By Michael Lewis
The COVID-19 pandemic has claimed another college program – Appalachian State University men’s soccer.
Appalachian State athletic director Doug Gillin announced Tuesday that the department was dropping three men’s sports – indoor track and field, soccer and tennis due to financial constraints caused by the outbreak.
The Mountaineers joined the University of Cincinnati as schools that have axed soccer programs in the past two months. Cincy announced its decision April 14.
Former U.S. Soccer executive director and secretary general Hank Steinbrecher, a native of Levittown, N.Y. once coached the men’s team and helped to bring it to national prominence.
“There’s no right answer,” Gillin was quoted by the Winston-Salem Journal when asked why those programs were cut. “It doesn’t mean that these three sports and these three sports’ student-athletes mean any less to us than the others. That’s part of the pain and the hurt, right?”
The school needed to cut 20 percent of its budget for the 2021 fiscal year. The programs will save the department about $1 million, the newspaper reported.
“Taking 20 percent, or $5 million, is really really difficult. That speaks to the difficulty of the decision today,” Gillin told the newspaper. “With that, I believe that we’re almost there in terms of identifying. And we’ve identified, we just have to act on them.”
In 2019, the men’s soccer team improved during its fifth season under head coach Jason O’Keefe, finishing with an 11-7-1 record, the first time the side finished in double figures in wins. That included a 1-0 victory at the University of North Carolina Oct. 29.
In 1977, Steinbrecher started a three-year tenure as men’s coach and as an associate professor. His teams compiled a 33-10-0 record while winning every conference match and capturing the Southern Conference championship three consecutive years. The Mountaineers earned a No. 7 national ranking in one season. Steinbrecher was named conference coach of the year each time and was chosen by his coaching peers to serve as a member of the ISAA (Intercollegiate Soccer Association of America) rating board and for a period as chairman of the southeast region committee.
He left the school in 1980 to become head soccer coach at Boston University, where he remained until 1985. For his accomplishments, Steinbrecher was inducted into the North Carolina Soccer Hall of Fame.
The men’s team also boasts the NCAA’s all-time scoring leader, Thompson Usiyan. The Nigerian forward tallied 109 goals and 255 points, both still NCAA Division I records during his 49-game career from 1976-1980.