Fritz Rodriguez, a dedicated member of the Yale athletics community for the better part of 20 years, passed away suddenly on Sept. 19. He was 50.
Rodriguez worked both as an assistant women’s soccer coach and an assistant athletics director during his tenure at Yale. For nearly two decades, Rodriguez assisted head coach Rudy Meredith and helped lead the team to numerous successes, including multiple NCAA tournament appearances. His responsibilities off the soccer field included working as a point of contact between the Athletic Department, the Admissions and Financial Aid Office.
“Fritz was universally loved and respected by everyone in the Athletic Department,” Assistant Director of Sports Publicity Timothy Bennett wrote in a statement to the News. “He was an outstanding mentor and friend to all the student-athletes in the women’s soccer program during his tenure.”
Upon graduating from Southern Connecticut State University in 1992, where he roomed with Meredith, Rodriguez began his coaching career, heading multiple prestigious youth soccer teams. One Connecticut-based club team, the Yankee United Nova, won the 1997 Under-19 National Championship under Rodriguez’s coaching. The following year, the Under-16 Weston Soccer team, a squad assisted by Rodriguez, also captured a national title.
In the world of collegiate soccer, Rodriguez served as Yale’s assistant coach under Meredith. Rodriguez joined the Bulldogs’ staff a couple years out of college, in 1995 — the same year Meredith was named head coach — and they worked together to transform the program for the next twenty years.
“We’ve been friends since we were 18 years old,” Meredith said. “We went to college together and were roommates and worked together for over 25 years. We both were recruited to play at Southern Connecticut for soccer.”
With Rodriguez’s help, the women’s team improved on its Ivy League and overall records in the late ’90s. In addition to coaching Rookie of the Year Lorelei Wall ’00 during her sophomore campaign, Rodriguez, alongside Meredith, coached the team to appearances in the NCAA tournament in 2002, 2004 and 2005.
The Elis advanced to the third round during their last appearance and also claimed the Ivy League Championship that year. Rodriguez maintained his assistant coaching position until stepping down in 2013. In Rodriguez’s second decade with the Bulldogs, the team saw continued individual success, with Christina Huang ’07 earning All-American status during her senior season and three Yalies grabbing Rookie of the Year Awards from 2005–11.
“He was the one that tried to keep me organized. We were like an odd couple and he balanced me out,” Meredith said. “He was a whiz on the computer before I ever had one. He had organizational skills second to none.”
Rodriguez’s involvement in the women’s soccer program was not confined to Reese Stadium. A lover of graphic design, he created visuals for recruiting, alongside his other administrative duties. Following his departure from Yale, Rodriguez planned to start his own web company.
Although none of the players on the current soccer roster played under Rodriguez, his influence has carried on through the years. The class of 2016 was the last Rodriguez coached, but even now, his success and character are still honored within the program.
“Fritz left Yale before I arrived, but I knew his name as soon as I stepped on campus,” captain and defender Carlin Hudson ’18 said. “He was well known for being an extremely kind man and a great coach, and I know Yale soccer will always think fondly of him.”
There will be a moment of silence dedicated to Rodriguez at the beginning of the women’s home game against Harvard this weekend. His memorial service is scheduled to take place on Oct. 1 at the Vienna Seventh-day Adventist Church in Virginia.
Jane Miller | firstname.lastname@example.org