Wednesday, June 25, 2014

UIS tries to repair relationship with soccer alumni

For many years at Sangamon State University — now the University of Illinois Springfield — men's soccer was the show.

The Prairie Stars won National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics national championships in 1986, 1988 and 1993. They played in two World Collegiate Soccer Championships. They grew a large fan base, which was heavily involved.

After Aydin Gonulsen retired as coach and athletic director in 2001, longtime UIS supporters and the university began slowly drifting apart. By the time Gonulsen's replacement as coach, Joe Eck, retired in 2009, the rift was clearly evident.

Gonulsen was one of many who felt UIS had forgotten its soccer roots. They were upset for many reasons, including the perceived lack of funding, dismantling of the Friends of the Prairie Stars Athletic Association and the lack of displaying trophies, banners and national championship signs.

“There was a fractured relationship with the old athletic administration and the soccer alumni,” said Sam Tate, who played for SSU's 1986 championship team. “The alumni felt soccer wasn't supported as part of the athletic program at UIS.”

That has changed with the presence of men's soccer coach Jesse Miech and athletic director Kim Pate, who were hired in 2011.

“They reached out,” said Peter Christofilakos, who played for UIS in 2003. “They wanted to get everybody back involved and get everyone on the same page. They started to see we have a strong but small army that has been there and supported them.”

The story was reported by The State Journal-Register on June 25, 2014.

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