[EDITOR'S NOTE: This is a fanPost by Tacojohn that has been promoted from the sidebar. Thanks again, Tacojohn, for the fine IU soccer content.]
I'm firmly of the believe that every coaching fire is only as good as the subsequent hire. Change for change's sake is bad, the change needs to be positive. If IU was introducing Caleb Porter right now, just days after he came agonizingly close to winning a national title, the question of whether the decision to axe a coach just five years removed from a national title was a good idea would have been answered with a resounding yes.
With Todd Yeagley, the jury is still out.
Todd Yeagley brings a legendary name to the program, as well as promising performances as an assistant with IU, having been on the staff for IU's last two national championship teams. What he doesn't bring is the one thing that Caleb Porter could have brought: an established track record as a head coach of success at the highest levels of the sport. As the most decorated program of the last 35 years, you would have thought that IU would be able to land such a coach.
Perhaps it's the money. Yeagley will receive the same $95,000 (give or take) base salary that Mike Freitag received. Camps and promotional money pushes that figure over $100,000. But Caleb Porter recently received a significant raise on a contract that already paid over $100,000 and got the security of a five-year deal while Yeagley is on a year-by-year contract.
It's impossible to avoid questioning whether IU take soccer as seriously as Akron. The firing of Mike Freitag suggested that Indiana Soccer was not just another nonrevenue sports program. It was a program where extremely high expectations had to be met. But in order to demand that, the athletic department must commit resources to give the coach a reasonable chance at success. Right now, it looks like Akron is doing that while Indiana is not.
A contract for a certain number of years also would have answered a very thorny question: how long is this turnaround supposed to take? If you believe that Jerry Yeagley orchestrated this whole episode, you would expect Todd to be a fairly long leash. As a fan who can't escape that conclusion, it would be nice to know exactly how long that leash is.
Now Yeagley must assemble a staff and build or maintain IU's recruiting class. IU has a strong, but unspectacular class, while Yeagley put together one of Wisconsin's best classes in a while by cleaning up in the fertile recruiting grounds of Chicago. As soccer does not have an early signing period, none of these players have signed on the dotted line and cannot until February. The hard work then begins in the spring and in August as Yeagley will be expected to show promise with a talented group that underachieved over the last few years.
Todd Yeagley was never going to be the slam dunk hire that reenergized IU Soccer fans. Whether you're in support of this hire largely depends on what you felt Mike Freitag's major failing was. To those who believe it was a lack of adjustments and preparation, it makes little sense to replace him with a second-year head coach. To those (including me) who believe it was because Freitag had gotten away from Indiana's core values of hard work, rock solid fundamentals, and technical ability (embodied in Jerry Yeagley's manifesto "The IU Soccer Player"), then returning to the program's roots makes perfect sense.
We'll know in a few years if the decision to fire Mike Freitag was a smart one. Indiana Soccer experienced a similar drought a few years ago, not as severe but longer as the program failed to deliver a national title for a decade as IU's athletes and conditioning played catch-up with the rest of collegiate soccer, especially Bruce Arena's Virginia teams. Even as the patriarch's son, Yeagley will be expected to deliver. And he will be expected to deliver a lot very quickly.