State of the college game?

Discussion in 'College & Amateur Soccer' started by k1v1n, Aug 28, 2002.

  1. k1v1n

    k1v1n New Member

    May 4, 2002
    I've been attending college soccer matches pretty religiously over the last 14 years. (One year I saw 38 games, and I might approach that number this year. I've already seen five and should see at least four more this weekend.) What I'm wondering is if the college game is getting better or holding steady? My gut says it's holding steady, but I'm not really sure.

    It should be getting better shouldn't it? We have a lot more kids playing, and there's been no growth in men's D1 programs. The competition for spots at the D1s should be intense. So my questions: Is the quality of college soccer staying about the same? Are the players leaving for the pros diminishing the competition significantly? Are the NCAA rules (substitutions, number of games,etc.) significantly hurting the game? Is the quality of college coaching holding things back?

    I'm just curious what others might think? From my perspective I'm thinking that things peaked about five years ago, and that since then we've been treading water.
  2. Sandon Mibut

    Sandon Mibut Member+

    Feb 13, 2001
    I agree about the men's college game treading water. Like you, I attend a lot of college games and have since I was a college student. Over the past 5-6 years I haven't seen great improvement in the level of play even though there has been improvement in the level of player.

    I think most college coaches see the writing on the wall. If MLS makes it, eventually there are gonna be reserve teams and then we won't see 5-6 players per year skip college altogether and another 10 or so annually leave college early. When MLS offers reserve teams, you'll see 50 or more players bypassing college each year and that will have a great impact on the college game.

    I think most college coaches know this and are waiting to see what the impact of this on the college game will be before approaching their AD's (and having the ADs go to the NCAA) about what changes to make then.

    I also wonder how many of them care about the overall growth of the college game. Look at it this way: Most of the coaches at the top 30 programs have great jobs. They make a decent base salary and by the time the shoe contract and the camp money is factored in, most are making close to 100K. For all this, all that is asked of them from their respective schools is to not have any kid get in trouble or ever embarass the school. There's no pressure to win or to become a revenue generating program. I mean, when was the last time you heard of a college coach being fired because the university was unhappy about not living up to expectations. Sure, the coaches may want to win, but there's no pressure to do so. Win or lose, they still have a pretty sweet gig.

    So, with no pressure to win or improve the product and with the pro game looming on the horizon threatening to take most of the top players early, there's no real incentive for the college coaches to take steps, drastic or otherwise, to improve the game. Basically, the status quo is working for them and there's no reason to rock the boat.
  3. Dsocc

    Dsocc Member

    Feb 13, 2002
    It probably depends a little on your perspective. Even though there's been no real growth in D1 men's programs, consider the number of programs that now have a full time head coach, who probably has "A" license, the overall caliber of the players in the program, and the relative budget for the sport. I'd have to say that the game is well advanced both technically and tactically from 10 years ago, more well bubgeted and far more geographically well distributed. Add in that the better players can also now play over the summer in the PDL or train with professional teams, and I think the game itself is significantly better than a decade ago.
    I won't argue Sandon's point about the motivation of coaches who otherwise excel financially in non-revenue sports, except to say that every coach I know wants a winning program, so that's at least enough to keep the system competitive.
    As far as the impact of the pro game, that will always come down to an issue of economics. When the professional game offers a compensation system which is roughly on par with the combined value of a college scholarship and the subsequent earning power of a collegiate education, then I think the top players will consistently migrate into the pros.
  4. turnaround

    turnaround New Member

    Jul 10, 2001
    The college game is not getting better, even though players are getting better, as Sandon said.

    IMO, college coaches only care about their cash cows, i.e., summer camps.
  5. k1v1n

    k1v1n New Member

    May 4, 2002
    I was talking to my son's coach last year after we attended the NCAA tournament game between Maryland and Notre Dame. I'd seen Maryland earlier in the season against Duke, and with the type of players they had, I expected to see a more attractive game. Both teams played a very direct style, and it just wasn't that enjoyable to watch. Both my son and I were happy when Maryland scored so we didn't have to watch an overtime. (It wasn't that bad of soccer, but it was getting cold.) Anyway, when I mentioned the game to my son's coach he said, "The college game has evolved and it is all about defending." I think he may be right. I'm also thinking the defensive part of the game is what hasn't kept pace? Clearly, the teams that made it to the College Cup finals last year were better defensive teams, but as a whole the players' tackling and defensive abilities don't seem to have kept pace with their other skills.

    FIXXXER New Member

    Feb 16, 2001
    Hotlanta, GA
    Without a successful intercollegiate team, there won't be an opportunity for that "cash caw." Look at the biggest camps around the country - facilities is a huge factor, but parents want to send their kids to camps where the coaching staff has been successful, is doing well, and has tradition.
  7. Dsocc

    Dsocc Member

    Feb 13, 2002
    I think I understood what Sandon meant, but I'm not sure what you mean. Having watched the game for well over 10 years, the players are better and much more athletic.The coaching is much better as well, since a far larger number of programs now have full time head coaches, most of whom are licensed at the A or B level.
    If you're referring to the Paul Gardneresque vision of "the beautiful game", I'll grant you it's not Brazil vs. the "Magical Magyars". But you'd have to say that given the competitive balance even among the top 50 teams (look at the 2001 NCAA 1st round scores), the game is far more well advanced than 10-12 years ago, when maybe only 10 -15 of those 50 teams could actually play with each other.
  8. Hax

    Hax BigSoccer Supporter

    Feb 1, 2000
    Questions of style are always going to plague soccer regardless of the level of play. To criticize the college game for being too defensive or too direct is silly, if the strategy works, it works. Look at Italy and their national team's focus on defense. Not everyone can recklessly attack like Costa Rica did in the World Cup. Is the level of soccer improving? I vote yes. I attend a LOT of collegiate games every year (mostly Penn State, Maryland, Navy) and I have noticed vast improvements in the caliber of play at these schools. Maryland has been hit hard by the pro ranks and injuries in previous years, and many complain about their style of play, but they execute it at a fairly high level.

    Penn State in particular is a place where the level of play has really grown. I first came here in 1998 for grad school and the Nittany Lions were bruisers. There seemed to be more emphasis on fitness and physique than skill. As players like Ricardo Villar and Derek Potteiger developed, the style of play evolved into a ball control, skillfull attack. Navy is a place where even the most unheralded soccer players understand the game and play it well. It now seems that even the average collegiate players are much more knowledgable soccer players. I attribute this to MLS and the evergrowing soccer exposure we now get. These kids can watch soccer on TV almost every day thanks to MLS, ESPN, and Fox Sports World.

    Furthermore, many players who have come out of collegiate soccer excel in MLS, abroad, and overseas. I don't want to argue where their development occurred, but it seems that collegiate soccer has improved as a whole (I know the facilities sure have) and that many players are becoming better players thanks to the system. For every Landon Donovan who skipped college, there is a Claudio Reyna who played several years in college.

    I agree that there's many more quality sides now than in the past. That's why the NCAA tourney expanded and needed to, there's more good teams than ever before.
  9. Dsocc

    Dsocc Member

    Feb 13, 2002
    Nice post.
  10. k1v1n

    k1v1n New Member

    May 4, 2002
  11. Dsocc

    Dsocc Member

    Feb 13, 2002

    I'm still not sure what you mean by "stagnated". Are you applying this to a particular style of play or to something else you've observed? If your definition is that that it hasn't progressed on most fronts, including player sophistication, then you don't have much of an objective argument.
  12. Hax

    Hax BigSoccer Supporter

    Feb 1, 2000

    None of my comments were directed at your post, they are my reply to the criticisms that I hear all the time about college soccer. I hope you don't feel that I singled you out, but I would like to address some of your most recent points.

    My reference to criticism about Maryland's style of play stems from what I hear from Terp fans everywhere, not just you. Sasho has a lot of pundits, and many people have expressed their opinions about him and his style of soccer. I personally have found Maryland to adapt to their competition, and I'm a biased Terp fan (born and raised in MD) but I've always enjoyed their games.

    As far as PSU goes, I think their improvement has to do with many factors. As you point out, PA youth soccer is thriving, and that certainly has helped the Nittany Lions. I still assert that MLS and more soccer on TV helps too. But I'm not sure if I will totally discredit Barry Gorman, he's done good things with this program. It seems to me that he changed his system to suit his players, when he had skill, he could play skillful ball control soccer.

    And finally, another player with Reyna's stature that has emerged from the college game in the last five years? This is a bit problematic because many of these players are young, and who knows what type of player they'll turn out to be. Just as much as a Landon Donovan could be a star or fail, so too could a Kyle Martino or a Chris Gbandi turn out worldclass, or fail at the international level. It's a bit too soon to declare anyone who played college soccer in the past five years a success or failure.

    Also, MLS complicates this question. Can you compare the success that someone has in MLS with European leagues? Does someone like Dema Kovalenko's MLS career equate to Reyna's run at Wolfsburg and Rangers, or are you seeking national team status? It seems to me that many Americans could do well overseas but they play in MLS. A Clint Mathis, Eddie Pope, Brian McBride or Josh Wolff may have had the stature of Reyna but they remain in MLS, and therefore international anonymity.

    Also, how do you define a college soccer alum? Taylor Twellman played at Maryland briefly, does he count? That's why I didn't want to get into the argument about where player development occurs, because players rarely stay in college for their full four years of eligibility. If a Phil Salyer or Conor Casey ends up having a good Bundesliga career, do they count as collegiate alums with only 2 years of college ball under their belts? See, it's a bit tricky.

    As far as the best players in college now? Well, the upcoming season will show us who they are. I'm not so sure that the future stars are necessarily defenders, they're simply the more experienced and hyped ones. Guys like Martino usually go the PRO-40 route, so we'll have to see who rises to the top.
  13. k1v1n

    k1v1n New Member

    May 4, 2002
    Well, I'm not really sure I can describe it adequately. It's just a sense that the game today is no better than it was five years ago. The players are better (in general) so the game should be better.

    I'm going to five games this weekend (three today). I'll watch and see if I can come up with a better explanation of what I'm trying to say.
  14. Dsocc

    Dsocc Member

    Feb 13, 2002
    If the argument is purely one of style, then I'll agree with Hax's observation. Indiana plays virtually the same style they've played for the past 10 plus years, and it's no better to watch now than it was then. To a man, however, their players are much better. Yeagley wants to win games, however, and in his mind, it it ain't broke, don't fix it.
    I had the opportunity to be at an MLS training session over the summer (one of the better clubs), and observed a collegiate player (a senior and PDL player of several seasons, and actually one of a list of Pre Season All American picks listed elsewhere on this board, albeit not one of the top 11). Interestingly, when compared to several noteable younger pros from the P40/YNT ranks, he was at least as competitive, definitely more athletic and was frankly as much an impact player among the older professionals as were the younger counterparts. Did his game stagnate in college? Possibly. Could you tell that much of a difference compared to the non-college pros? Not that much.
    The point is, that for all the shortcomings of the college game, it's advanced at least enough to allow it's better players to roughly keep pace with the development of younger, non collegiate professionals: some of whom have significant YNT experience. I don't think this would have been as possible 10 years ago. It's my opinion that the players make the game and the game makes the players, so that any improvement in one is a result of the other.
  15. JohnW

    JohnW Member

    Apr 27, 2001
    St. Paul
    Interesting thread. I even enjoyed the mild "cash cow/summer camp" dig. And coaches of other sports don't drink milk?

    My two cents...

    Of course, the question itself is open to interpretation. What does better mean? Improvement of individual players? Style of play? Number of players leaving early to play pro (or conversely skipping college to sign with MLS). So it's a little fuzzy.

    Nevertheless, when you consider college soccer as a whole, i.e. top to bottom--NCAA D-I down to D-III or NAIA non-scholarship, I think anyone would have a hard time arguing that the game hasn't taken a huge step forward. Even though the talent level is going to drop off considerably, the aggregate improvement in technical ability, physical fitness and training is quite significant.

    I watch the players today vs. those I played against (NAIA non-scholarship and NCAA D-III) and there's no doubt the skill level is much higher.

    This is not even to bring in the women's game, which has grown exponentially in the last 10 years in skill, athletic ability, team play, etc.

    If there is any stagnation, it's in tactics. Then again, coaches are paid to win--even though the one poster is probably right that soccer coaches don't get fired too often for losing.

    Still, I know a lot of college coaches. Every one of them is competitive and wants to win. Again, not all of them are tactical geniuses, but as Dsocc points out, if they are getting some result, many will stick with it.


    P.S. If you want to add players who may get closer to Reyna in Europe-based acheivements, add Friedel (UCLA, '93 Hermann Trophy), Keller (U of Portland), even John Harkes (UVA).
  16. The Wanderer

    The Wanderer New Member

    Sep 3, 1999
    Re: Re: State of the college game?

    That's never been the argument in the pro vs. college debate. The comparison should be made between players the same age.

    There's always going to be players who have the technical skill and athletic ability to play in MLS in college who can come out and make an impact. These types of players play to their level of competition. But the argument is that these types of players would be even more advanced had they been in some type of professional environment instead of college. Professional development is never going to make a player with inferior skills/athleticism a better player than a college player with superior skills/athleticism.

    You were talking about Ryan Gibbs, weren't you?
  17. Dsocc

    Dsocc Member

    Feb 13, 2002
    Re: Re: Re: State of the college game?

    Actually I wasn't, but good point. Although a year and a half to 2 years of difference around the age of 20 should be more than manageable. I'll grant you that larger age differences are problematic.
  18. thacharger

    thacharger New Member

    May 19, 2002
    Southaven, MS
    Here is my opinion....

    The level of play from D-I to D-III is the exact same with most schools. In fact, several D-III teams could beat D-I teams on any given day. This would never happen in any other sport. Until more D-I schools get teams and they get funded properly this will continue.

    There are alot of talneted players who dont even play college soccer. If teams like Kentucky, UCLA, UCONN, and others who have football programs have soccer programs why can`t schools like Florida, Alabama, Texas have teams?

    I know the answer probably with funding. Until soccer takes off in the US, it will remain like it is now.
  19. Hatch

    Hatch New Member

    Dec 30, 2000
    Blah, blah, blah.....
    The new players of today aren't better....they're just faster.
    Is Damarcus Beasley really a better player than Mark Chung, Ante Razov, or Eddie Lewis?
    No. He's just faster.

    Is Landon Donovan a better player than MLS teammate DeRosario?
    No. He's just faster.

    Are pro and college coaches developing players to become better?
    No. They're just picking faster players.

    Speed is essential. But saddly, too many of our fast players lack skill, or are discouraged to use it.

  20. k1v1n

    k1v1n New Member

    May 4, 2002
    I saw this quote from Jay Vidovich at Wake Forest and I thought it summed things up pretty well: ""It took us three or four games to start scoring goals last year," Vidovich said. "It's much harder to create a thing of beauty than a destructive force. "

    I think we have more teams relying on the "destructive force" style of soccer today than we had five years ago.
  21. due time

    due time Member+

    Mar 1, 1999
    Santa Clara
    I've watched college soccer for 10+ years, at least a couple games per year (not nearly as much as of you).

    I'd agree that the players have improved, but the tactical play hasn't. Whoever said that the coaches stick with the defensive style of play because it works are right. But why does that work in college, but not MLS or international level? I've always thought that the unlimited substitutions allowed by NCAA really hurt the college game. It's hard to wear down a team with a posession style of play when they get to take a breather occasionally.

    As too Hatch's statement that the players aren't better, just faster, I have to vehemently disagree. Donovan is a better player in many ways, one of which is speed. But he also has some pretty sweet skill and a sense of the game that I haven't seen in previous American players. I've had the pleasure of watching LD play quite a few minutes from which to draw this conclusion. I think that is also true for Beasley.

    Remember that this age group is really the first American generation to 'grow up' with soccer, i.e. playing it since they were very young and sometimes exclusive of other sports.
  22. Dr Jay

    Dr Jay BigSoccer Supporter

    Aug 7, 1999
    Newton, MA USA
    Nat'l Team:
    United States
    style of play

    If you're looking for "the one" reason why college soccer is stagnant in skill/level of play, look no further than the substitution rules.
  23. Ives#10

    Ives#10 New Member

    Feb 5, 2001
    Lynn, Ma
    I am a young american player that plays with flare like the us nation team has started to do and most all the good counrtys play this way///i am a freshman a college and i just tried out for team ( its a d.1f school in va./).... and the coach tould me that i was veryy skilled///and i would make a good prophesional player...but then he tould me that i wont do good in college beacuse/ in college its about speed of the came and just running into the ball./with no skill///???does this make sence? he said i should try to go pro in erop///but he cut me from a college team...if you ask, ,me i think college soccer pritty much sucks... besides that the players are in shape// and can run..
  24. Hatch

    Hatch New Member

    Dec 30, 2000
    Comments on two topics:
    1.College Soccer:

    College soccer is a bit artificial. Rarely is it "the beautiful game".

    2. Donovan and Beasley:

    A few examples of skilled international players: Figo, Zidane, Romario, Ginola, Bergkamp, Duff, Valderrama, Zola.

    Highly Skilled U.S. players: Tab Ramos, Preki, Hugo Perez.

    I do not consider Landon Donovan or Demarcus Beasley highly skilled and neither does anyone else outside the United States. However both players are very fast with potential. They are young and I hope they continue to DEVELOP their skill. Most players' touch and vision improves with age. But if Donovan and Beasley want to be included in the list above, they will have to "show their work" on the field. Right now I'll be kind and give them an INCOMPLETE.

  25. soccerclassic

    soccerclassic New Member

    Sep 15, 2002
    St. Simons
    Without a successful intercollegiate team, there won't be an opportunity for that "cash caw." Look at the biggest camps around the country - facilities is a huge factor, but parents want to send their kids to camps where the coaching staff has been successful, is doing well, and has tradition. (FIXXER)

    I must agree with good ole FIXXER I have been reading the bigsoccer's posts for a while and now decided to become part of a such entertaining discussion board...... Of course, if MLS start to offer the so called "Reserves" Team the number of young soccer players that forgo college would increase but does that means that more people people would become professional soccer players? The answer would be yes, but with only 10 teams in the MLS there are only space for approximtely 150 professional players in the league.

    So College Soccer, and camps are not only helping coaches increase their income but is also helping kids to develop as mature adults and also earn a college degree..... Does anybody else think any differently?

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