Last month marked the 100th anniversary of soccer at the University of Texas, celebrated by a special centennial match at Whitaker Fields where the men’s club soccer team faced off against coaching staff and alumni.
The first exhibition of soccer played by a Southern university was held on Jan. 29, 1913 at Clark Field between the “Varsity Regulars” and the “Scrubs,” according to a Daily Texan article from 100 years ago. At the time, soccer, or “association football” as it had first been called, was unfamiliar to students, prompting skepticism of bringing this new sport to the University and even the South in general.
To further show how foreign the sport was, another article from the Texan in 1913 mentions competing against players from other countries in the early stages of forming a team.
“After a few weeks of practice it looks like a fair team has been developed,” said the Texan article. “A game will be scheduled with the Galveston team, which is composed of Scotchmen and Welshmen living in that city who have played the game in their home country.”
The team continued to compete against other Southern associations that had caught on to the emerging sport, such as teams from Houston and Port Arthur.
There was still deliberation as to whether the game of soccer would be supported by the University.
“The game [is] simple, compared to regular football, and [offers] an opportunity to diversify University athletics,” said professor Metzenthin, director of physical training in 1913.
Intramural sports for men began in 1916, when men’s soccer was offered. By 1964, RecSports was able to sponsor a men’s club soccer program, according to Randall Ford, associate director for programs.
Since advancing to a club sport, the men’s soccer team has won three national titles. In 1990, for their first NCSA national championship played in Austin, they earned a thrilling 6-5 victory on penalty kicks against Illinois. They won their second and third national titles soon after in 1995 and 1996.
“I really enjoyed being a part of the team and winning the national title for the UT club sports program,” said Dustin Hindman, former Texas player and current president of the United Soccer Alumni Association.
The alumni association for Texas men’s soccer seems to be one of interest to many players and demonstrates the bond that being on the team brings.
“If I have a chance to, I’m going to come back and play as often as I can and contribute whenever I can,” said fifth year player Santiago Diaz.
Many of the current players are committed to soccer at the University, although it’s not as demanding as an NCAA sport. If anything, the fact that men’s soccer is a club sport may contribute to how dedicated and enthusiastic the players and coaches are about it.
“It’s a great balance,” said junior president Robert Jelinek. “You get the competitive aspect of playing college soccer, but you also have the freedom to do other stuff and stay focused on school, which is great. We’re always looking to find new talent and become more cohesive as a group.”
As president of men’s club soccer, Jelinek is constantly looking for ways to improve the program and keep the passion the first players left from 100 years ago.
“It’s fun to be a part of a program that has history, that has tradition and that is at a prestigious university like the University of Texas,” said head coach Matt Prewett. “The guys put on their jerseys and wear them with pride and enjoy what they do. They have fun with carrying on the legacy of the program.”
The program has achieved a winning record every season for the past few decades and strives to continue its development with better players and more support.
“I’ll tell you what hasn’t changed,” alumni player Rob Bacchus said. “We still play soccer here at the University of Texas.”