2013 Class of the North Carolina Soccer Hall of Fame
"On a rainy night in September 1963, the seeds were planted for the growth of soccer in the Cape Fear Region of North Carolina. That's when Barry Howard witnessed his first soccer game.” – narrative from Barry Howard Appreciation Day, May 6, 2006.
So began, in such a seemingly small way, a North Carolina Soccer Hall of Fame career that graced eastern North Carolina and points beyond. We recognize the late Charles Barrett (Barry) Howard for his legacy to the sport of soccer and his alma mater, Campbell College.
Coach Howard was born on May 28, 1945 in Dunn, NC and remained nearly all his life in nearby Buies Creek, home of Campbell. It was there, under the tutelage of Coach Jim "Catfish” Cole (NC Soccer HOF, 1999), that he earned All South and team MVP honors, graduating in 1969 with a B.A. in Physical Education. He began coaching in the fall of that year at Buies Creek High School, working with basketball and baseball. But it was a year later that he made a significant move, starting the school's first soccer team, and they were at that time the only 1A state public school sponsoring the sport.
After earning a masters degree from ECU in 1974, he returned to coaching and eventually took over the soccer program at consolidated Harnett Central from 1978 to 1981. His high school accomplishments include four regional titles in a decade of coaching, certainly highlighted by a semifinal berth in his first state invitational high school tournament (1970).
In the 1980's, Coach Howard served as an assistant to Tim Morse at Campbell, where the club became a Division I contender. He became head coach in 1989 and served in that capacity for two years.
At least a dozen of his high school players went on to play college soccer and several continued to teach and coach at the scholastic or college level. One of his most notable players was Tony Johnson (NC Soccer HOF, 1999), a UNC All-American and professional player. Coach Howard was inducted into the Campbell University Sports Hall of Fame in 2003 and an appreciation day was held for him in 2006 (see above). Sadly, he passed away on December 5, 2008 at age 63. He was survived by his wife Beverley and daughter Amy, and predeceased by his son Barrett.
Outside of Coach Howard's on-field career, it is important to note two of his major contributions to Campbell University and the sport of soccer. In 1983, he became president of the Howard Christian Educational Fund. Begun in 1926 and incorporated in 1951 by his father, the Reverend Charles Barrett Howard, Sr., this fund has assisted more than 3500 students from all 50 states and 118 countries over 80 years with loans, gifts and scholarships. In 1991 Coach Howard would turn to running this program on a full time basis and it continued to be a significant part of the university.
In soccer, it is important to note that Coach Howard was a founding member of the North Carolina Scholastic Soccer Coaches Association, along with fellow Campbell graduates Rick Helms and Bill Holleman (NC Soccer HOF, 2000) as part of a larger, ground-breaking group. He is given credit for authoring the constitution of the organization, and as with so many of his contributions, we in soccer are the better for it.
"That September night, Barry walked out of the family house in Buies Creek because the lights were on next door at Taylor Field. In a steady downpour, he stood on the edge of the touch line with mud running over his shoes…… and was hooked.” - May 6, 2006
As we welcome Curt Johnson into the North Carolina Soccer Hall of Fame, we recognize two significant areas in a career that has taken him around the country: the city of Raleigh and his alma mater, North Carolina State University. From the time he was eight years old and, in his words, "rolling down the grassy bank of Carter-Finley,” the Wolfpack and the sport of soccer were at the forefront of his hopes and dreams.
On a national level, yes, he has been successful. Stints with Adidas at the 1994 World Cup and the U.S. Soccer Federation in Chicago led to a notable time with the Richmond Kickers of the USL. Johnson served as General Manager of the club, increasing ticket and sponsorship revenue by more than 100% during three years with the organization, and in November of 1998 the Kickers won the USL Progress Award for improvement. He also helped establish the Richmond Kickers Youth Soccer Club, work done by bringing together more than a dozen smaller groups.
This all preceded an enormously productive period when he served as the general manager of the MLS Kansas City Wizards (1999-2006). Highlights of that period included the team winning the 2000 MLS Cup and the 2004 U.S. Open Cup, both with 1-0 victories over the Chicago Fire. But Raleigh beckoned, and when the opportunity arose in 2006, Curt Johnson returned home.
He had been a product of the Capital Area Soccer League, starting early because "soccer was the only sport you could sign up for so young.” At Ravenscroft High School, Johnson was an All-State defender on a state championship team in 1986, was head coach for a time and was inducted into the school's Athletic Hall of Fame in 1998. Moving on to N.C. State, he played from 1987-1990, starting 72 games. His most memorable season came when he was a senior. In that year the Wolfpack won their only ACC Tournament to date (2-1 over Virginia) and then progressed to the NCAA semifinals where they lost in a penalty-kick shootout to eventual national champion UCLA. That experience was a big part of his thinking as he returned to the state. It was very much about what he had given and what he could give back.
"I still get chills thinking about that run.”
After a couple of seasons working with the NHL Carolina Hurricanes, he became president of the NASL Carolina Railhawks in 2011. It has been a wild ride for two seasons, and Johnson has been at the forefront in drumming up extraordinary fan support. But N.C. State is just five miles down the road and never very far from his mind. As one with such a great management background, Curt Johnson is watching player development and facility growth with a real sense of optimism.
"As we alums talk about what N.C. State is doing, it gives us a lot of pride to see what the coaches and players are putting into the program to get better. Nobody wants success more than we do….”
Game, city, university… three beneficiaries of a Hall of Fame career, and the exciting thing is that there is so much more to come. Curt Johnson will see to that.
We've all seen the television advertisement, courtesy of the NCAA, in which the college athletes talk about "going professional in something other than sports.” That is fine and understandable. Kids should be allowed to dream, but there is always a place for the reality check, whether it be in the playing arena or as a precautionary story from the past. The odds of making it to the pros, we are told, are long.
But when your "hometown boy” gets there – and on top of that stays there and succeeds – well, that is something a bit special. Eddie Robinson from Greensboro, the University of North Carolina and Major League Soccer is being inducted into the North Carolina Soccer Hall of Fame and a lot of us feel that somewhere along the way we were there for the ride. And a great ride it has been.
The nature of sports success oftentimes lends itself to looking at beginnings, and for Eddie, it was the youth leagues in Guilford County. The foundation was the 1978 Greensboro Soccer Club and he played the game well enough to be recognized by the Greensboro Youth Soccer Hall of Fame in 2009. At Page High School he was an outstanding defensive player, garnering All-State, All-South and ultimately NSCAA All-America honors (1995).
At the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, under the guidance of Coach Elmar Bolowich (NC Soccer HOF, 2012), Robinson became a second-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference selection. His career statistics as a defender included four goals and 16 points in 73 games, but perhaps the biggest highlight was being a member of the ACC Tournament Champions in 2000.
Eddie Robinson was the 20th overall selection by the San Jose Earthquakes in the 2001 MLS SuperDraft and his accomplishments were numerous in 11 years, all with the same franchise. He debuted on April 21, 2001 and a season later scored the first goal of his professional career. The club would win MLS Cup titles in 2001 and 2003 and a Supporters Shield (best season record) in 2005. That 2005 season would also prove to be Eddie's most prolific, as he played in a career-high 29 games and 2450 minutes while anchoring the league's top defense.
The move by the organization to Houston, where they were renamed the Dynamo, would prove to be most fruitful for Eddie. He became a fixture on the team's back line and endeared himself to the fans. Robinson would be named to the MLS All-Star team in 2006 and to the league's Best XI squad in 2007, all while the Dynamo were winning two MLS Cups. Injuries would affect his 2009 season, but he bounced back in 2010 to start 19 of 30 league games.
It was during the 2008 season, however, when a most significant moment occurred. On January 19, Robinson earned his first and only international cap for the U.S. Men's National Team in a friendly against Sweden. He also scored a goal in that 2-0 win, making him one of the few U.S. players to score in their international debut.
Eddie retired as an active player on January 11, 2012 and, along with his wife Kim and daughters Avery and Reese, has continued to make Houston home. The past twelve months have been very busy ones as he has been working with the Dynamo Academy, serving as a TV and radio commentator and participating with Dynamo Charities as a service to the community. He is also head coach for the club's U-16 squad.
Houston is fortunate to have Eddie Robinson, but for one night Greensboro and North Carolina welcome back a favorite soccer son. The North Carolina Soccer Hall of Fame recognizes an athlete who truly reached the top.
1977 Raleigh Spartans
1995 U-18 Girls USYSA Francis J. "Frank” Kelly Cup National Champion
"And even if we are occupied with most important things, if we attain to honour or fall into great misfortune – still let us remember how good it was once here, when we were all together, united by a kind feeling which made us … better perhaps than we are.” - Dostoyevsky (The Brothers Karamazov)
Just as they had hoped, the 1977 Raleigh Spartans were headed to West Palm Beach, Florida in the summer of 1995, but not without a little uncertainty. The team had captured their first Southern Region (III) Championship a few weeks earlier without the injured Beth Silverstein and Meredith Cage, two key contributors. But this was a bigger stage - the U-18 Girls USYSA Nationals – and the lineup looked to remain the same. Winning would be a tall task, indeed.
The Spartans did have a championship pedigree. Since 1988, numerous tournament titles had come their way, including those from WAGS, the Raleigh (N.C.) Elks and their home state. In addition, they were led by Coach Izzy Hernandez, whose Broughton High School girls had won the state 4A championship in May. Three of his players – Lindsay Stoecker, Kara Marschalk and Beth Silverstein – brought that winning experience with them. On paper, things looked fairly promising. But any team that competes at the highest level knows games are to be won on the field.
An interesting aspect of the Final Four was that the Spartans would end up playing two clubs that were recent national champions. In the semifinal it would be J.B. Marine, Region II winners from St. Louis, Missouri and U-16 Cup holders in 1993. That one ended up 4-3 for the Spartans, a tough back-and-forth affair, and it so was on to the final.
The opponent would be the De Anza Magic, representing California North and based in San Francisco. All they had done was to win the U-17 Nationals the year before. The game was on.
After 81 minutes, De Anza scores to go up 2-0. But one minute later it is Allison Osborne to Jennifer Plante to Megan Jeidy, and the Spartans are one goal down. One more minute later – you heard right – it is sweeper Sarah Currie sending a long shot over the keeper. It is 2-2 in the blink of an eye, and that is the way it would stay through 20 minutes of heart-stopping overtime.
In the unforgiving field of penalty kicks, it is Lindsay Stoecker, yes; Liz Burnette, yes; Goalkeeper Allison Wahl, yes with her save; Shannon Blair, yes; Jennifer Plante, yes. A 4-1 PK win gives the Spartans the Kelly Cup, emblematic of the U-18 U.S. championship. Megan Jeidy is Snickers MVP and Fair Play Award winner, while Coach Hernandez achieves a rare double: state and national championships in the same year. It is a winner's time.
August 16, 1995 was declared "Raleigh Spartans Day” by Mayor Tom Fetzer.
Now, tonight, January 26, 2013, more than 17 years later, the North Carolina Soccer Hall of Fame inducts that team into its National Champions Hall of Honor.
Time passes. But champions stay. We honor North Carolina's first youth soccer national titleholders, a memorable part of the summer of 1995.