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Another one bites the dust

At 4 p.m. on Monday, Fred Thompson stepped down as the head coach of the men’s soccer team, effectively ending his five year run in Bowling Green.

The move wasn’t a shocking one, as there had been talk about the possibility of his departure since the season ended on November 13.

“They gave me a great opportunity here, my first head coaching position, and it’s been a pleasure,” Thompson said.

Thompson, the university’s first ever African-American head coach, was hired in 2004 after Mel Mahler was fired. Paul Krebs, the athletic director at the time, said he wanted to replace Mahler with a coach that would be a disciplinarian and one that would improve the student in student athlete.

Krebs also said wins and losses were taken out of the equation when Mahler was fired. Mahler left BG with a career record of 111-76-13. Thompson departs having finished 18-69-8. It’s obvious that on the field, he wasn’t able to get the job done.

“There are people who are just going to look at wins and losses, and they’re entitled to do that. But we did a lot of good things here for a lot of players,” Thompson said.

Thompson might want to rephrase that to a few students. First, a look at how Thompson didn’t live up to the billing as a disciplinarian.

Over 20 players have left the team in the last five years. Some of those players transferred, some quit and some were kicked off the team.

There were at least six incidents over the past five years where a men’s soccer player made an appearance in the blotter as well. The most recent incidents happened this past year, when Cameron Hepple was cited for operating under the influence.

The team also seemed to lack discipline on the playing field as well. There were several incidents this season where players on the bench would be screaming and laughing while the team got shutout. There was even an incident where Thomas McLean began screaming at his own teammates, telling Thompson to take them off the field, to which McLean was removed from the game, for a few minutes.

“There were a lot of things that needed to be fixed, and I think we set a good foundation, academically,” Thompson said.

In the words of Lee Corso, “Not so fast my friend.”

In five years, the men’s soccer teams saw very few incoming freshman go on to later graduate. Yesterday The BG News reported that the latest APR was hurting the football team. If that is indeed the case, then it’s killing the men’s soccer team. Men’s soccer received a .895, and is the only team being penalized at BG.

Matt Klancic was a letter winner for the Falcons in 2007. In 2008, he never got the chance to suit up because of academic ineligibility rules. Instances such as this, as well as those created when so many players leave the program, lose scholarships and points in the APR.

There are also other possible reasons for his departure though. BG once dominated in state recruiting but now, Akron dominates in state recruiting. In effect, Akron now rules the Mid-American Conference, while BG has become the cellar dweller.

As a result of this, Thompson began recruiting in other regions of the country and the planet. The problem with that of course is that it’s harder to establish a fan base for players no one in the state has ever heard of before, and when players such as Vuk Krkeljic fall flat on their faces, it makes it even worse.

Krkeljic was the team’s prized recruit coming into the 2008 season.

“We see him scoring a lot of goals,” assistant coach Ken White said earlier this season.

Instead of that coming to fruition, Krkeljic didn’t get a goal, or even an assist, but instead got less and less playing time as the year went on. Once he started having troubles off the field as well, one teammate called him the worst player he’s ever seen at BG.

So, through a tough mix of disciplinary, academic and recruiting problems, along with the fact that he won 18 games in five seasons, Thompson is no more at BG.

One player said just two weeks ago that as long as Thompson was the head coach, the Falcons would never be winners.

Athletic director Greg Christopher was out of his office yesterday and couldn’t be reached for a comment on why he thought Thompson resigned, or whether or not Thompson may have been pressured into the move.

On Monday he did say that the search for a replacement would begin immediately, and that no one was being considered just yet.

One thing that is certain is the men’s soccer team is in the middle of a very dark period. One player even called the program a “joke”.

The old clich’eacute; goes, the night is always darkest just before the dawn. For the men’s soccer team, it seems as though it’s been dark for a very long time.

For news, notes and opinions on all BG sports, check out www.bgnewssports.com.

Contact sports reporter Jason Jones at [email protected].

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