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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Coaching decision made too quickly

Seeing Pacific 10 Conference representatives Stanford and UCLA set to face off in the semi-finals of the 2009 NCAA Soccer Championships, I wondered two things.

When will Arizona’s soccer team ever get back to the tournament?

And why weren’t any of the coaches in the tournament even considered for an interview to fill Arizona’s coaching vacancy?

Four days after Arizona soccer ended a forgettable season filled with empty box scores, heartbreaking losses and an unforeseen coaching change, Jim Livengood acted swiftly in moving the program into a new era.

Livengood named co-interim head coach Lisa Oyen the new head coach on Nov. 12, exactly one month after Dan Tobias resigned for personal reasons. That decision came amid controversy when former midfielder Leila Amini said that the soccer program was deteriorating after she left the team.

Quite frankly, Livengood’s decision came far too quickly for a program that has had its share of controversial player-coach relationships.

The history of the program should have been looked at before making a four-day decision.

In 1994, the program’s inaugural season began under head coach Lisa Fraser. During her tenure, she was unable to come up with one winning season, and had a record of 32-68-6 when she left the team in 1999 for what was said to be personal reasons.

It was reported by the Daily Wildcat on Nov. 22, 1999, that Fraser was pressured by her players to resign and even had a petition calling for her resignation. Players acknowledged that there had been a petition but declined to comment.

In 2000, Fraser’s successor, Cathy Klein, didn’t have much luck in trying to lead the program to its first winning season. She resigned in 2002 in order to pursue her doctorate and a career in administration.

Then in 2003 came Dan Tobias, who in his first three seasons appeared to be Arizona soccer’s version of legendary men’s basketball head coach Lute Olson after leading the Wildcats to their first two winning seasons with a Pac-10 title (2004) and a Sweet 16 appearance (2005).

But 2005 would be Tobias’ last winning season before his own resignation. After two straight seasons of success, Arizona soccer gradually returned to its losing ways in the next three seasons, with records of 8-10-2, 6-13-1, 9-11 and 3-9-1, before Tobias resigned on Oct. 12.

For a program with such turmoil marking its 15-year history, there should have been an extensive interview process to ensure that the right person was chosen.

But instead there was a hasty decision.

This is no knock on Oyen, who did an outstanding job with assistant John Galas taking the reins of the team midway through the season. In the first three games that Galas and Oyen coached, the team played inspiringly, even winning a thriller against rival Arizona State. But in the final four games, the Wildcats reverted back to their old ways, and were shut out in three of those games.

This is not to say that Oyen shouldn’t have been hired, but Livengood should have at least looked at more options outside of the UA before making the decision.

In a program with more losses and controversies than any team at Arizona, it is now clear why these problems continue to occur.

The athletic department has acted carelessly and inadequately when it comes to the soccer program.

A few days after Tobias resigned, Livengood was adamant that the coaching search would begin after the end of the season out of respect to the players.

Waiting until the season ended was understandable, but making the decision in four days before the NCAA tournament had even begun didn’t show the players that the Arizona athletic department cares about the soccer program.

Of course, no one ever expected the process to resemble a search for a basketball or football coach, but the soccer program’s history suggests that the search, if you can call it that, should have lasted closer to four weeks than four days.

The Arizona soccer community should support Oyen and hope she makes Livengood look good in a decision that was far too fast.

But if Oyen’s tenure is anything like the program’s previous three coaches, the Arizona athletics department only has itself to blame.

— Vincent Balistreri is a journalism senior. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu

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