October 30, 2012 4:03:24 PM
Matthew Stevens - [email protected]
STARKVILLE - For the first time in nearly a decade, Mississippi State University is without a head soccer coach.
Neil Macdonald was relieved of his duties after nine seasons at the helm of the Bulldogs soccer program Monday following a meeting with Director of Athletics Scott Stricklin and other MSU athletics department personnel. Macdonald will be reassigned in the MSU athletic department for the remainder of his contract.
"We appreciate the nine years Neil has given Mississippi State as head of our soccer program," Stricklin said in a university release. "Neil was a tireless worker and gave soccer everything he had both as an assistant on our staff and then as head coach. We just felt a change in leadership was needed to guide our program to the ultimate goal we have for all of our student-athletes -- to win consistently in the Southeastern Conference and compete for championships."
Messages requesting comment left to Macdonald by The Dispatch were not immediately returned.
Macdonald leaves MSU with a overall record of 58-103-14 with his only appearance in the Southeastern Conference Tournament being his first season of 2004. Macdonald took over the MSU program as its third-ever head coach just weeks before the Bulldogs would report for preseason camp and open the 2004 season with a home match against Middle Tennessee State University.
The program seemed to be gaining momentum after 2011 when MSU knocked off a pair of ranked foes, No. 20 Auburn University and No. 11 University of Florida, for the first time since 2003. The team also claimed its most SEC wins and conference goals since 2004.
However, this past season was another setback as MSU (9-10-1, 2-10-1) finished last in the Western Division and failed to qualify for the conference tournament for the eighth consecutive year despite having 10 returning starters back from last season.
MSU's and Macdonald's downfall was simply a lack of offensive firepower. The 2012 season was a microcosm of that problem leading to an eight-game stretch over nearly a month in conference play where the Bulldogs were shut out seven times and losing all eight matches.
Macdonald did win his final match in charge of the Bulldogs program by taking the annual Magnolia Cup match in Starkville over the University of Mississippi 3-2 in double overtime on Oct. 25.
MSU finished 2012 just 13th in goals in league play (10), last in assists (7), and last in goals allowed (33) and first in fouls received (13 per game). The Bulldogs program was also last in attendance by drawing just 570 people per match this season.
"We will begin an immediate national search for new leadership of the program and look for a person that can help us to consistently compete in the Southeastern Conference in soccer," Stricklin said Tuesday.
In its 17 years of existence, the MSU soccer program has failed to win a single SEC Tournament game and failed to qualify for the NCAA Tournament.
Stricklin and members of the MSU athletics department are scheduled to meet with the members of the team Tuesday late afternoon to inform them of the decision to fire Macdonald. Stricklin told The Dispatch that the two people along with him leading the search for a new coach will be MSU Executive Associate Athletics Director Duncan McKenzie and Senior Associate Athletics Director in charge of women's sports Ann Carr.