Standing just beyond midfield on his second day of practice, Todd Yeagley is surrounded by his past, present and future.
Sitting a few yards away, the legendary Hoosier coach Jerry Yeagley looks on. His time has ended. Now, it’s his son’s turn.
“He’s better than I was,” Jerry said. “It’s nice that he likes to share his thinking or ask my opinion, but I will not be there on the field with him.”
For more than 30 years, Jerry led the IU soccer program. After a six-year hiatus, the Yeagley name is again running one of the nation’s premier soccer programs, replacing Mike Freitag. In December, Todd was announced as the third coach of IU men’s soccer.
Although Todd has a sister, he grew up with a group of college students he called his brothers. Like older brothers, the team would play tricks on him.
“They’d tape him to chairs in elevators and send him down to the lobby,” Jerry said. “They were rough on him, but he loved it.”
Todd agreed he was the typical younger brother looking for attention and seeing how far he could push the envelope before his brothers set him back in his place.
This brotherhood kept Todd enthralled with the game throughout his childhood.
“If you’re in the environment that I was in, it’s hard not to like soccer,” Todd said.
During his time at Bloomington High School South, Todd helped build the club team into a varsity sport his senior year. A torn ACL kept him from taking the field his final year.
“The joke among my friends is that I never got a varsity letter,” Todd said.
There was a time in high school when Jerry noticed his son was ready to take his game to the next level.
“I wouldn’t have wanted him to come if he were just an average player because then it would have been ‘Well, he’s just playing because his dad’s the coach’,” Jerry said. “The fact that he was an All-American for four years, nobody ever questioned if he should be on the team.”
Todd was one of 24 NSCAA All-Americans who combined to achieve an NCAA-leading 17 College Cup appearances and seven national championships. He never wanted to be a part of another team.
“Why would you want to go anywhere else if you could go here?” Todd said. “It’s just all that I knew.”
Earning three Big Ten titles and a 75-9-5 record with IU, Todd gave his father many memories. None stuck out more than his son’s first game as a Hoosier.
“When I looked out there and they announced him, he was lined up with the team,” Jerry said with pride. “They were playing the national anthem – and there was my son in an IU uniform.”
Entering the game with a 23-2 record, the Hoosiers deserved their spot on the sidelines of the 1994 title game against Virginia.
They believed victory was theirs.
But after the final second ticked off the clock, the Hoosiers saw the wrong team kissing the trophy.
Sixteen years later, Todd still has not watched the loss.
He still feels empty.
“You get there and you get a taste of it,” Todd recounted. “When you’re a senior, you know it’s over. There’s no chance to come back.”
65 years ago on a playground in a small Pennsylvania town, a toddler began to learn soccer. That toddler – Jerry– was determined to spend his life around the sport.
“My family thought I should follow my uncle George to dentistry or my uncle Harry to medicine,” Jerry said about his college options. “They were disappointed when I said I wanted to … be a coach.”
After winning a high school state championship in Pennsylvania, Jerry followed his own path to Bloomington. While at IU, he won an NCAA championship as a player and coach, becoming the only person to claim all three titles. He retired in 2003 as the winningest coach in NCAA soccer history.
For 10 years, Jerry and his wife did everything. They washed club uniforms. They begged for and borrowed equipment. Jerry became more than a supervisor to the group of players that, to the University, was only a club. To him, the club was a future team and family.
At the time, the Athletics Director, the Dean of Students and the Intramural Director thought differently.
“The AD didn’t even know that I was a faculty member and he told me when I finished my studies it would be best for me to move on,” Jerry said.
Instead, Jerry took his building blocks and shaped his underdog club into a dynasty.
With each new block, Todd stood by his father’s side, soaking in the soccer world.
The 2010 IU men’s soccer team ran off the practice field to take a break. A line formed on the sideline.
Each member filed past a smiling Jerry, shaking “The Godfather’s” hand.
However, some in the soccer community felt that hand was too involved in his son’s hire.
“I didn’t have one word with our athletic director who made the final decision from the time Michael was relieved of his duties until the hire was made,” Jerry said.
The IU Athletics Department examined records of past players’ feelings and conducted interviews with current players about Todd before hiring him after a disappointing fall under Freitag.
“With his dad and connections with professional teams and his personality, people really appreciate all he brings to Indiana,” freshman defender Matt Wiet said about his new coach. “Some people may be upset about it, but you can’t please everybody.”
His connection to the Yeagley family goes back to when Todd recruited him in 2008.
Wiet said the way Todd cares about his players, on and off the field, is what makes him a great return for IU soccer.
“You want to go and run through the streets screaming ‘Hallelujiah,” Matt said. “You want to go and win a national championship for him.”
The Yeagley name has a glory that resides in the 41 years Jerry spent with the program. The return to glory now rests with Todd.
“There are a handful of teams that are at the top all the time,” Jerry said. “That’s where we should be – in that small handful of elite teams that are constantly in the hunt for the gold ring, and we’ve slipped from that.”
Todd spent the past month talking to his players about his approach to IU soccer.
At practice, he donned the correct shades of red and white with a logo that is almost impatiently waiting for another star to be added.
For the IU soccer program, the national title is not dreamed about, it’s expected.
“My main focus is everyday excellence,” Todd said. “I’m not talking about outcome goals. I’m not saying championship. It’s a given. That’s why you come here.”