After a month long search, Rutgers athletic director Pat Hobbs found his new head coach for the men’s soccer program. It was formally announced on Saturday that Rutgers hired longtime Fordham head coach Jim McElderry to replace Dan Donigan, who was fired after nine seasons on the job.
WELCOME TO THE BANKS!— Rutgers Men's Soccer (@RUMensSoccer) December 9, 2018
Jim McElderry To Head @RUMensSoccer Program
Coach McElderry has made three NCAA appearances, including the tournament quarterfinals in 2017, and captured two Atlantic 10 Championships over the last five seasons.
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“Rutgers is delighted to welcome Jim McElderry to lead our men’s soccer program,” said Rutgers Director of Athletics Pat Hobbs. “Jim comes ‘To The Banks’ with a proven record of program building resulting in NCAA Tournament appearances and numerous accolades for his student-athletes for their performances on the pitch and in the classroom. Jim brings a great vision for the future of our program and has strong recruiting ties both regionally and internationally. With Jim’s leadership and the support of our outstanding soccer alumni, we will see our program rise in the Big Ten and on the national stage in the years ahead.”
McElderry won 127 games in 16 seasons as head coach for Fordham, including two Atlantic 10 Tournament championships, as well as three recent NCAA Tournament berths.
His best season was in 2017, when Fordham went 14-6-3 and advanced to the NCAA Quarterfinal round, as well as finishing the season ranked 11th in the United Coaches Poll. It was the most wins in a season in program history, as well as the farthest any Fordham team in any sport has ever advanced in the NCAA Tournament.
In 2018, Fordham went 8-5-4, was nationally ranked for six weeks and advanced to its fifth consecutive Atlantic 10 Tournament, where it lost to conference champion Rhode Island 2-0, whom they beat in the regular season. McElderry’s squad opened the year defeating Big Ten teams Wisconsin, who finished in second place and defeated Rutgers twice, as well as eighth place Northwestern, who Rutgers also beat this season.
In terms of past players of McElderry to play in the MLS, 2012 Atlantic 10 Defensive Player of the Year Ryan Meara is currently the starting goalkeeper for the New York Red Bulls, among others.
Academics matter to McElderry as well. His teams been honored nine consecutive years with the Team Academic Award from the United Soccer Coaches Association. In addition, every four year player to play for McElderry since he was in charge in 2003 has graduated, which is impressive.
Prior to Fordham, McElderry was an assistant coach at Fairfield University for a decade (1993-2002), where he also starred as a player and was named MAAC Player of the Year in 1992. McElderry has also worked in part with the Region I Olympic Development Program, as well as worked with US Soccer Federation’s Development Academy, in addition to Everton F.C. Westchester and Storm Academies.
“I would like to thank Pat Hobbs and his incredible staff for entrusting me with the position of head men’s soccer coach at Rutgers,” said McElderry. “My family and I look forward to joining the Rutgers community and this great university. As a native of New Jersey, I understand the history of Rutgers men’s soccer. I will work tirelessly to attract top level student-athletes, compete at a high level in the Big Ten and on the national stage and engage the alumni and Rutgers fan base to support a team they will be proud call their own.”
Here is a video of McElderry from last month previewing his team’s match in the Atlantic 10 Tournament.
As I wrote here, the Rutgers men’s soccer program has a proud history and Hobbs had many intriguing options for this position. The route he ultimately went with will be considered the safe one, as McElderry is not considered a sexy pick like Carlos Acquista, a scout with the New York Red Bulls that has Division I coaching experience, as well as longtime top assistant, Mike Miller, currently at UConn. Ultimately, Hobbs chose the program builder that took his last school, Fordham, to heights never reached previously.
Based on the current state of the Rutgers men’s soccer program, they need a long term solution who will provide stability and build a winning culture. The Scarlet Knights finished with a combined 9-40-4 record, including 2-20-2 in Big Ten play, the past three seasons. Star forward Jordan Hall, who led the Big Ten in scoring last season with 14 goals, has transferred to UConn. Rutgers does return eight starters total next season, but will need to replace a two year mainstay in the net, goalkeeper Rafael Perreira.
Recruiting at Rutgers will certainly be a big key to McElderry having success here. In addition to a new staff, an increased budget for recruiting and other purposes is needed. Hopefully, there will be tangible signs in the seasons ahead that player development is occurring as well. In order for the program to return to its previous glory, they need a coach that can get the most out of his players. That would certainly help Rutgers get back into the NCAA Tournament on a consistent basis. McElderry has had a solid and steady tenure at Fordham, with the past five years his team breaking through with more success than ever before. Time will tell if he can create his own winning path at Rutgers like he did at Fordham, but here is to hoping that he can.