Published: October 13, 2010
Starting a soccer program from scratch has to be quite the mixed bag. On one hand a coach can set things up the way he wants (within parameters of budget and rules of course) and doesn’t have to worry about someone else’s baggage or the perception thereof.
On the other hand, there’s nobody else to blame if things don’t go well. It’s a very visible opportunity to completely fall on one’s face.
So when veteran college coach Bob Butehorn took the reins at the new program at Florida Gulf Coast
University in Fort Myers, Florida, he knew that to build a good program it would take good people, and this formula seems to be working out in grand fashion for the Eagles.
Head Coach Bob Butehorn
The Eagles are atop the Atlantic Sun Conference with a perfect league record and an 8-2-2 mark overall and Butehorn credits it all to his playing staff and assistants Alex Aldaz and Aaron Slusher, and to sticking to the original goals and plan.
“I had an initial fundraising banquet when we first brought the program out of the ground and when they asked me my goals I said ‘Four years and I’ll have us on national stage.’ Well, people laughed but I told them I was serious, that with where we are and what we have and what I’ll do, it’s feasible,” Butehorn said. “It was kind of a motivating speech for me, but in the back of my mind it was part of setting the stage for what you want.”
Four years later, the goal has been met, with the Eagles having been listed in a number of national polls. They were in the TopDrawerSoccer.com ranking as well but in a case of operator error, I didn’t realize the program wouldn’t be eligible for postseason play as a full-fledged DI setup until next season. That in itself must be frustrating considering how thoroughly FGCU is showing it belongs. Butehorn is taking a philosophical approach to that.
“It is what it is, but it’s kind of a shame for these athletes who have been considered DI athletes from day one,” Butehorn said. “I understand it is a rule and we’ve given that knowledge to each of our recruits. They understand but it’s still some unfortunate circumstances. It’s been a tough road but we’ve been very proud of them.”
The program currently has about 80 percent of the NCAA’s 9.9 scholarship maximum allotted to it. Butehorn didn’t go all out to spend it on his very first class, as one of the program’s emphases has been to make every dollar count.
“I’ve tried to be frugal with how we spent money in the first few years. I wanted to make sure we built our foundation correctly,” he said. “The #1 thing we’ve done is recruited character and competitors. The second thing is we have stuck to the way we want to play. We’ve recruited the type of player that fits that system, and we’ve built this organization under the philosophy of making sure we are making the right decisions - not taking any shortcuts. We never went after any transfers, or junior college kids. We’re always looking for 4-year kids who understand our system and can grow in that system. We want to develop the program and develop the player.”
The playing style Butehorn espouses is a practical combination of defending and attacking.
“We are fortunate to have a wide selection of different styles down here in Florida. You get a lot of kids who are comfortable with the ball,” he said. “We try to find a good balance between defense and offense, but that technique comes in handy at any position. We’ve had 10 players who have scored this year and our leading scorer is a right back (Deion Jones). We play a possession style but more with a purpose to go forward than you might think of with that word. It’s a much cerebral game we try to play.”
The future is bright, but Butehorn stresses that the program needs to continue its focus on character. It seems very unlikely it will fail to do so.