Alumni question men’s soccer cut

FILE PHOTO/The Chart Missouri Southerns last class of soccer players grapple for the ball against alumni at the last alumni game.

FILE PHOTO/The Chart Missouri Southern’s last class of soccer players grapple for the ball against alumni at the last alumni game.

In the beginning soccer was a club sport; in the end it was in a class of its own as Missouri Southern’s only non-MIAA sport.

When the soccer program started in 1972 it was a club sport.

Dr. Hal Bodon brought his love for the sport to Southern, coaching from the inception of the program through the end of the 1987 season. March 11, 1976 the team joined the athletic department as a varsity sport.

“We had made quite a reputation for ourselves, winning games and gaining community support,” Bodon said,

Bodon and his teams pioneered the sport in the area.

“For a long time we were the only college of the teams in our conference that played soccer,” Bodon said. “So we had to go a little bit farther to get teams to play.”

The little bit farther turned into a European tour in 1985. The team played three games in Switzerland, one in Austria, five in Germany. Bodon emigrated from Bad Waldsee, Germany but returned 33 years later to play ball.

“Since I was born and raised in Southern Germany and still had contacts there I was able to arrange games with teams that I knew were pretty close to us in caliber,” Bodon said. “We were a bit unsure of how we would fare since the sport is considerably more popular in those countries than here, but we did quite well.”

They visited the National Sports Academy for the Swiss Athletes and were trained by the Swiss national soccer coach. Six wins, two ties and one loss later they returned.

In the early years of the program soccer coach was a part-time position. Jack Spurlin, vice president of lifetime learning coached during the 1988 and 1989 seasons.

“There was no fence, there were no lights, there was no scoreboard, there was no water,” Spurlin said.

But they won and won again. In 1988 they went to the district championship.

“When we went to Rockhurst to play them that year,” Spurlin said. “I remember they had a big poster hanging on the dorms it said ’21 reasons we love Missouri Southern’ and it had the scores from 21 previous meetings where they had beaten us. We beat them on their home field 2 to 1 and won the district championship the first time – the only time we ever won a district championship.”

They returned the next year and beat Rockhurst again. The sport, however, was changing.

“We were in NAIA and we had a district championship that we could compete in each year and we had a chance to go to nationals,” Spurlin said. “When we went to NCAA we were no longer in a conference and so our opportunities were very slim.”

With the switch it became more difficult to play beyond the regular season.

“The only way we could even be considered to go to a national tournament was if we played teams all across the country which we didn’t have the money and it was just a hard, hard thing,” Spurlin said.

Many of the team members played because they loved the game. Tom Davidson coaches at Ozark High School. Many of his teammates are also coaches. Davidson has been coaching high school for 18 years.

“It was such a close knit family for so long,” Davidson said.

He laments the end of the program.

“As an alumni there’s nothing to hold onto anymore,” he said. “I don’t have an identity anymore.”

Eddie Horn played in the program from 1983-87. Now he coaches at Jefferson City High School.

“The lessons I learned through soccer have served me as much, if not more so, than the classes I took,” Horn said. “The value of the program, you can’t count that.

“It’s extremely disappointing for the current players to have their legs chopped out from under them.”

Horn said he thinks the program was cut because it did not have a winning record. He questions the thought process involved.

“You cannot put a financial price on what that program did for people and did for the University,” Horn said.

In the current college sports environment Davidson said it’s unlikely to see a sudden resurgence of men’s soccer.

“The way colleges are now they’re not going to add any new sports,” he said. “If a place does not have a men’s soccer team they’re not going to add one now.”