After three consecutive losing seasons, a change has been made at the top of the men’s soccer program. Head coach Dan Donigan was dismissed after nine seasons on the banks.
“After an evaluation of the program’s performance, a change of leadership is appropriate at this time,” said Director of Athletics Pat Hobbs. “We are very thankful for Dan’s dedicated service to Rutgers and its student-athletes. He contributed to our rich history of soccer success. Moving forward, we are committed to securing a head coach who will help our student-athletes compete and succeed at a Big Ten and national level.”
After making the second round of the NCAA Tournament and finishing the 2015 season with a 12-7-2 record, the program took a dramatic turn for the worse since. In the past three seasons, Donigan’s teams combined for a 9-40-4 record, including 2-20-2 in Big Ten play. This past season, there was some improvement, finishing in seventh place and avoiding a third straight winless Big Ten campaign, defeating Ohio State and Northwestern. However, there were confounding losses, including a 1-0 home defeat to Howard, who had the fourth worst RPI ranking in the country this season. They were also embarrassed at home to Elon (5-8-2) by the score of 8-1. Other non-conference losses included to UMBC and Drexel. Rutgers finished the 2018 season with a 4-13-1 record and 2-6 in Big Ten play. They lost in the Big Ten Tournament Quarterfinals to 2nd seeded Wisconsin, falling 6-3 after leading by two goals in the contest.
In nine seasons, Donigan finished with a record of 55-95-16, including two NCAA bids and was also named the Big Ten Coach of the Year in 2015.
The move now by Hobbs is a bit of surprise, despite the constant losing, due to the fact that Donigan had one year remaining on his contract worth $143,500. Since Hobbs became athletic director in November 2015, he had typically let coaches he ultimately replaced within Olympic sports finish out their respective contracts. Deciding to let go of Donigan now shows that Hobbs is committed to winning at every sport that Rutgers offers. It’s a refreshing mindset to say the least.
The Rutgers men’s soccer program has great tradition and was an elite team in college soccer the late 80’s and early 90’s, as well as went 26 years without a losing campaign between 1978-2004, most of them under the leadership former head coach Bob Reasso. New Jersey is a soccer rich state and it’s time for the program to return to respectability. Hobbs made the right move and it will be interesting to see who he ultimately tabs to lead this program forward. With All-Big Ten First Team and conference leading scorer Jordan Hall returning to a roster next season that’s only losing six players to graduation, there is a solid base for a new coach to come in and start the rebuild process.