A third trip to the College Cup in the last four years and coach Jared Embick’s offer from the University of Louisville resulted in a renewed commitment by the University of Akron to Embick and the men’s soccer program.
Not long after the Zips fell 1-0 to Maryland in the NCAA championship game on Dec. 9, Embick was contacted by Louisville, according to a story this week in the Louisville Courier-Journal.
Cardinals coach Ken Lolla resigned on Dec. 11, saying in a statement that he and his wife had received “promptings from God that it was time to seek higher challenges.” Lolla coached at UA from 1993-2005 before leaving for Louisville, where he spent 13 seasons.
The Kentucky school made Embick an offer, which UA countered.
Explaining his decision to stay at UA, Embick said via text Thursday night, “I felt like I have been a part of building something unique and special and that we could still improve it with the support of the university and community. Both the university and community made it clear that they have the same belief in what we are doing.”
According to a university source, Embick will receive an $80,000 raise retroactive to Jan. 1 that will push his yearly salary to $300,000, ranking him among the top five highest-paid coaches in the nation in Division I soccer. The agreement also includes a total of $37,300 in salary increases starting on July 1 for two assistants and the strength and conditioning coach assigned to soccer. A director of operations position, eliminated in 2015’s budget cuts, will be hired by July 1. The program's travel and equipment budget will be increased by $8,000.
The changes await approval by the Board of Trustees.
When he presented new football coach Tom Arth on Dec. 17, UA Director of Athletics Larry Williams praised Embick’s program.
“We all got to see the best soccer program in the country make it to the national championship game,” Williams said that day.
In six seasons since he was promoted following the departure of Caleb Porter for Major League Soccer, Embick has posted a 94-30-13 record. His victory total since 2013 leads all men’s Division I soccer programs. Last year UA became one of four schools at that level to qualify for the men’s NCAA Tournament each of the past 12 seasons.
With 18 newcomers, the Zips survived adversity in 2018 that saw them start 6-6-2, but still capture the Mid-American Conference tournament title.
To get to the NCAA’s final game, the unseeded Zips eliminated No. 20 Syracuse, top-seeded Wake Forest, three-time defending champion Stanford and Michigan State. UA won nine consecutive games, capped by a 5-1 semifinal rout of MSU, making its first College Cup appearance in 50 years.
Louisville assistant John Michael Hayden was promoted to replace Lolla.
Marla Ridenour can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Zips blog at www.ohio.com/zips. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ.