As the Yale men’s soccer team takes the field this fall, its players are focused on bringing home the team’s first Ivy League title since 2005 and giving head coach Brian Tompkins a proper send off in his 19th and final season. But while the players are fighting it out on the pitch, Yale’s athletics administrators will focus on what comes next: finding a new head coach.
Following Tompkins’ Aug. 25 announcement that he will step down as head coach at the end of the current season, Yale has just over two months to decide who will take the helm in November, when Tompkins will take on an administrative role for the Yale athletics office.
Only speculations can currently be made about Tompkins’ potential replacement, as the search committee has not yet formed and no candidates have been announced. Associate athletic director Jeremy Makins, who will chair the search committee, said that the nationwide search will begin next month.
“We’ll be looking for a dynamic individual who’s going to help guide the men’s team’s storied history in a great facility, playing one of the best conferences in the country,” Makins said.
Makins did not indicate who will and will not be considered in the search, only stating that it will be a comprehensive search across the country.
Tompkins, who will not be a part of the process, said he was supportive of the candidacy of assistant coach Hiro Suzuki ’00 — now entering his fourth year as Yale’s assistant coach.
Before taking on his coaching role, Suzuki played under Tompkins for four years between 1996 and 1999. In his senior year, he captained the Elis as they won a school-record 13 games. He also served as a volunteer assistant coach for the team in 2001.
“[Suzuki is] a former Yale player, and he knows the league inside and out,” Tompkins said. “He’d be a terrific coach; he’s popular with the players, popular with the alumni. So I think he’s got the kind of profile that will make him certainly a good candidate to consider.”
Yale’s other assistant coach, Olli Harder, was hired just three days after Tompkins announced he was stepping down, but Tompkins said that the hire had already been planned before that as a means to replace former assistant coach Cailean Bailey, who left in May to take an assistant coaching position with the University of the Pacific men’s soccer team.
Though Tompkins praised Harder for the experience, energy and psychological expertise that he has brought to the team, he opined that it may be too soon for him to be considered a candidate.
Makins and Tompkins spoke only generally about the qualities they would like to see in a new head coach, but both said that the nuanced features of the Ivy League require a certain kind of coach. “I think an understanding of Ivy League recruiting and the restrictions we work under [would be important],” Tompkins said. “They’re a little bit different than other schools.”
Makins added that the committee, which will include representatives from the university and its alumni, will be looking for a candidate with an appreciation for the high academic expectations of Yale as well as the expectations to succeed in the Ivy League.
Perhaps because the Ivy League’s regulations and culture are so unique, experience coaching in the conference has certainly been a key characteristic of new Yale athletics hires in the past.
Of the 10 new head coaches that Yale has hired in any sport since 2009, eight of them had experience coaching at an Ivy League school before taking the reins of a Yale squad. Nevertheless, Tompkins himself did not have any Ivy League experience before stepping into the head coaching role 18 years ago.
Whoever is chosen to take over the program will have a strong slate of talent to work with, Tompkins said. After announcing his decision to step down, Tompkins had said that he picked this year to pass on the role because the program is now moving in a positive direction.
“The returning guys are great; we’ve got some commitments from some excellent players in the 2015 class,” Tompkins said. “I don’t think [the new head coach is] going to have any issue with the personnel that they have. It’ll just be a question of how they want to play.”
Players on the team declined to comment on the search for a new head coach because they wished to remain focused on the season.
Tompkins, who is six wins away from becoming Yale men’s soccer’s winningest coach, will coach his next game tomorrow night at Fairfield.