Indiana Daily Student

Like father, like son

Yeagleys make impact on IU men's soccer program

IU assistant coach Todd Yeagley scans the sidelines shortly before halftime of IU’s 4-2 win against Butler on Oct. 24, 2006. Todd played on the IU men’s team from 1991-1994 under his father, legendary coach Jerry Yeagley.
IU assistant coach Todd Yeagley scans the sidelines shortly before halftime of IU’s 4-2 win against Butler on Oct. 24, 2006. Todd played on the IU men’s team from 1991-1994 under his father, legendary coach Jerry Yeagley.

Not long ago, Todd Yeagley stumbled across a tape of the 1994 College Cup Championship game. He was in the IU men's soccer team locker room, looking for footage in the team's archives when he saw a copy of his last game as a college soccer player. He had never watched the game before.

"I almost took it out," Todd Yeagley said, "and I said, 'No.'"

The tape remains tucked away in storage, but Todd's memories of the game are vivid. He knows a victory would have been a perfect ending to his college career, a chance for him to give his father -- legendary men's soccer coach Jerry Yeagley -- another national championship to hang at the east end of Bill Armstrong Stadium.

There was no happy ending to Todd's senior season. He left college soccer with four All-American honors and zero national championships. Less than 10 years later, he came back to the IU sidelines.

'These guys were like my older brothers'

Jerry Yeagley's IU men's soccer team earned varsity status in 1973, one year after Todd was born. In many ways, Todd grew up at the same time his father's program did.

Jerry Yeagley allowed his son to be a ball boy, running around behind the goals at Memorial Stadium, chasing down balls for the Hoosiers.

"My father was very good allowing me to be around the team," Todd said. "I just have this vision of the football stadium and games. I was pretty young at that point, and it was a pretty cool time for me, being 5, 6 years old."

The year Todd turned 10, his dad won his first national championship. He captured a second championship the following year in 1983.

Within a couple of years, Todd moved from shagging stray soccer balls to kicking them around with the team.

"Here I was kicking around with the players," Todd said. "These guys were like my older brothers. They'd always say, 'You do this, you do that, you do this, you could play here.' The nice thing is all these players that were before me, my big brothers that I'd be able to train with, they didn't do any favors by sugarcoating that. I'd be 12 years old, and they'd be kicking the crap out of me in training because they knew it would make me better."

In high school, Todd played on a club team composed of students from the two Bloomington high schools with no coach and makeshift uniforms.

"It was like the Bad News Bears," he said. "We were the Cutters of soccer."

Like the legendary Little 500 cycling team made famous by the movie "Breaking Away," Todd's team experienced success.

Early high school success did not guarantee Todd would get a chance to pursue a collegiate career at IU.

"I told him, I said, 'You have to prove that you're, without question, good enough -- one of the top players to play here,'" Jerry Yeagley said. "If he were just a marginal player, I would not have wanted him."

For young Todd, his father's ultimatum inspired him.

"It was a bit of a pressure, but it motivated me," Todd said. "He didn't want people to think I was playing because of the relationship. He didn't need that; I didn't need that. It wouldn't be fair to either one of us."

By his junior season of high school, the IU coach told his son he was on pace to play at IU.

"Coaches would call him first to ask if they could call me or write me or whatever," Todd said. "He put the block on right away and said, 'No, he's going to come play for me.' I never went on an official visit anywhere, which I kept saying, 'Come on, let's go to California.' He kept saying, 'No.'"

'Everybody was watching me'

In his first game wearing cream and crimson, Todd, a true freshman, scored his first career college goal. It was the start of a season that ended with a Big Ten championship, a trip to the College Cup and All-American honors for the younger Yeagley.

Though his father was confident in his ability, Todd said he needed to prove himself that year.

"I felt pressure to perform well because there were so many layers of expectations that I put on myself, that past players put on me," he said. "My dad downplayed it the most because he knew there was that undue pressure that I put on myself. Everybody was watching me."

Even though the season ended when the Hoosiers lost in the first game of the College Cup, Todd said the team "overachieved" because the squad boasted five freshman starters.

The next two seasons were disappointing for Todd, especially after nearly competing for a national championship game his freshman year. The NCAA named him an All-American in his sophomore and junior seasons, but the Hoosiers never made it back to the College Cup.

All those factors led to high expectations for Todd's senior season.

'I can feel the day'

After an impressive senior season in which the Missouri Athletic Club named Todd the 1994 National Player of the Year, he and the Hoosiers advanced all the way to the College Cup championship game against the University of Virginia -- the team that had won every College Cup since Todd's freshman year.

For Todd's final game, the teams squared off in Davidson, N.C.

"It was the fitting end is the way we saw it," he said. "Here we are playing against Virginia. Great venue, the place was packed. We were on form, there's no doubt we felt that."

Once the game started, Todd knew it wouldn't live up to his expectations.

"It really wasn't like a lot of finals," he said. "It wasn't a good game. I didn't play well. A lot of my teammates didn't play well."

Virginia scored an early goal against IU, and the Hoosiers never countered. They lost 1-0, and at the end of the game, Todd fell to the ground in disbelief.

"My dad, after the game, I was down on the ground," he said. "He didn't know what to say. He couldn't say anything. It was difficult. He put so much emotion into what that would have been for him."

Jerry Yeagley said the loss was heartbreaking.

"That being his last game and the last time we were together as father and son and player and coach, we were hoping to go out champions," he said. "It was the last time we were together. It made it doubly hard."

Though Todd has never watched the tape of the game, he can still replay parts of the game in his mind.

"There are vivid plays in the game I remember, and I can feel the day, but that was tough," he said. "It was real tough."

'It was a roller-coaster ride'

After a successful seven-year career playing for the Columbus Crew of Major League Soccer, Todd returned to Bloomington in 2003 as a volunteer assistant coach for the Hoosiers in his father's final coaching year.

"There's a lot of things that had to fall into place for me to come back," Todd said.

With a 2-3-4 record nine games into the season, the Yeagleys wondered whether Jerry's final season would be his least enjoyable.

"We had the worst record in the history of the program midway through the season," Jerry Yeagley said.

From that point on, IU turned it around.

"It was a roller-coaster ride, especially in the beginning," Todd said.

The Hoosiers did not lose another game the rest of the season, winning the College Cup with a 2-1 victory against St. John's University.

"It was one of my most enjoyable and gratifying years, and having him there my last year made it more special," Jerry Yeagley said. "After we won it, he came up to me and said, 'Hey, Dad, we finally got our championship together.'"

Todd said the 2003 championship was so special because of the 1994 College Cup loss.

"You couldn't have picked a better ending -- an ending for him, a start for me in my coaching career," he said.

'It would be hard not to be here'

After Jerry Yeagley's retirement, current IU coach Mike Freitag -- one of Jerry Yeagley's "favorite players" -- took over for the legendary coach. Todd became Freitag's assistant.

Jerry Yeagley admitted his son is a hot coaching commodity.

"There are going to be people after him," he said. "There already have been."

The younger Yeagley said he hasn't put much thought into the future.

He and his dad both agree Freitag should be the coach for as long as he desires, but Todd isn't sure what that means for his future.

"There's scenarios (where) I could stay here and whatever day Mike retires, if the opportunity presents it, move into the role here as head coach," he said. "Or if another unique situation happens somewhere, I don't know. Probably in five years I will have a much more clear idea.

"A lot of people ask, 'How long you gonna wait to be a head coach?' Right now it doesn't bother me. I enjoy being an assistant. But yet I feel comfortable that if an opportunity came about, I could handle the challenge, if it was right."

However, leaving Bloomington would be a difficult decision for Todd to make.

"I think the grass always isn't greener. And I have so many emotional ties here, to not think of myself, once Mike is done. It would be hard not to think I would want to be here," he said. "There's a lot of vested interest in this program from my family. It would be hard not to be here."

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