In a move that stunned the soccer world, Caleb Porter signed a new five-year contract with Akron.
The Zips coach had interest -- if not offers -- from some prestigious pro and college programs, such as Indiana, Clemson and D.C. United. Yet, he stayed at Akron with a lower salary and high school facilities (although both are likely to improve).
One soccer site put it this way:
That's right. The coach at Akron, a MAC school with a single-game record attendance mark of 2,369 heading into 2009 and facilities that a columnist for the Akron Beacon-Journal noted don't include “real locker rooms,” told D.C. United that he wasn't interested in their open gig.
Porter, a former MLS short-timer with San Jose and Tampa and one of the youngest coaches in the nation at 34, showed the loyalty and maturity even experienced coaches tend to lack by rejecting United's overtures and staying in a spot where he can have consistent success. Porter could have hopped to United or the prime college jobs available at Clemson and Indiana (where he starred in college and spent six years as an assistant) without anyone holding much of a grudge. Instead, he decided to stay put. Maybe he didn't think he was ready for the pro game or maybe, like he's said every time he's been asked, he really likes it in Akron. Either way, he's going to keep pulling in impressive recruiting classes and winning games at the college level while United moves in another direction.
This is unbelievable. Not just because Porter passed up more money. Not just because he passed up the glitz of prime-time soccer. But mostly because -- THIS DOESN'T HAPPEN IN NORTHEAST OHIO. Baseball players fulfill their minor league contracts, say all the right things, then sign with the big markets. Coaches and administrators use it as a stepping stone. It's so bad that people have assumed for six years that a kid with Northeast Ohio ties is gone as soon as the Knicks tender a contract in the summer of 2010.
Then you look at Porter, who has no local ties. He hasn't been here that long. He didn't technically build the program, which was already pretty good when Ken Lolla left. He has no conceivable reason to be any different than any of the people who have come and gone. Yet he is.
Hats off to you, Caleb -- for fulfilling your promise to the players you recruited, for being a coach who backs up his words of contentment with actions, and for being someone who thinks with his heart first, rather than his ego and wallet.
Kudos to Tom Wistrcill and Luis Proenza for making this happen. Proenza is another person who on many occasions could have left for warmer climates and higher pay. He should strive to continue to find people who, like himself, are more than mercenaries -- who like Akron and see their position here as a permanent settlement, not a layover. Keith Dambrot is another obvious example of that.
If anyone doubts Akron's chances next year, consider that the Zips are the national runners up, and they only lost one player. Consider they are bringing in the nation's number-one recruiting class. And consider they have a coach who walked the talk in expressing his dedication to this program.
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