In order to play on the travel team, players are required to pay dues of $100 to help pay for expenses that exceed the $2,000 budget allotted by the university. Once gas money, hotel rooms and equipment among many other things are accounted for, Dominguez said expenses over an entire season have totaled up to $10,000 in recent years.

“Even if we do go far in things like regionals and nationals, we won’t have the money to go to these tournaments,” Dominguez said.

This semester, Dominguez has stepped away to take on head coaching duties after being the starting goalkeeper last year. Although the team has flirted with hiring a coach, Dominguez is the team’s first full-time coach since the Division I program was disbanded.

Dominguez said if the club had more money to work with, hiring an experienced coach for the long haul may be a more realistic possibility.

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North Texas junior forward Clay Pickler fights for the ball near UTD’s 18 yard box at the Beer Barn Fields on Oct. 3. Colin Mitchell | Staff Photographer

“A lot of times, they’re not asking to be paid, but we don’t have the money to pay them if they were wanting to because of the budget that we have,” Dominguez said. “It would be completely voluntary.”

With a larger budget, the club team could likely find a coach quickly, especially with the amount of local talent in the Dallas Fort-Worth area. Among 29 members of the 10-2-1 North Texas women’s team, not a single one is from outside of Texas.

“North Texas is a huge region for high school soccer and club soccer,” Pickler said. “[Adding the program] would make this a school I’d want to come to versus other schools that don’t have soccer.”

While speculating on its future can be enticing, the club team remains focused on the season ahead. Dominguez said the team’s ultimate goal is to earn a bid to nationals in Phoenix, Arizona and will only worry about how to pay for travel if they qualify.

“If there’s any team that we’ve had in the past decade that can go to Nationals, it’s this one,” Dominguez said.

Featured Image: North Texas senior midfielder Aaron Cavanagh attempts to take the ball away from a UTD player on Oct. 3. Colin Mitchell | Staff Photographer

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1 Comment

  1. Derrick
    Derrick October 21, 20:56

    “Due to the Title IX gender equality rules put through by the NCAA, any addition of an official men’s program requires a women’s program to be added along with it.”

    This is just simply not true. Every men’s sport except football has a women’s program. There are five women’s sports where we have no equal men’s program: Softball, Swimming/Diving, Soccer, Tennis, and Volleyball.

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