CHESTER, Pa. — Bobby Clark and Sasho Cirovski have reached the pinnacle of the college game.
Even before the head coaches at Notre Dame and Maryland guided their respective teams to this year’s national championship game (Sunday, 3 pm ET, ESPNU), their resumes were already filled with titles and accolades from nearly 50 years of experience, and the only way “up,” as it were, would be to make the jump to MLS.
They wouldn’t be in bad company, either. Former Akron head coach Caleb Porter left the college game for the Portland Timbers job and was named the 2013 MLS Coach of the Year after leading his team to a first-place finish in the Western Conference. Even before Porter, LA Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena and Seattle Sounders manager Sigi Schmid each spent nearly 20 years in the college game before making the jump to MLS.
“If you’re a good coach, you can coach at any level,” Clark told MLSsoccer.com on Saturday afternoon. “All of the top college coaches that have got into MLS have been the most successful … [If there’s any prejudice against college coaches], there shouldn’t be.”
The Scotland native admitted receiving job offers from MLS clubs once every other week when he was the head coach at Stanford from 1996 to 2000. In a way, professional clubs’ interest in recruiting coaches from the college ranks makes sense.
“There’s a myth out there that college coaches only coach for three months out of the year, and that’s not true,” Cirovski told MLSsoccer.com. “College coaches are CEOs. They’re chief of everything soccer-related ... and are well prepared to build a culture [of winning].”
Cirovski has mulled the idea of trying his hand at the professional level, and after winning two national titles, six ACC Tournament championships and logging 20 straight winning seasons, his credentials make him an attractive target.
“I think where most top college coaches struggle is that they want the control to do more at the professional level,” Cirovski said. “In my situation, I’ve always said it was going to take a very special offer for me to go, and I’ve talked to many teams over time, but there hasn’t been one yet that really excited me.”
Clark, too, has never really seriously considered leaving, albeit for different reasons.
“It wasn’t what I wanted to do,” Clark said. “When you’re teaching, you make relationships and build relationships. I think when you go into the pros, you’ve got to be careful building relationships, because you’ve got to break things up very quickly.”
Just because Cirovski and Clark are staying put doesn’t mean that there isn’t another coach headed from the NCAA to MLS. Who that might be, however, remains anyone’s guess.
“I don’t know who the next one would be,” Clark said. “It’ll be interesting. There’s a lot of good college coaches that I know. Sasho would be somebody I think would do very well at that next level if he decided to make that step.”
Nate Sulat covers college soccer for MLSsoccer.com.