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Unleashed: Soccer’s Turnaround Artist Gets New Deal
Release: 02/19/2014
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Jamie Clark signs a new, four-year contract a couple months after leading Huskies men’s soccer to its first-ever appearance in the NCAA quarterfinals. The much-traveled Clark, 41-11-5 at UW, says he wants to stay here for the rest of his coaching life.

By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing

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SEATTLE – Jamie Clark has been places. Too many places, he says.

The son of a Scottish League player and now-worldwide coach, he has gone with his father and mother to Zimbabwe, where their family was accepted into the local Matabele culture.

He moved to the U.S. when he was five. He became Stanford’s first All-American player while playing for his dad Bobby in California, then spent two seasons playing in Major League Soccer. A dozen years ago he moved to New Mexico. Jamie was there to help his brother, who was completing his residency in pediatrics at the University of New Mexico, begin a website. He got into college coaching instead.

He shined as the head man at Harvard (2008-09) and Creighton (2010). But now Jamie Clark aspires to settle down -- at Washington. His dream is to someday join the “Mount Rushmore” of Husky coaches.

He just carved another chunk toward getting there.

"With the quality of this city, its soccer heritage, this school, I see why Jim McLaughlin, Lesle Gallimore, Heather Tarr, Lorenzo Romar and the dean, Bob Ernst, have been fully immersed at Washington for so long. I want to be right there with them."

The youthful architect of men’s soccer’s three-season turnaround into its first national quarterfinals appearance in UW’s history last fall has signed a new contract. It’s for four years -- which for the well-trekked Clark may seem like 40. The new deal commits the Huskies to the 37-year old, and vice versa, through Dec. 31, 2017.

“This would be more than ideal if this is where I end up staying for the rest of my career. And that’s the goal,” Clark told me upon signing the contract about six weeks after his team finished the most successful season in UW soccer’s 50-year history.

The 2013 Huskies went 16-2-4 with their first conference title since 2000. They ended with a first appearance in the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament. They came within one goal on a frozen pitch from December’s Final Four.

“As a coach you dream to be at a school long enough that your name becomes synonymous with that school,” he said. “I’ve only made baby steps in that direction.”

That’s some, big baby. He’s 41-11-5 at UW. Clark got to 41 wins in less than three full seasons. It took the Huskies the previous five seasons combined immediately before he got here to win 41 games.

And speaking of babies, he and his wife had a daughter here in November 2011. So Clark has indeed planted roots at Washington, and he intends for those to run long and deep.

“With the quality of this city, its soccer heritage, this school, I see why Jim McLaughlin, Lesle Gallimore, Heather Tarr, Lorenzo Romar and the dean, Bob Ernst, have been fully immersed at Washington for so long,” Clark said, rattling off the most tenured and successful coaches in UW’s athletic department.

“I want to be right there with them.”

Terms of his agreement with Washington Director of Athletics Scott Woodward include performance bonuses if Clark’s team achieves an academic progress rate (APR) of 980 or greater as defined by the NCAA in any of the contract’s four years.

He could earn additional bonuses if Washington wins another Pac-12 championship, and for victories in the NCAA tournament.

None of that means as much to him as where he is now coaching. And where he always wants to stay.

“People care about soccer in Seattle. It’s the best soccer city in the country,” Clark told me when he first took this job, in the spring of 2011. “There’s a passion. For our present team, there is inspiration to be drawn from, right in front of them.

“From a recruiting perspective, this is the best city to play in. The Sounders are an interested group. They come watch games. That’s a party that cares about U-Dub soccer. You know, they want to know players. It’s nice to know that they want to put us in a spotlight.”


A PROGRAM’S BEDROCK: CONTINUITY

For the first couple years Clark cobbled together a team with veteran transfers from other programs. He needed proven leadership with big-game college experience, which few Huskies he inherited had.

“Since I’ve been here, when we first started that (2010) year I remember we were picked to finish last in the Pac-12. So I’ve really seen it come from the bottom to the top,” gritty senior defender Michael Harris said in December, on the eve of his final game at UW.

Then Clark arrived. He changed the team’s culture to a youthful, player-empowering one. He installed more playmaking to compliment a rugged, unyielding defense and extraordinary goalkeeping. That jolted the program into the national elite, to among one win of the school’s first soccer Final Four.

The second-round NCAA win over Seattle University on Nov. 24 attracted an overflow crowd of 3,100. That was the most to see a stand-alone men’s game ever at Washington. (An Oct. 22, 2000, match against Stanford attracted 3,280, but that was part of a doubleheader with the UW women’s team meeting UCLA).

“It’s pretty nice to see the turnaround. Everyone has a positive attitude – on the team and also in the fans,” said Harris, who grew up just north of Seattle in Shoreline and had followed Husky soccer for years. “We are getting fans out here. Our community aspect has grown, a lot.

“I think that’s the biggest thing Jamie has done for us.”

After three years Clark has established the foundation of a long-lasting program: Despite their breakout national success last season, all Huskies underclassmen are returning for the 2014 season.

Cristian Roldan was the Pac-12 freshman of the year and Soccer America’s national freshman of the year this past season. Major League Soccer has a program called Generation adidas that gives contracts and training to top young prospects for a higher-profile entry in MLS, and the pro league recently offered Roldan one of those deals coveted by players his age.

Roldan’s told MLS he’d rather keep playing for Coach Clark and the Huskies. So one of the nation’s best young players is back for 2014.

Forward Darwin Jones had a contact offer from the Seattle Sounders’ junior team. Jones told the Sounders no thanks. He’d rather come back for his senior season at Washington.

Senior goalkeeper Spencer Richey was a national player of the year candidate last fall, until his season ended with a broken leg in a scoreless draw at third-ranked Connecticut. He could have pursued a possible spot in the MLS draft or a pro contract in another country. Instead, Richey is applying to the conference and NCAA for a fifth, medical-redshirt season with the Huskies.

And he isn’t even guaranteed his starting job back at Washington. That’s because Ryan Herman is returning, too, as a redshirt junior. Herman finished the shutout at Connecticut after Richey broke his leg and went unbeaten in 15 of his first 16 starts, with eight shutouts. Fifteen times in his 17 starts last year Herman allowed no more than a single goal.

Clark says that competition for starting goalkeeper is going to be intense this spring, summer and fall. Yet Richey wants to remain a part of what Clark has built at Washington.

“Everyone coming back is a testament to the team and to the program,” the coach said.

This new contract is a testament to the coach. And word is getting around. Part of Clark’s revival of UW soccer has been top-level recruiting. In 2012 he got the towering, 6-foot-7 Herman to come back home after Herman had spent a first college year redshirting at Santa Clara. The All-American at Mount Si High School in the Seattle suburb of Snoqualmie was a national junior team member who’s been through the Seattle Sounders FC Academy.

Clark just signed seven players to national letters of intent for 2014. Three are from top junior clubs and the Sounders Academy in Washington, plus one each from Utah, Colorado, Minnesota and Canada.


“THIS WAS THE MOVE FOR ME”

Had UW found a way to score in the 1-0 loss to New Mexico in the NCAA round of eight in December, Clark and his Huskies would have met in the Final Four in Philadelphia none other than his father Bobby.

The former Scottish professional and World Cup player is now the coach at Notre Dame. Jamie left Scotland in fifth grade when his father took a coaching job at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. He and his family followed dad from Scotland to Zimbabwe to New Zealand to America.

After two disappointing and injury-filled seasons playing in the pros, Jamie was out of MLS and seeking to start life outside soccer. In 2002, he moved to Albuquerque. That's where his older brother by three years, Tommy (later the head of Grassroots Soccer, an organization that teaches soccer and tries to prevent the spread of HIV in sub-Saharan Africa), was completing that residency in pediatrics at the University of New Mexico. Jamie, who also has a sister, Jennifer, was there to help his brother begin a website.

Jeremy Fishbein had just been hired to take over men's soccer at New Mexico. When he found out a former Stanford All-American, NCAA finalist and MLS player was in town, he asked Jamie to be his assistant with the Lobos.

So much for that website.

From there Clark became an assistant for his father at Notre Dame, then a first-time head coach at Harvard in 2008 and ’09. He led Creighton in 2010, before Woodward hired him at UW to replace long-time coach Dean Wurzberger.

Despite the less-than-ideal timing the bottom line for Clark was that this opportunity -- with UW’s resources, the Pac-12’s competitiveness and this region’s madness for soccer -- was one he could not pass up.

His first Huskies team went 12-4-2, finishing second in the Pac-12 and just missing the NCAA tournament. His 2012 Huskies went 13-5-3, despite losing all-conference attackers Brent Richards and Jacob Hustedt and all-league assist man Jamie Finch. Those Dawgs came within a goal against UCLA of the league title and won one game in the NCAA tournament before losing in the second round -- at, ahem, Creighton.

Clark’s 2013 Huskies became the fourth one in the history of Husky men’s soccer to lose as few as two games over a full season. Those other two-loss teams – in 1976, ’77 and ’82 – didn’t advance past the first round of the NCAA tournament. Clark’s Huskies won two NCAA tournament home games before losing in the national quarterfinals 1-0 to Fishbein’s New Mexico team at frozen Husky Soccer Stadium on December 7.

“People care about soccer in Seattle. It’s the best soccer city in the country.”

He coached at five schools in eight years before he got to Washington. Clark, whose then-fiancée wife is from Oregon, still feels badly on how much he’s bopped around. He regrets he stayed just that single season at Creighton. He went 13-5-2 there and won the Missouri Valley Conference, advancing to the second round of the NCAA tournament.

He brought it up, unsolicited, in talking about what this new contract means to him. It sounded as if that regret helps fuel his desire to stay here for the rest of his coaching career.

“That short stint at Creighton, that is not one any coach would be proud of,” he said of not getting to see through most of what he started there.

“My family said, ‘On this next one, you stay a while.’

“And we absolutely love it here. In my mind, this was THE move for me.

“Washington checks off every block for me: How they treat players; the administration; the institution and the education the players get; the awesome city.”

But, as Clark said, “you have to make that happen” as a coach.

He absolutely has done that.

“You have to be successful. And it has to be what you thought it would be,” he said.

“It’s been both.”


Gregg Bell is an award-winning sports writer who joined the University of Washington's staff in September 2010 as the Director or Writing. Previously, Bell served as the senior national sports writer in Seattle for the Associated Press. The native of Steubenville, Ohio, is a 1993 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. He receive a master's degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley in 2000. 

Gregg Bell Unleashed can be found on GoHuskies.com each Wednesday.

Click here to visit Bell's Twitter page. 

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