When are three Big Ten championships, two Big Ten Coach of the Year titles and one National Championship not enough to keep your job?
Apparently, when you’re IU men’s soccer coach Mike Freitag. The handpicked successor to IU men’s soccer Godfather Jerry Yeagley, Freitag will not return to Bloomington after a 13-11-1 season, the program’s worst record.
However, as Athletics Director Fred Glass astutely pointed out, IU’s record is not the reason Freitag is being let go. Sure, the storied program hasn’t had a season this bad since 1985, but every sport is allowed to have a down year.
Instead, Freitag is gone because of a tight, downward spiral sucking the Hoosiers off their once-earned pedestal. Glass said he and Chris Reynolds, IU associate athletic director for regulatory affairs, took a look at the program’s past several years and where it was going.
What they saw was a team that hadn’t been to a College Cup since the National Championship in 2004, making this senior class just the second not to see the Final Four. They earned the worst home record in IU history in 2009.
After the Hoosiers’ season-ending 1-0 loss to North Carolina, Reynolds reached out to the team to ask their opinion on the team’s state with Freitag as head coach.
What they said is unknown, but because Freitag was deemed expendable one can assume their reviews weren’t glowing.
Freitag criticized the staff for holding the interviews immediately after a tough loss, saying “emotions were still high,” but Glass said he didn’t hear anything he hadn’t heard before.
“These comments were not inconsistent with comments that other exit interviews and other things that we have heard from the players over the course of the season,” Glass said.
The news that Glass chose not to renew Freitag’s contract came within months of him saying that he will fulfill IU football coach Bill Lynch’s contract, leading many to ask the question: Why Freitag and not Lynch?
The main difference between the two programs lies within the history books.
Essentially, IU soccer is a winner and IU football is not. Plus, Freitag is not being fired in the middle of a contract as Lynch would have been, which makes the financial differences between the two black and white.
For Glass, a coach’s on-field success was only one small part to consider when deciding to keep or discard either coach.
“I really feel and am convinced that the soccer program was going in the wrong direction, and I believe the football program is going in the right direction,” Glass said. “So I think you take into account the record and you don’t ignore the record because, ultimately, all of us are ultimately judged upon the wins and losses, but it’s only part of the puzzle.”
If a team is having historic lows and the players aren’t adamant about keeping the coach, that team is indeed going in the wrong direction. These aren’t players forced to play for Freitag, either. They’re the guys he recruited, coached and, at last, failed.
These players came to IU because of its rich history of dominance, brilliance and confidence. They chose IU over other schools because they wanted to – and thought they would – win.
When something is lost like IU’s commonplace winning record, it’s time to make a change.
Now, let the speculation begin over Freitag’s replacement. Glass said he would prefer an IU alumnus, and his top options would have to be Caleb Porter, 1998 IU graduate and current coach of the No. 1 Akron Zips program or 1994 graduate and Yeagley’s son Todd Yeagley, currently the head coach at Wisconsin.
It will be Glass’ first hire, and it couldn’t be any tougher.
If his choice is a failure for one of IU’s top programs, his judgment of coaches will forever be questioned. It would tarnish the program’s reputation and the top recruiting classes IU is used to having would be limited.
The right move was made for now, but a wrong move in the future would be worse than sticking with the status quo.